Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
He is the richest person who has ever lived. As of 2017 he and seven other billionaires had a collective net worth equal to that of the poorest 3.6 billion people on earth.
These figures have been in the news of late but without much useful analysis. The corporate media refuse to state what is obvious. Namely that inequality is worse around the world precisely because these super rich people demand it.
While pundits and politicians go on breathlessly about oligarchs in Russia, they seldom take a look at the wealthiest in their own back yard and the control they exert over the lives of millions of people. When Amazon announced it would choose a site for its new headquarters cities across the country began a furious race to the bottom. Amazon is not alone in the thievery department. Major corporations like Walmart always request and receive public property and public funds in order to do business.
Some 235 cities have put themselves in the running for this dubious venture. Chicago is willing to give Amazon $1.3 billion in payroll taxes that prospective employees would ordinarily pay that city. If Chicago wins this booby prize Amazon employees would pay taxes to their employer and not to the government. This is truly cutting out the middle man and makes real the rule of, by, and for the wealthiest.
The potential for public outrage isn’t lost on unprincipled politicians. Some cities now refuse to reveal how much they plan to give away. But the news to date is disheartening with Boston offering $75 million while Houston is willing to part with $268 million. Amazon says it will hire 50,000 people but their business model already pays employees so little that many of them qualify for public assistance, despite being employed.
The United States is as much of an oligarchy as countries it usually disparages but it is far more dishonest about its true nature. All talk of democracy is a lie as the rich get richer, by an additional $1 trillion in 2017, and wield more and more power over the lives of everyone else.
The Bezos juggernaut is not restricted to theft of public money. He is also the sole owner of the Washington Post, one of the most influential newspapers in the country. Bezos owns a newspaper that is an organ of the ruling elite and he also has a $600 million contract to provide the Central Intelligence Agency with cloud computing services.
The Washington Post was the force behind Propaganda or Not, an effort to destroy left wing voices like those at Black Agenda Report. Under the guise of fighting Russia and so-called fake news the Bezos owned Post began the censorship campaign that has put the left’s presence on the internet in such jeopardy.
Politicians outdo one another giving away public resources to the richest man on the planet who also owns a major newspaper and services the surveillance state. If it can be said that any one person rules the world Bezos would be obvious choice. No one in Chicago, Boston, Houston or any of the other cities giving away the store ever voted for Jeff Bezos. All talk of democracy is a sham as long as the richest people take from the rest of humanity.
The effort to make government an irrelevance is thoroughly bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats alike are willing to turn over government coffers to Bezos and his ilk and the rights of the people be damned.
Whoever wins this tarnished brass ring ought to be consigned to political defeat. The mayor, aldermen, city council members or whoever else brings disaster to their locality should be punished for aiding and abetting the theft. If these cities can give to the richest man who ever lived, they can surely use public money to help their residents right now. But they will never do that because they are all bought off and compromised. They are either cynical or afraid to go against the real rulers of the country.
Bezos may look like the villain in a James Bond movie but there is nothing funny about him. He is deadly serious and so are his intentions. In a Bezos run world every worker will be impoverished, every level of government will subsidize corporations, and anyone who speaks out will be discredited and under surveillance.
The last thing any city needs is a new Amazon headquarters. We need an end to billionaire rule in this country and around the world. That will be the salvation of the people, not more sweat shops run by wealthy people who steal from everyone else.
The white South Carolina police officer who shot Walter Scott in the back was convicted of murder and sentenced to a 20-year prison term by a federal judge. The outcome is altogether satisfactory but it is akin to a blue moon. In this country an average of three people are killed by the police every single day. Even when police are charged they are unlikely to be indicted and even then are almost always acquitted.
Just two days after the sentencing in the Scott case was announced the country was reminded of the random terrorism inflicted by law enforcement. In 2016 a white man named Daniel Shaver was killed by a police officer in Arizona and just as with Walter Scott, his murder was caught on video. Shaver had his hands raised, was clearly unarmed, but was still shot and killed by the officer who was acquitted by an Arizona jury.
Thanks to the work of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement we learned that a black person is killed by police, security and vigilantes once every 28 hours. On average there is a yearly tally of more than 1,000 deaths at the hands of American police. It turns out that at least one white person is also killed by the police on an average day, with a grim total of 574 in 2016 alone.
Shaver and other white people are collateral damage but the determination to keep black people under physical control has always had that effect. Black people are disproportionately the victims of police violence because the system demands it. Mass incarceration and brutality are not just flukes of history. They are the rawest forms of white supremacy and thrive because most white Americans want them to.
But an armed and deadly police force is by necessity a loose cannon. It can strike anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It cannot be kept under control. There is no way to ensure that the police will never stray outside of their mandate to brutalize black people. Shaver was not alone in his fate.
The Movement for Black Lives emerged in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. Black Lives Matter chapters were founded all over the world. The group succeeded in gaining attention and inspiring action. But the mass protest that brought it into being has largely disappeared.
That outcome is hardly surprising. For all of the attention it received, Black Lives Matter was a very apolitical organization. Its leaderless structure and the questionable politics of its founders meant that a precious moment was lost. They had to be pushed by Black Agenda Report and others to reject Democratic Party and other dubious endorsements. Hustlers like Deray McKesson used the popular struggle to make names for themselves and in so doing helped to kill off a righteous movement. The police killing spree and the impunity that goes with it continues unabated.
The jurors in the Shaver case were surely able to see that his shooting was not just unjustified. It was a cold blooded murder. They sided squarely with the police even though the evidence defied any sort of logic.
Convicting the killer cop would have created cognitive dissonance too great for them to bear. If police killing became a punishable offense, even for a white victim, they would have to examine the basis of allowing all police to carry guns. The United States is unique among the nations that considers it civilized to have cops armed to the teeth.
The imperative to control black bodies began during the period of enslavement, continued through the days of Jim Crow and even intensified when American legal apartheid ended. The vortex can catch white people too, but by and large their group is committed to maintaining their racist system. If their own people are occasional victims then so be it.
Black Agenda Report supports the demand for black community control of the police. It is obvious that black lives would be saved if the occupying force weren’t given carte blanche to murder, but other lives would be saved as well. That is the question that white America has to answer for. Are they so committed to the modern day slave patrol that they will allow no one justice, even those who look like them? For now the answer is yes. If white Americans truly believe that all lives matter they have a strange way of proving it.