Most Members of the Black Caucus Have Supported Police Militarization
Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford says their voting record on this issue shows that only a few members act in the interest of the Black community
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: This is The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
Welcome to the Glen Ford Report on The Real News Network. Glen is the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report and a regular commentator on The Real News Network.
Glen, in a report recently on the Black Agenda Report, you wrote that 80 percent of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus refused to defund Pentagon’s militarization of local police departments, also known as the Grayson amendment. That is shocking news, given the police brutality of the black community in this country. And I’m wondering if you have more to say on that.
GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Well, actually, it was 27 who voted against Alan Grayson’s measure that would have forced the Pentagon to stop sending all these weapons and military gear to local police department. Twenty-seven voted against the amendment. Five abstained, which is just as good as voting against it. And that makes 32 out of only 40 caucus full-voting members. That’s four out of five of the Black Caucus voted to continue the Pentagon’s massive infusions of guns and tanks and other military gear into local police departments.
But that’s only one of the complaints that’s being voiced by a group, a coalition in Washington that’s planning to hold a “Shame on the Congressional Black Caucus” rally on September 24. September 24 is the first day of the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual legislative conference and gala. That’s the time of the year that every year the caucus draws thousands of people, all dressed to the nines, for a bunch of workshops and stuff, but mainly for their gala dinner and lots of music and entertainment and festivities, and basically about three or four days of the caucus patting itself on the back for all the good deeds it’s done, or maybe just for being here.
This year, finally, a group of activists in D.C. are putting their two cents in and saying, no, we don’t appreciate a bit what you’ve been doing. And so they’re focusing on the caucus’s vote back in July, just three days after the Israelis begin bombing Gaza, a vote to join with the rest of the House unanimously in giving a blank check to Israel. The organizers of that protest are also outraged at the fact that most members of the Congressional Black Caucus seemed ready to go along with corporate America and turn the internet over to the corporations, to destroy internet neutrality. The fact of the matter is that since 2005, the Congressional Black Caucus has been more aligned with the telecoms, the big corporations that want to control the internet and all of our communications, they’ve been more aligned with these corporations than the Democratic Caucus as a whole. And this is ongoing. This has been for the last nine years.
And since the organizers planned to do this “Shame on the Congressional Black Caucus” rally, of course, Ferguson happened. And so they’re going to call attention to the fact that four out of five of the Congressional Black Caucus members voted to continue the militarization of the police. And now almost all of them–all of them, in fact, are pretending like, well, they were against militarization all along. They weren’t. Four out of five were for it.
PERIES: Four out of five were for funding and militarizing local police forces. What–.
FORD: And they had a choice. With Alan Grayson’s amendment, they could have brought it to a halt. They chose to continue it. It’s pretty clear, cut and dried.
PERIES: What justification is there for such a move, particularly given Ferguson now? Is there an attempt to reverse the decision? Is there any consciousness post-Ferguson?
FORD: Actually, Hank Johnson, who voted for the amendment, after Ferguson happened, then he announced plans to reintroduce the amendment. I guess the idea is that now that the caucus has been caught on the wrong side in the glare of publicity, maybe they’ll change their votes.
What really happened back in June is the caucus thought it was voting in the dark, that nobody was looking. And, in fact, very few people are looking. There’s very, very little independent black media that is watching every day the goings-on on Capitol Hill. And so, yeah, they were voting in the dark.
This rally on September 24, which will be right in front of the Washington Convention Center, where the caucus is holding all of its entertainment and other festivities, well, that may set them back a little bit with this very public demand for accountability. And that’s what people are talking about. The caucus needs to be accountable. And if it were accountable to black sentiment, then it could still use in good faith its slogan, which is we are the conscience of the Congress. But the caucus has not been the conscience of the Congress, it has not been a dependable progressive body for a very, very long time.
PERIES: Glen, is this an effort to raise funds for the caucus? What is there to celebrate?
FORD: Oh! Oh, it is their big fundraiser. And all you have to do is go there and you will see where the funds come from. The corporations are, oh, certainly well represented. The CBC has become one of the biggest fundraising caucuses in the Congress. It is the go-to place to buy influence not in the black community, but among its representatives on Capitol Hill.
And shaming is in fact what’s important here in this exercise that’s going on, that will be going on on the 24th. Shaming is a very, very important tool for people, especially people who don’t have power. The corporations have power in this country. And poor folks and black folks don’t have much more than the ability to shame those who purport to represent them by saying loud and clear, you don’t represent us.
And it’s more than just the emotional impact of shaming. It’s not just attempting to get wayward elements of the caucus to see the light or to be embarrassed. When groups say, as the rally is trying to say, that these people do not represent us, they in fact devalue, they lessen, diminish the value of the caucus to the corporations. And that applies also to individual politicians and so-called leaders. Corporations, people with power, go out and buy the influence of so-called black leaders because they think it’s worth something, because they think it translates into assent on the part of the black masses to what the corporations are doing. But when people rise up and say, no, no, no, no, we don’t support that organization, we don’t support that politician, we don’t support that caucus, then the value of those individuals and organizations that offer themselves as agents for power is diminished. So it has real impact beyond emotional, beyond just an appeal to the reason and decency of the politician or the so-called black leader.
PERIES: Glen, is there any members of the Black Caucus that is upholding the values and consciousness of the black community here?
FORD: Well, there have been some seminal votes. And I think the vote on militarization of local police forces was one of them in which you only had seven who voted correctly. Those included John Conyers and Barbara Lee and Congresswoman Waters and Hank Johnson and about three others. But with the vote on Israel, it was unanimous: just like the whole House voted in favor of giving Israel a blank check, all of the caucus went along, and without even one abstention. I would say off the top of my head that there’s no more than seven or eight Congressional Black Caucus members who are worth a damn, even sometimes. Sometimes none of them are worth a damn.
PERIES: Glen, thank you so much for joining us again on The Real News Network.
FORD: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network as well.
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