News - Reparations?
It's time to pay the debt
More than 100 years after the abolition of slavery, blacks still lag far behind their white counterparts in almost every measurement of mainstream life: in education, employment, life-expectancy and other areas. The idea that slavery is not the chief culprit would be laughable if it were not so sad.
It's not just slavery that has contributed to Blacks maladjustments on these shores, but an additional 100 years of legal discrimination and segregation.
Paying reparations — a concrete gesture with real impact — is the only way America can begin to heal the psyche of a people who lost their religion, culture, history, children, fathers and mothers. The debt should not be paid out of "charity," but to shake America out of denial.
Randall Robinson's excellent book on reparations, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, is worth quoting:
"No race, no ethnic or religious group, has suffered so much over so long a span as blacks have, and still do, at the hands of those who benefited with the connivance of the United States government, from slavery and the century of legalized American racial hostility that followed it," he writes. "It is a miracle that the victims — weary dark souls long shorn of a venerable ancient identity — have survived at all, stymied as they are by the blocked roads to economic equality."
The physical chains of slavery are gone, but the mental influences linger. They have seeped into the cracks and crevices of our psyches in the form of self-hatred, self-destruction and low self-esteem. When you see how the justice system works and the prisons filling up with brothers and sisters — most of whom are poor and uneducated, other manifestations of what slavery has wrought — you see the lingering affects of that Peculiar Institution.
America urged South Africa and Germany to come to terms with their past, but has not dealt with its own. When you mention about reparations, it seems amnesia has fallen across the whole nation.
Some people say we don't need reparations because programs like affirmative action were instituted as partial payment to blacks for past wrongs. That's nonsense. Such programs are not far-reaching enough to solve sweeping black problems. They don't, for example, speak to the need of millions of blacks languishing at the bottom rungs of America's economic mainstream — those who attend inferior schools, live in unsafe neighborhoods, subsist on poor diets and exist under grinding poverty.
Affirmative action and other such programs will never be able to completely reach these souls.
I don't know exactly how reparations would be paid; I'll let the politicians and policy-makers figure out the specifics. but it's undeniable that we deserve full economic redress, and not just a social program here and there.
Frederick Douglass said it well: "Power concedes nothing without a demand." It's time we stand up and demand what's owed to us.