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Black Agenda Report Executive Editor Glen Ford says lasting change can come through dismantling of the mass incarceration system, turning away from the Black “misleadership” class, and direct action by those most directly affected

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of the Ford report.

Now joining me is Glen Ford from Plainfield, New Jersey. Glen is the cofounder and executive editor of Black Agenda Report and the author of the book The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion. He’s also a regular contributor to The Real News.

Thanks for joining us, Glen.


DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, lot going on in Ferguson. The last time we spoke, obviously, there was the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Darren Wilson has resigned. And now there’s really a mass call, even a protest today, December 1, in front of the DOJ, the Department of Justice, calling for federal investigators to find that Darren Wilson should be charged with murder. So, for you, Glen, do you feel like that is the answer that people should be really pushing for the DOJ to respond?

FORD: No, I don’t think that’s the final answer, but I don’t mind people raising those questions. All kinds of questions have to be raised, and power must be challenged to figure out a way to fix its lips to give some kind of answer, and therefore reveal itself once again is a damn liar. So, yes, it is correct to challenge the Justice Department. There are lots of correct things to do.

And I think we’re having this conversation because there has been a real step forward in the almost four months since Michael Brown was killed. There is now at least the beginnings of a movement, and maybe a kind of leap forward, in creating a movement against the criminal justice system of the United States. That’s where the Justice Department comes in, but that’s not the totality of it. It’s against what we at Black Agenda Report call a mass black incarceration state.

And I think that’s what this movement that goes under the name of Ferguson really represents. It’s a movement against a system in which there is no justice, there is only entrapment. That is the nature of the criminal justice system in the United States. And that’s why you see relentless militarization, that’s why you see black men treated as enemy combatants who can be judicially executed, as so many are every week. And that’s why one out of every eight prison inmates on Planet Earth is an African-American, because of this system.

And that’s why the fight against this mass black incarceration state–and Michelle Alexander calls it the new Jim Crow. I think there are modern fascist aspects to this mass black incarceration state, and therefore it requires a more modern vocabulary than the new Jim Crow. But that will do. We have to in an organized way challenge the legitimacy of that whole structure, which has been in place since, oh, around 1970, when the prison numbers started going up astronomically.

This is a different kind of struggle, it’s different than voting rights, it’s different than a movement centered around employment issues, because you are going up against the institutions of the state. You’re challenging the state’s legitimacy. And you need to mobilize the people who are directly being preyed upon by the cops. You can’t maintain that kind of movement, however, while you act as if you respect the authority of the cops. And so last week on Black Agenda Report I wrote that any movement that defies the police power and rejects the authority of the state will inevitably be deemed illegal in its totality, and it will inevitably be accompanied by some level of violence.

There are people out there embedded in our community–and many of them pretending to be part of the movement–I’m speaking of Al Sharpton, but also legions of preachers and politicians in the communities who really don’t want to go up against this state. They want inclusion in the state. They were never really committed to tearing down the mass black incarceration state as an institution, but only getting more black police and getting more black prosecutors and–ooh, the ultimate: getting a black attorney general who will do if you just what those white attorney generals and prosecutors did to you. And they are now, especially after the events last Monday in Ferguson, attempting to isolate the young people who are preyed upon directly by the police, who are the cadre of folk who have to be mobilized if this is going to be a movement. And they’re saying, well, we’ve got to separate ourselves from them, that they actually harm the movement. And so they’re drawing lines.

And I think it’s incumbent upon honest elements within the movement to draw lines as well and not fall for that pseudo-moralizing about violence always hurting the perpetrator. There’s going to be violence. The police are going to instigate and provoke the violence. They are the violent arm of the state. And the response to it is sometimes going to be violent, and we should not allow these Sharpton types to demobilize the movement against police oppression by putting a stigma on our young people.

DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, let’s say that objective of sort of tearing down this mass incarceration state is reached. Then what do you build? Where do you go from there?

FORD: Well, many of us believe that the state is violent and repressive and without law, that it is lawless, because it is there not for the purpose of justice, but to protect the interests of what people now call the 1 percent, the folks who actually run this place. And that would be finance capital. So, yeah, you don’t get justice and there should be no peace while finance capital is in charge, but they are protected by the police, and you have to go through the police to get to them. And that will involve some violence.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Glen Ford, some powerful words coming from you. Thank you so much for joining us.

FORD: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America's Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.