The Hard Right enters Through the Schoolhouse Door




"This decision does nothing but further undercut the concept of universal quality public education." - Kweisi Mfume, Executive Director, NAACP, on the U.S. Supreme Court voucher ruling.

"Socially disadvantaged children had their best day in court since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954." - George F. Will, right-wing syndicated columnist.

"Charles Murray, in my opinion, is one of the foremost social thinkers in this country." - Michael Joyce, former president of the Bradley Foundation, on the author of "The Bell Curve."

The furor over public funding of private religious schools has nothing to do with the education of Black children. Those who frame the debate in terms of providing African American youngsters with educational options are either lying, deluded or simply too desperate to recognize the enemy chattering in front of their faces.We are now engaged in a battle instigated by the most racist forces in the nation, funded by those same ultra-conservatives, and loudly applauded by their media mouthpieces. The current, wretched White House is in full Rebel yell on the issue.

It is a contest between democracy and the power of money.

African Americans, who possess little power and less money, and have yet to experience the full fruits of democracy, now find themselves ploys in the Hard Right's obscene and cynical war to destroy public employee unions and privatize education for the benefit of the rich. Fully aware that Black communities are in need of, literally, everything, the ultra-conservatives dangle vouchers. In return for these tokens of dubious value, we are expected not only to jettison our few allies in the political arena, but to purge our own leadership and principles, as well.

The chief target in this sordid enterprise is the Black Church.

There is no redemption whatsoever in such a deal. Indeed, the very fact that this Devil's Bargain rates a hearing in Black America is extraordinary testimony to the profound political disarray, material destitution and abject despair in our communities.

This commentary will not concern itself with the minutia of test score comparisons between public school students and the relatively small school populations involved in existing private voucher programs. The data are incomplete and the argument is misplaced, amounting to a political diversion.

We will also not spend time analyzing polls that show varying degrees of African American support for vouchers. We understand and share the deep dissatisfaction and frustration with public education. However, The Black Commentator is written for thinkers and leaders, not poll followers.

Instead, we will explain who is behind the so-called "school choice movement" and what their plans are. Those who choose - in the face of the evidence - to collaborate with the most diabolical elements of American society must reconcile themselves to their own decisions. They are beyond reason.

Michael Joyce, the Puppet Master

The script that leads up the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in late June, declaring public funding for private, religious schools to be constitutional, was written by the Bradley Foundation, of Milwaukee. In fact, Bradley created the school voucher "movement" with a pen and a checkbook, in its role as Paymaster of the Right. Since 1985, the foundation has spent close to $400 million to invent and fund a host of phony civil rights, environmental, women's, small business, student, and other front organizations tailored to serve its corporate agenda. The school voucher "movement" was one such concoction.

Bradley's modus operandi is quite simple: wherever real people organize to better their conditions in ways that inhibit the rule of money, Bradley and its sister foundations invent and fund pro-business groups as bogus alternatives. The right-wing's media machine then conveys credibility to the manufactured "movements," and the masquerade begins.

Until his retirement this summer, the man who choreographed this devil's dance was Michael Joyce, president of Bradley and former president of the equally racist Olin Foundation. Joyce carefully targeted Bradley's more than $30 million in yearly donations for maximum political effect. Every cent spent was designed to move the nation further to the Right.

According to the People for the American Way study, Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics, Bradley "illustrates the power of a well-financed foundation with a clearly articulated political and ideological vision." Along with the Walton Family Foundation, of Bentonville, Arkansas - yes, the Wal-Mart Waltons, who control the largest corporation in the United States - Bradley owns the school voucher "movement" and everybody in it. That includes Black voucher operatives, in particular.

Financiers of "The Bell Curve"

We have no fear of overstatement in declaring the following: The Bradley Foundation is as thoroughly and methodically racist an organization as anything seen since the German Ministry of Propaganda, under the Nazis. This publication would never use a Nazi analogy lightly. Based on the scale of Bradley's relentless cultivation and dissemination of racist propaganda, this one fits.

Before Bradley conjured up school vouchers as a public policy issue and arranged rent and salaries for the phony "movement," it financed the career of Charles Murray, author of "The Bell Curve," the infamous 1994 book that bestowed academic and media authenticity to the theory that Blacks are intellectually inferior to whites. Murray toiled for years in the racist vineyards of the Bradley-funded Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank housing a menagerie of academic bigots.

When "The Bell Curve" got too hot for even the Manhattan Institute to handle - reminiscent, as it is, of Nazi race superiority "scholarship" - Joyce transferred Murray's $100,000 yearly checks to the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where the academic continued churning out his poison. In total, Murray amassed in excess of $1 million from Bradley, his reward for creating an atmosphere in which racism in its most primitive form is an acceptable element of public discourse. Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels would be proud.

