Made Man in a Blue Vest: Deray McKesson
Date: Monday, July 11 @ 15:50:32 UTC
Topic: USA

Made Man in a Blue Vest: Deray McKesson Is Debutante At Aspen One-Percenters Coming Out Party

By Bruce A. Dixon
July 11, 2016 -

It's been a good spring and summer so far for Teach For America alum Deray McKesson. After raising a ton of out of town money the dude in the blue vest finished sixth in the Baltimore mayoral election with a mere 2% of the vote. He was promptly awarded a six figure yearly salary as “interim chief of human capital,” the current term of art for personnel department directors. And last weekend, he was one of the headliners at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival.

Made Man in a Blue Vest: Deray McKesson
Made Man in a Blue Vest: Deray McKesson

When the Aspen Institute flies you to Colorado for the weekend to rub shoulders with the elite, hands you that honorarium check and lauds you as an example of up and coming leadership, it means you’re in. If it's your first time, and last weekend was Deray McKesson's first time at Aspen, it's your debutante ball, marking your coming out, or maybe going in among the one percenters. Aspen signifies that your bones are made, your reservation is confirmed and you're now officially a made man.

The Aspen Ideas Festival is a production of the Aspen Institute, which claims to be an “international nonprofit dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open minded dialog through seminars, conferences, policy programs and leadership training...” Former federal reserve chair Paul Volcker, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Henry the Christmas Bomber Kissinger are among the Aspen Institute’s list of “lifetime trustees.” Madeline Albright, the Clinton secretary of state who pronounced the half million Iraqi children who perished thanks to the 1990s blockade of medical supplies and food (euphemistically called "sanctions") levied by US upon Iraq a fair price to pay for weakening Saddam's regime. Dude in the blue vest might find himself white water rafting at Aspen with Miguel Bezos, the father of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who is with Albright an active Aspen trustee. The Aspen crowd is the Democratic party wing of the one-percenter ruling class with some token Republicans thrown in because elite Democrats, seeing Republicans as their peers, are always fond of bipartisanship.

McKesson was billed as one of the founders and leading figures of the Black Lives Matter Movement. In that capacity he spoke on a “Black Lives Matter” panel. He also did panel appearances on “Rebuilding Trust Between Police and Communities of Color” and “What the 2016 Election Is Teaching Us About A Changing America.” He gave an interview to USA Today in which he warned the Democrats that dissatisfied people would be protesting at the convention. He pronounced Hillary Clinton NOT the lesser of two evils, but instead a candidate people are “rightly concerned about running against another candidate who IS evil,” a formulation which fully justifies his support of Hillary and his willingness to serve in a Clinton administration if asked, perhaps as a way to "hold her accountable."

Contrary to its hype, Aspen's Ideas Fest is not about “big ideas.” Aspen is about “big people.” Aspen is one of the social occasions where, if you're invited, you can get actual face time with the one percent of the one percent. You can hike a trail along with a Bank of America president or one of the senior partners at Booz Allen Hamilton, the accountants for the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security. And Aspen also provides video and mic time to "thought leaders" usable for distribution to their "thought followers," and showing them in the presence of other Big People, which kind of pumps up the stature of the thought leader too. Aspen is about big people having a good time up in the mountains with other big people, flattering each other for their supposed “big ideas,” and pretending they all deserve their privileges and their power because American society as we all know is a meritocracy.

Only it's not a meritocracy and never has been. As Brother D said a while back, America was built, we understand, with stolen labor on stolen land. The one percent decided a long time ago that we don't deserve quality public educations, stable neighborhoods, living wages, retirement security or affordable health care. The one percent use occasions like Aspen to appoint and promote what they call “thought leaders,” a term that means exactly what it says. The job of this “thought leader” in the blue vest is to distract and dissemble about “holding Hillary accountable” a little while longer before joining the chorus of hacks who will urge African Americans, one of the Democratic party's main captive constituencies back into the trunk of Hillary's car, where their votes will be counted but their just demands ignored as usual.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and the co-chair of the Georgia Green Party, which is eager to accept former captives of the Democratic party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at

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