Reparations For African Americans or Ending Apartheid In The USA Will Be A Defining Accomplishment For Barack Obama
Poll: Are African Americans Entitled To Reparations?
The idea of reparations is not new. Yet, in today's presumed colorblind and post-racial society, many white Americans are convinced that the enduring legacy of racial inequities facing the black community are best remedied by individual responsibility and personal accountability; that is, if African Americans would simply work harder by "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps" and stop pulling the so-called "race card," they might actually get ahead and finally lay claim to the ever-elusive "American Dream." In other words, from a white person's point of view, reparations for the 346 years of chattel slavery and near-slavery like conditions of Jim Crow racism involves a call for black Americans "to do for themselves." Black folk need to get their moral house in order.
Most whites profess individual responsibility as a means to success or failure. By ignoring the paradox that the failure of black Americans is attributed to individual responsibility, white Americans (and bright Americans) neglect to acknowledge the crippling effects of centuries-old white racism and contemporary forms of institutional prejudice and discrimination. Additionally, this shared, group-based understanding -- implying that whites work hard while blacks apparently do not -- is seriously misguided and has significant consequences for African Americans. Given the historical context of racial oppression and current white-controlled industries, white notions of merit-based success ensures that black Americans linger in a perpetual state of marginalization keenly visible across a broad spectrum of institutions like healthcare, education, housing, employment, politics, and other major domains of society.
Is Dedicated To Africans Captured As Slaves.
This not only hinders the possibility of equal education, but it exposes the fallacy of integration. These historically white institutions were never formally prepared or adequately resourced to meet the needs of black students, and the intermingling of blacks and whites occupying the same space in no way assured equality. Currently, blacks attend under-funded urban schools in considerable numbers (ironically re-segregated from whites). Most of these urban schools are nothing more than holding pens more akin for prison preparation rather than substantive schooling for collegiate preparation. Education for African Americans and their progeny should be equally funded and staffed to those of the best public schools in the nation, and students should have the benefit of free public education through their collegiate years.
Like black children exposed to the whiteness of public education, black Americans have, likewise, been exposed to a two-tiered racist healthcare system. Not too long ago, "Black disease" was considered inherent to being black rather than the cause of dehumanizing forces of systemic white racism. As health care providers pledge an oath to treat all patients equitably and with integrity, how is it possible that health disparities remain a major concern for communities of color? To lesson the burden of disease for African Americans, they should be given federally-sponsored health care and unencumbered access to high quality health care delivery services. This would allow black Americans to gain substantial ground toward group uplift with the elimination of race-based health disparities.
And finally, African Americans need to be economically empowered with the resources necessary to provide a meaningful existence and future. Black Americans, as a group, have long been denied access to wealth and wealth-generating opportunities. Between 1619 and 1865 alone, black people were robbed of millions of dollars in wages for over 222 million hours of forced labor. After 246 years of chattel slavery along with another 100 years of Jim Crow, white racism has taken a toll on black folk of all stripes -- young, old, rich, poor and everything in between. To this day, blacks have considerably less personal wealth than even poor white Americans and other Americans of color. The debt owed to African Americans is severely underestimated and long overdue. Therefore, all blacks should be exempt from federal taxes for a minimum of 346 years or until the poorest black American has equal parity with the poorest white American in terms of employment, income, wealth accumulation, and improved educational and health-related outcomes.
It is well known that white people have a strong aversion to the idea of a "free ride." Yet, white America has an extensive and bloody history of taking what it wants with no thought or concern for the lives of Native Americans, black folk and other Americans of color. White supremacy is alive and robustly active still in North America. If the practice of segregation was bad, the illusion of integration has been misery. African Americans are literally dying from the stresses of an unrelenting and uncaring white power structure. This three-part plan will allow black Americans the time to heal their communities and regain some sense of control and destiny in their lives.
In January of 1989, I first introduced the bill H.R. 40, Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. I have re-introduced HR 40 every Congress since 1989, and will continue to do so until it's passed into law.
One of the biggest challenges in discussing the issue of reparations in a political context is deciding how to have a national discussion without allowing the issue to polarize our party or our nation. The approach that I have advocated for over a decade has been for the federal government to undertake an official study of the impact of slavery on the social, political and economic life of our nation.
Over 4 million Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and its colonies from 1619 to 1865, and as a result, the United States was able to begin its grand place as the most prosperous country in the free world.
It is un-controverted that African slaves were not compensated for their labor. More unclear however, is what the effects and remnants of this relationship have had on African-Americans and our nation from the time of emancipation through today.
I chose the number of the bill, 40, as a symbol of the forty acres and a mule that the United States initially promised freed slaves. This unfulfilled promise and the serious devastation that slavery had on African-American lives has never been officially recognized by the United States Government.