Bradley President Joyce was delighted with his investment, and promptly set up young, Indian-born Dinesh D'Souza with an office at Bradley-funded AEI. D'Souza's $100,000-plus salary is provided by Joyce's old friends at the Olin Foundation. His mission complimented Murray's work. D'Souza's 1995 book, "The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society" figured prominently in the People for the American Way report, Buying A Movement:

D'Souza argues that black culture, particularly poor black culture, is pathological, and that "[f]or many whites the criminal and irresponsible black underclass represents a revival of barbarism in the midst of Western civilization…."

"If blacks can close the civilization gap, the race problem in this country is likely to become insignificant."

D'Souza states that the moral legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "remains ambiguous" because he "was never able to...raise the competitiveness and civilizational level of the black population."

The cash that has gone into D'Souza's and Murray's pockets represents only a fraction of the foundation's investment in hate. Bradley finances a wide network of think tanks and publications that provide speaking venues and publicity for the foundation's racist hit men, multiplying the impact of their "ideas" until they finally enter and even dominate mainstream discussion.

The Nazi analogy stands. Under Michael Joyce's stewardship, the Bradley Foundation mounted sustained, multi-million dollar campaigns to convince business, political, academic and media leaders, as well as the general population, that African Americans are intellectually inferior and pathological, uncivilized barbarians - campaigns that remain at full throttle.

This is the putrid source of the school voucher "movement," the place of its genesis and ongoing sustenance. Everything and everyone associated with Bradley is hopelessly tainted by the stench of bigotry. Yet, it reaches out to embrace Black churches.

The school voucher arena is only one department of Bradley's ministry of propaganda and infiltration. The foundation is massively involved in buying its way into all areas of public policy. The first and best source of information on this most insidious of Hard Right institutions is MediaTransparency.org. Here is the site's broad outline of Bradley's reach:

Bradley supports the organizations and individuals that promote the deregulation of business, the rollback of virtually all social welfare programs, and the privatization of government services. As a result, the list of Bradley grant recipients reads like a Who's Who of the U.S. Right. Bradley money supports such major right-wing groups as the Heritage Foundation, source of policy papers on budget cuts, supply-side economics and the Star Wars military plan for the Reagan administration; the Madison Center for Educational Affairs, which provides funding for right-wing research and a network of conservative student newspapers; and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research….

Other Bradley grantees include the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation; the Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace; and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. There are the major conservative publications, such as The Public Interest, The National Interest, and The American Spectator. And there are organizations set up to play specific roles in promoting the right-wing agenda, such as the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that promotes privatization and deregulation, and the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a vehicle for building support for privatization in low-income communities.

It was the Bradley-funded Institute for Justice that litigated the Cleveland voucher case to final success before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Define, and redefine

Having defined African Americans in the public mind as unintelligent barbarians, the Bradley Foundation seeks to redefine education to suit the circumstances. The answer to the "Black problem," of course, is privatization - that's the solution to all problems, the beginning and end of every thought in the corporate mind.

Bradley and its fellows on the Hard Right don't give a damn about African American kids - who are destined for depravity, in their view, anyway - and are not really that keen on exploiting the potential Black private educational "market." Ghettos are, after all, full of problems. The major corporate players would just as soon leave exploitation of inner-city school demographics to bush leaguers like Edison Schools, various minority entrepreneurs, and favored ministries. The real prize is the general market in primary and secondary education - the broad mass of white folks - valued at around $300 billion a year. Now, that's worth the investment in all those phony voucher groups.

The day after the Supreme Court's voucher ruling, ultra-conservatives were ready with redefinitions of educational rights. "Choice in education is now as much a civil right as voting," said Duane Parde, executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an umbrella group of pro-voucher state lawmakers.

Listen carefully when these people speak. The Hard Right had anticipated its June victory for years. They have formulated a political and legal position that closely mimics that of civil rights lawyers of a generation ago: that the state has an obligation to ensure that citizens' rights are effectively enjoyed. If a citizen has a right to a certain level of health care, for example, then the state must ensure that he effectively enjoys that right, paying for the care, if necessary. By a similar logic, if "choice in education is now as much a civil right as voting" - a basic right - then the government has the responsibility to make it possible for all citizens to avail themselves of the effective use of vouchers or other such mechanisms.

According to this reasoning, everybody, rich and poor, urban and suburban, religious and secular, must have access to vouchers that effectively allow them a choice of schools. It also means the end of public education as we know it, not just in areas where schools are "failing," but everywhere. Public education is to be redefined as a market, wide open to corporate domination.

