Obama's Beer Summit and the Class Cleavage in Black America

4 Aug 2009

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The Real News Network talks to Glen Ford, Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report to get his reaction to the get-together organized by President Barack Obama for Professor Henry Louis Gates and Sergeant James Crowley to have an informal chat - ostensibly about race relations - after Crowley arrested Gates in an incident described as motivated by racial profiling.

Obama's reaction to incidents of racial profiling, in cases far weightier than the Gates arrest, has been muted. But, Obama jumped into the Gates fray because there are class issues involved contends Ford.

He argues, Gates and Obama belong to an elite class of black Americans who come to each other’s rescue, but "trivialize and diminish the travails of regular black folks." 

According to Ford, in New York City last year, police stopped and frisked 535,000 people and 90% were either Latino or black. If the pace continues, says Ford, this year 630,000 odd people will be stopped and frisked in New York and all but 10% of them will be black.

Ford contends that racial profiling is a public policy that intrudes on the rights of hundreds of thousands of people in America. Commenting on Obama's response to it, he argues, the fact that the president chose the Gates incident to talk about racial profiling, trivializes the whole episode.

He says further, "And we see how it ends. It ends with people making nice over a beer. As if something that threatens the lives of millions of black people every year can be settled over a beer."

Ford reports that the wage and wealth gap between black and white Americans is growing, as is the proportion of black men in prison.

He argues, with the exception of a few high profile blacks, like Gates and Obama, the socio-economic conditions of the majority of black Americans are deteriorating.

White acceptance of the mobility of a black elite in America seems to be used as a justification for further beating down of masses of black people, contends Ford.

The criminal justice system provides the evidence to support this assertion, says Ford, as the 'raw numbers' of people in jail has multiplied five or six times since 1972 and the percentage of those who are black has gone up inexorably.

This coincides with the same period in which there have also been success stories of individual blacks and a very small elite class as a whole. 

It is very clear that the increased mobility of a small percentage of black Americans does not translate into higher wages and more liberty for the masses of black people, says Ford.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading Chris Hedges Truthdig column this week, where he echoes the sentiments raised by Ford in his article, "So Much for the Promised Land."

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/158.19.

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