My Bill Does Five Things:
* It acknowledges the fundamental injustice and inhumanity of slavery
* It establishes a commission to study slavery, its subsequent racial and economic discrimination against freed slaves;
* It studies the impact of those forces on today's living African Americans; and The commission would then make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies to redress the harm inflicted on living African Americans.
* The commission once established would also shed light on the capture and procurement of slaves, the transport and sale of slaves, the treatment of slaves in the colonies and in the United States.
* It would examine the extent to which Federal and State governments in the U.S. supported the institution of slavery and examine federal and state laws that discriminated against freed African slaves from the end of the Civil War to the present.
Many of the most pressing issues, which have heretofore not been broached on any broad scale, would be addressed. Issues such as the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery, whether an apology is owed, whether compensation is warranted and, if so, in what form and who should eligible would also be delved into.
H.R. 40 has strong grass roots support within the African American community, including major civil rights organizations, religious organizations, academic and civic groups from across the country. This support is very similar to the strong grassroots support that proceeded another legislative initiative: the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday bill. It took a full 15 years from the time I first introduced it on April 5, 1968 to its passage in the fall of 1983. Through most of those 15 years, the idea of a federal holiday honoring an African American civil rights leader was considered a radical idea.
Like the King Holiday bill, we have seen the support for this bill increase each year. Today we have over 40 co-sponsors, more than at any time in the past. What is also encouraging is the dramatic increase in the number of supporters for the bill among Members of Congress who are not members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Just this past month my Colleague Tony Hall, from Ohio introduced a bill calling for an apology as well as the creation of a reparations commission. So now, for the first time we now have two bills in Congress that call for the creation of a commission.
We are also encouraged by the support of city councils and other local jurisdiction that have supported our bill. Already the city councils in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta have passed bills supporting H.R. 40. And just this past month a councilman in Los Angeles, the site of our 2000 convention has introduced a bill with the strong support of the Los Angeles community. Also, there are presently two bills in the Michigan State House of Representatives addressing the issue of reparations.
It is a fact that slavery flourished in the United States and constituted an immoral and inhumane deprivation of African slaves' lives, liberty and cultural heritage. As a result, millions of African Americans today continue to suffer great injustices.
But reparation is a national and a global issue, which should be addressed in America and in the world. It is not limited to Black Americans in the US but is an issue for the many countries and villages in Africa, which were pilfered, and the many countries, which participated in the institution of slavery.
Another reason that this bill has garnered so much resistance is because many people want to leave slavery in the past - they contend that slavery happened so long ago that it is hurtful and divisive to bring it up now. It's too painful. But the concept of reparations is not a foreign idea to either the U.S. government or governments throughout the world.
Though there is historical cognition for reparations and it is a term that is fairly well known in the international body politic, the question of reparations for African Americans remains unresolved. And so, just as we've discussed the Holocaust and Japanese internment camps, and to some extent the devastation that the colonists inflicted upon the Indians, we must talk about slavery and its continued effects.
Last year the Democratic Party included this issue in the platform it asks that country engage in a discussion at the federal legislative level would send an important signal to the African American community and other people of goodwill.
Queen Nzinga (1583-1663) (Nzinga Mbande), the monarch of the Mbundu people, was a resilient leader who fought against the Portuguese and their expanding slave trade in Central Africa.
During the late 16th Century, the French and the English threatened the Portuguese near monopoly on the sources of slaves along the West African coast, forcing it to seek new areas for exploitation. By 1580 they had already established a trading relationship with Afonso I in the nearby Kongo Kingdom. They then turned to Angola, south of the Kongo.
The Portuguese established a fort and settlement at Luanda in 1617, encroaching on Mbundu land. In 1622 they invited Ngola (King) Mbande to attend a peace conference there to end the hostilities with the Mbundu. Mbande sent his sister, Nzinga, to represent him in a meeting with Portuguese Governor Joao Corria de Sousa. Nzinga was aware of her diplomatically awkward position. She knew of events in the Kongo which had led to Portuguese domination of the nominally independent nation. She also recognized, however, that to refuse to trade with the Portuguese would remove a potential ally and the major source of guns for her own state.
In the first of a series of meetings Nzinga sought to establish her equality with the representative of the Portugal crown. Noting that the only chair in the room belonged to Governor Corria, she immediately motioned to one of her assistants who fell on her hands and knees and served as a chair for Nzinga for the rest of the meeting.
Despite that display, Nzinga made accommodations with the Portuguese. She converted to Christianity and adopted the name Dona Anna de Souza. She was baptized in honor of the governor's wife who also became her godmother. Shortly afterwards Nzinga urged a reluctant Ngola Mbande to order the conversion of his people to Christianity.
Despite repeated attempts by the Portuguese and their allies to capture or kill Queen Nzinga, she died peacefully in her eighties on December 17, 1663.
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