That is precisely what the man who claims to have "created" the concept of school vouchers is looking forward to. Economist Milton Friedman's opinion counts for a great deal among voucher supporters. In a New York Times opinion piece published one week after the Cleveland voucher decision, Friedman spelled out what he and his corporate patrons have always had in mind:

Raise the voucher amount to $7,000 - the sum that Ohio state and local governments now spend per child in government schools - and make it available to all students, not simply to students from low-income families, and most private schools accepting vouchers would no longer be religious. A host of new nonprofit and for-profit schools would emerge.

Currently, Cleveland vouchers are worth $2,250. On another occasion, Friedman wrote:

"The privatization of schooling would produce a new, highly active and profitable industry."

The Minstrel Show

Friedman is a senior research fellow at the Bradley-funded Hoover Institution. He also runs his own foundation, which became a junior partner with Bradley in manufacturing the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). In the April 5 issue of The Black Commentator, we described the BAEO as "a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bradley and Walton [foundations], who play tag team coughing up the dollars that keep its board members on the hustle."

Friedman's role was pure propaganda. No sooner had Bradley formed the BAEO in August, 2000, than Friedman took charge of its coming-out party, a media campaign that the Christian Science Monitor valued at $3 million, aimed at African American audiences. Essentially, the BAEO is a media creation.

Our article "Fruit of the Poisoned Tree" painstakingly documented the BAEO's financial underpinnings and the backgrounds of its "motley crew" of Black hustlers, Republicans and ambitious upstart politicians. BAEO is chaired by Dr. Howard Fuller, whose Institute for the Transformation of Learning received over $1 million between 1996 and 2000 - every cent of it from Bradley.

The question is: Why does Bradley, a foundation that reeks of hatred and contempt for African Americans, many of whom it believes to be uneducable, spend millions creating a Black education front group?

It's all about redefining.

Howard Fuller told the supplicants who had journeyed to Milwaukee to join in Bradley's BAEO venture that their job was "to change the face" of the voucher "movement." Three million dollars worth of Friedman's black-face did that little media trick, but the larger task has always been in the hands of Bradley President Michael Joyce and his army of lawyers, public relations men and political spin masters, strategically situated throughout the foundation's right-wing funding network and among receptive media. It is they who redefined the issue. Vouchers were to be presented as a pro-Black proposal, rather than a corporate offensive against American public education. All the BAEO had to do is show up and smile.

Break the Unions, Destroy Black Leadership

Two major forces stand in the way of wholesale corporate raiding of public education: Black leadership and organized labor, primarily teachers unions. African Americans harbor an almost mystical attachment to education, long believed to be the one reliable route out of degradation. Historically, no issue has had a higher priority among Black leadership, whoalso rank as the nation's most pro-union political grouping at all levels of elected office - federal, state and municipal. The teachers unions' stake is obvious. In numbers and reliability, the two groups represent the heart of the Democratic Party - or, at least, its progressive wing.

The voucher offensive is designed to crush both of them. It goes without saying that privatization will decimate the unions. The Black leadership problem is almost as straightforward. The current crop of African American office holders must either be made to submit - that is, break with the unions - or be replaced.

"Alternative" African American leadership is being invented, enlisted, wooed, bribed, tricked and conned into service of the voucher "movement" at stunning velocity, causing utter confusion in the ranks of Black politicians and educators. Black America has never before faced the raw power of money on this scale. At no time in our history has cash been offered so freely to Black people of no previous interest to the captains of capital. The experience is entirely unprecedented - and deadly dangerous.

The electoral arm of this offensive was launched in Newark, New Jersey, this year. Bradley Foundation darling Cory Booker, a BAEO board member, was defeated in his mayoralty bid, but his impressive showing clearly emboldened the financiers. (See BC April 5, May 8 and May 16 issues.)

Strong evidence suggests that Alabama Rep. Earl Hilliard's defeat at the hands of a well-financed conservative Black opponent, in June, was related to the Bradley-inspired electoral strategy. There is absolutely no doubt that ultra-conservative cash and compliant candidates of color will soon appear in previously off-limits Black precincts across the nation.

A network of support is being prepared to welcome these Black Trojan Horse candidates. Churches are the main targets of the privatization-voucher juggernaut. It is within these congregations that Bradley and the GOP hope to create an electoral base for their bought-and-paid-for, alternative Black leadership.

Black faith and need is to be put at the service of corporate profit and greed.

