- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
Glen Ford worked as a Network Broadcast Journalist in Washington DC and created in 1977 along with Peter Gamble, America’s Black Forum which was the first nationally syndicated black news interview program on commercial television.
America’s Black Forum was quoted weekly by national and international news organizations — a feat no other black news entity had achieved before and has not achieved since.
Mr. Ford co-founded and is the Executive Editor of the Black Agenda Report. He is also author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of US Media Coverage of the Granada Invasion.
Kathleen Wells: I know that you’ve written that, despite the fact that Bush created havoc on this country, on America, for eight years — despite that fact, 43 percent of whites voted for Obama in 2008. To you that’s weak. That’s a … That percentage is impotent. It’s small.
Glen Ford: It shows that a president who has, by any measurement, been a total failure, who was a laughing stock in the world, whom the corporate media deride, even that kind of white president, can still get a majority of the white vote. And, you know, that’s a majority nationwide.
But if you go into the Deep South, if you look at precincts in Georgia and Alabama, you’ll find Obama not getting more than single-digit support from white folks, less than 10 percent. The South is where a majority of black folks live. So when we’re talking about the South, we’re talking about a place that defines the black condition. And in that place, where we live, white folks are overwhelmingly opposed to Obama, and we know, of course, that it’s based on race.
Kathleen Wells: When I speak to my white friends, they say, “Oh, 43 percent of white folks voted for Obama in 2008. That’s a good thing. That’s a sign of change.” So things are a point of view. They’re a perception. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s a prism …
Glen Ford: No, if you … If one thinks that white folks’ willingness to vote for a black man is the measure of progress, I think you’ve got a very shallow and not very meaningful test. White folks’ willingness to vote for the kind of black person that they like — remember that’s their choice — does not mean white people’s willingness to even the racial playing field in the rest of relations among folks.
It just means that they can tolerate the presence of a certain type of black person in their midst or even in their Oval Office. But that doesn’t mean that their basic behavior is changed. It doesn’t mean that white folks are not still running to get away from black folks every chance they get. It doesn’t mean that white employers are more willing to hire black folks. It doesn’t mean that white power structures are less inclined to lock as many black people up as possible. What does it mean, just because a white person says, “Okay, I guess I can tolerate a black president…” What does that actually mean, you know? Well, now that we have a black president, we should be asking that question. And it certainly hasn’t meant much to black folks, has it?
Kathleen Wells: And then you say that the tea party is a backlash. The tea party and the midterm results are a backlash. Elaborate on that thought.
Glen Ford: Yeah. Well, we’ve been having periodic backlashes ever since I can remember. And white backlashes are nothing new. White backlashes brought us George Wallace’s candidacy and the victory of Richard Nixon in ’68. Another big surge of white backlash brought us Ronald Reagan, who kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, for his 1980 run. That was a huge and successful white backlash. And I believe that George Bush’s success — remember he stayed there for eight years despite his terrible limitations as a chief executive — I think that that was because of another surge of white backlash in the early 2000s.
And now we’re having yet another one with the reality of a person of a darker hue in the White House. With each backlash, white folks, who in my memory became a lot more civilized and tamer during and after our struggle in the ‘60s about the way they presented and comported themselves around black people — that is, racist language became undignified, not the kind of talk that you have in polite society. Well, when these backlashes surge, then you find white folks saying “nigger, nigger, nigger” again. And the tea party has that kind of effect, draws on that kind of sentiment today.
All of these insults and assaults on Obama and his ancestry and folks trying to say that Obama’s politics has something to do with Kenyan tribal practices — it’s just white folks hollering “nigger”. That’s all that is. So, yeah, we’re in the midst of a backlash.
Kathleen Wells: Okay, now I did hear … I saw a video of a speech you gave, where you made a distinction between the real left and the phony left. And you said for real social transformation to take place, there must be real progressives, not phony progressives.
Glen Ford: Yeah, and I wasn’t making some broad, important political statement where I would delineate the differences between the “real” left and the “phony” left in some kind of huge scale. Basically, I was talking about those people who consider themselves to be part of the anti-war movement but were afraid to confront this president about his expansion of the war, and, basically, I was saying that these are phony leftists. They are anti-war in some kind of abstract way, but they are not anti the war-maker, Barack Obama. And those are phony leftists as opposed to real leftists who say,” Look over there. That’s the man who’s killing folks. We must do something about him.”
Kathleen Wells: These are complicated issues because, if Obama isn’t good for the left, what was our alternative? McCain?
Glen Ford: You know, we can see how far from the period of mass activity, mass action, mass organizing we are when people constantly ask that question as if there is no alternative except to vote for candidate A or candidate B. As if we are in the restaurant and there is the menu and you’ve got to pick something from that menu. Well, that’s the kind of choice that people assume faces them today and it’s not. We have the choice to organize in large numbers of people to confront power in as creative a way as we can figure out at every stage to gum up the works, to make those who rule the society unable to rule as they used to rule, make them work for their power. [laughter]