The 'Big House' in Milwaukee

Michael Joyce has spent 15 years selectively cultivating churches in Milwaukee, attempting to erect a showcase of alternatives to public schools and government service delivery systems. If this sounds like the Bush administration's Faith-based Initiative, which would funnel public monies through church organizations, it is because the Initiative is - like so many other GOP social policy formulas - a Bradley Foundation invention.

Bradley and its political soul mates are, of course, the chief culprits in demonizing and neglecting inner-city education over the course of several generations. The foundation starves the public schools in its hometown, Milwaukee, tossing the system a paltry $60,000 in 2000 while arranging for $20 million to build five new private schools.

Like a colonial governor, Bradley looms over Black Milwaukee, bestowing or withholding funds on the strength of political pliancy. The foundation's money has grotesquely distorted the city's African American political structure, which consists of those who are favored by Bradley and those who are not.

It was Bradley's Black favorites who welcomed President Bush on the Milwaukee leg of his recent tour in celebration of the Supreme Court's voucher decision. The Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal congregation, is near the top of Bradley's list of local beneficiaries. Its pastor, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, established the ministry sixteen years ago, about the same time as Michael Joyce took over at the foundation. This year, New Redeemer received a cool $1 million from Bradley, placing the church ahead of its alphabetical neighbors on the foundation's ledger of grantees, the Hoover Institute and Heritage Foundation.

Bishop Daniels does not mind shaking the hand that also dispenses millions to Charles Murray and other professional racists. He is not troubled that the political arrangement with Bradley, on which the viability of his church's two vouchered schools is predicated, cannot possibly be replicated to serve the needs of millions. His ministry has prospered.

With smiling Black faces providing the backdrop, George W. Bush paid homage to the racist political machine that Michael Joyce built:

"The Bradley Foundation has always been willing to seek different solutions. They've been willing to challenge the status quo. They'd say, where we find failure, something else must occur. And the foundation not only has been kind and generous with its donations, the foundation also has been willing to help people think anew."

Joyce officially retired as president of Bradley on July 5, at the age of 59. During the previous month, Joyce continually managed to insert the phrase "social-pathology-riddled inner city" into a series of goodbye press interviews. His affinities with Charles Murray and Dinesh D'Souza are genuine and enduring.

The White Man in Charge of Black Affairs

Joyce will now counsel the Bush administration directly and up close, in Washington, either as president of his lobbying group, Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise, or through appointment to head the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. In the Bush boardroom setup, where rich men understand one another, titles do not matter. Michael Joyce will be in charge of the administration's Black strategy. This is fitting and logical since, through the Bradley Foundation, Joyce is the author of that strategy.

Joyce will have many millions of dollars at his disposal, far more than he controlled in Milwaukee. Bush knows he is in the strategist's political debt, and will funnel contracts and dispensations according to Joyce's directions.

Joyce's coterie of African American collaborators will be well taken care of. Black supplicants will camp at his door. Republican insiders expect to see a high Washington profile awarded to the Center for New Black Leadership (CNBL), a checkbook invention of the Bradley Foundation and Joyce's previous Hard Right money pot, the Olin Foundation. Indeed, an alphabet soup of phony African American "alternatives" to current Black leadership can be expected to appear on the Washington landscape. That's the way Joyce creates the illusion of Black political conservatism.

(The CNBL is a logical roost for Newark's Cory Booker, out of a job since his losing, stealth mayoral bid.)

However, our main attention must be focused on Black churches, because it is through malleable ministers that Joyce and the GOP seek to destroy and replace current African American leadership. The larger goal is to mortally wound the Democratic Party, and seize public education as a corporate domain.

The voucher crowd's feigned concern about inner-city education is tactical and transient - a joke played by bigots on those they despise.

Black Clergy at the Crossroads

We are entering a new epoch, in which it will become ever more important to keep track of who is the most insane - the Hard Rightists, who fund anti-Black propaganda every bit as vile as that of the Nazis while, at the same time, currying favor with Black church congregations, or the African Americans who fall in step behind them.

Michael Joyce is betting that significant numbers of Black ministers will lead their flocks down a path strewn with vouchers and social service contracts. In return, these clergy are expected to deliver the votes of their congregations to a new class of corporate-friendly Black politicians.

Given corporate determination to subdue every aspect of civil society to the imperatives of profit, and the fierce racism of those who are guiding the voucher and faith-based scams, democracy and racial justice are the underdogs in this fight.

Black America has the greatest stake in preserving and expanding democracy and the rule of law. The ancestors demand that we be the last to abandon it.

The marketplace is not a democracy. Markets are manipulated by men with money.

African Americans have not yet taken full advantage of the democratic rights that were denied to past generations. The potential of Black progress through electoral and other political methods has by no means been exhausted. The southern half of the Black population has only been engaged in the electoral process for less than two generations! It is sheer madness to even contemplate trading democratic institutions - specifically, public control of education - in return for "choices" in a marketplace that is certain to be controlled by corporations.

To support vouchers is to endorse privatization of education under a market system. Vouchers were conceived solely for that purpose. The men who invented the idea have told you so. Why else would rich corporations create and bankroll a pro-voucher "movement?"

The logic of privatization of education is absurd, and an affront to the dignity and history of Black people. If urban public schools are so hopeless that they should be turned over to private companies, then what about the rest of urban America? If privatization is best suited to meeting the needs of the poor, then democratic institutions are least suitable to the inner city. Why not forget about school boards and city councils, entirely, in such depressed places? Since poverty persists despite Black voting rights, why not trade the whole process in for a marketplace solution? Those citizens who are dissatisfied with the local corporate civic menu would have the "choice" of moving to another town, serviced by some other corporation.

Come to think of it, African Americans exercised just such a "choice" during the great migrations out of the Jim Crow South. By the logic of the marketplace - as opposed to the principles of democracy - these migrants discovered a solution to the voting rights and segregation problem. Since this "choice" was theoretically available to every Black southerner, the region's civil rights movement was superfluous and unnecessary.

Moreover, Black parents do not have the right to throw away their children's democratic legacy, won at the cost of so much blood. It is the children's right to grow up and exercise their own franchise regarding educational issues. No one has the right to give it away to some corporation on their behalf. Once privatized, education will never be willingly returned to the public.

Defenders of the white minority regime in South Africa used to dismiss demands for democratic elections by parodying the slogan, "One Man, One Vote." Under a Black government, said the racists, the outcome would be, "One Man, One Vote - One Time," since Africans would surely shut down the democratic process immediately after assuming power.

Yet that is exactly the deal that Blacks - and all Americans - are being offered by "Bell Curve" paymaster Michael Joyce, President George W. Bush and the whole privatization cabal. Since the June Supreme Court decision, the Hard Right has been furiously drafting proposals for laws and referendums on bigger and more inclusive voucher schemes. The inevitable result would be to dismantle public education and place its various components on the private - but publicly subsidized - auction block. Education would be irretrievably removed from the folds of democracy. One Vote, One Time - the dream of free and universal education, gone.

Will the Black Church say Amen to that?

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Bradley Foundation overview from Media Transparency

Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics, People for the American Way

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Issue Number 7
July 11, 2002





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Other commentaries in this issue:

Randall Kennedy: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Fool... How the NAACP Handled the N-word...J.C. Watts, Gone in a Flash

Race and National Security:
"Tar Baby Outrage" Update

Commentaries in Issue Number 6 - June 27, 2002

The N-word as Therapy for Racists: Randall Kennedy's Idiotic Assault on Black People's Honor

A Monument to George Washington's Slaves: Picking favorites among Black heroes and What a real man said on the 4th of July

Goin' South:
To save itself, organized labor must capture Dixie

CIA Trumps FBI: Forget about a War on Drugs

National Security News Alert: President is Warned Race Bias “Threatens National Security”- Special Edition - Issue Number 5 - June 13, 2002

Commentaries in issue 4 - June 7, 2002:

Tar Baby Outrage!: Racism and Corruption at the Redstone Arsenal

Condoleezza's Complaint & Paratroopers in the Basement: Connie's image and the Venezuelan coup

Did the Green Party Betray Black America: by Dr. Jonathan David Farley, Guest Commentator

A Law That Gives Racists Something to Fear:by Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg, Guest Commentator

Commentaries in previous issues :

Condoleezza & Geraldo, a Fine Pair: The Role Models' Burden

Hard Right Cash Defeated in Black City - This Time
Ultra-Conservative Favorite Cory Booker Loses in Newark, New Jersey

Newark: The First Domino? - The Hard Right Tests its National Black Strategy

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark NJ

A Letter from Harvard: "How to spot a "Black Trojan Horse." Dr. Martin Kilson, Guest Commentator

Reparations Part One: The True Value of Some Land and an Animal

The Living Wage Movement: A New Beginning - Bread, Power and Civil Rights in 19 Languages

Rep. Cynthia McKinney's Statement on the Events of September 11: The need for an investigation of the events surrounding September11 is as obvious as is the need for an investigation of the Enron debacle.

Make The Amendment: How to Get the U.S. Government Out of the International Drug Trade

Psychologically Unfit: The U.S. Can't Handle the Death Penalty

Linquistic Profiling: By Patrice D. Johnson, guest commentator

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.