By Mark David Blum, Esq.
It is election season and as part of the process, the big brains behind the campaigns are pulling out all the stops to create wedge issues and divide us amongst ourselves so as to create chaos and distract our attention. Again, as always, being trotted out is a big social blemish and they are playing on national guilt – our history of slavery. It is election season and as part of the process, the big brains behind the campaigns are pulling out all the stops to create wedge issues and divide us amongst ourselves so as to create chaos and distract our attention. Again, as always, being trotted out is a big social blemish and they are playing on national guilt – our history of slavery. The propaganda war started with the release of the novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates titled, ‘The Case for Reparations.’ Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. (http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/)
I say no. I say descendants from slaves have already had their reparations. I have no apologies to make and demand none be made in my name.
American history tells us that slaves were kidnapped from their homes in Africa and brought here to work for free under pain of death and being held as property. If memory serves, as part of our national atonement, we created for them a nation called Liberia in Africa; for those who chose to return. For those who stayed, there may or may not be an enforceable claim based on some General Orders issued in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War; including the famous ‘40 acres and a mule’.
For those slaves who stayed, America has tried to reach for Her better angels and erase obstacles created by the earlier generations. Starting with the 13th - 15th Amendments to the Constitution to thousands of laws, rules, cases, and attitude shifts, we have seen the implementation of affirmative action and Brown v Board of Education and heck, right now, a white guy who looks like a Black guy is in the White House and is married to a Black woman. We haven’t done our best and some things still need change; prison reform and drug law reform are but two examples. Still, collectively and over time and accompanied by an ocean of blood, as a nation, we have helped bring forward generations of people hurt by the sins of our Founders.
Now, America’s first generation of real Black millionaires is retiring. Yes, there is much to be undone; though we are trying. This nation was originally founded on the premise that some people are more equal than are others. It takes a while to erase that concept; but we are on it. President Barak Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, along with retired Secretaries of State Powell and Rice make that case.
Yet, paying reparations to individuals in the modern era seems wrong. Should the Egyptian government pay me reparations for the crimes committed against my ancestors? Make the Vatican reimburse me and the Muslim world for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Knights Templar. It is irrational to evaluate yesterday’s behaviors in context of today’s enlightenment. Will the descendants of Phoenicians and Mesopotamia bring civil action against the children of Gaul and of the Holy Roman Empire? Since parents are not responsible for the crimes of their children, why are children being asked to be liable for the sins of their parents?
Taking back the gold from Germans who stole it from Jews requires no real thought. It is a good thing that this country woke up to the fact that the Korematsu internment camps were a terrible idea. We took Americans’ land, jobs, and freedom. ‘Restitution’ was the only option. But in both cases, restitution went to the survivors.
Compare that to the issues of Indian tribes. The concept of a Hyphenated-American is repugnant to me. You are an American. That is your nationality. Your ‘race’, if you believe there is such a thing amongst humans, has nothing to do with your nationality. Neither does your religion nor political affiliation have anything to do with your country of residence. You are an American. By choice, Indian nations are not Americans. They are separate nations … Sioux, Iroquois, Navajo). The issue of the Indians is that they have a contractual claim against State and Federal Governments.
But, descendants from slaves have no such direct challenge. After nearly two hundred years since the end of the policy, no descendant can lay claim to a specific loss. Indians bring a constitutionally protected right of “contract” enforcement to the table. Claims by descendants of slaves rest only upon political and moral premises.
White people still need to get their act together. So to do Black folks. How about we take the first step and stop seeing skin color as being some kind of significant factor in how we treat each other. Why not instead, if want to distinguish ourselves, segregate ourselves by height, or weight, or hair color, or gait? Seems to me that if we stop seeing color as if it were a real thing and see the stupidity of actually thinking there is a hard dividing line as to what is ‘black’ and what is ‘white’, we would all be better off.
But, free tax dollars is not the solution and will just continue the Great Divide for another generation. Force me to write a check for what corporations founded in England and for what some Christian religious extremists forced upon innocent folks from Africa 300 years ago, and you will see monumental shift in my attitude – and not for the better. We will never be equals until we stop being different. Sadly, I feel we wont make our next great leap as a society until my generation are all dead.
We white folks have income inequality and a lengthy history of self -abuse amongst ourselves. Ask an Irishman or a Catholic or a Jew or a short person or a fat person or a trailer park child how bad it can be. White trash like me would also wish for redistribution because some white folks were lucky enough to be born with better opportunities than was I. You don’t think I want a share of the Rockefeller fortune? How about the opportunities denied me because of nepotism or patronage or just the little things that people as part of being human? Did I hear there was a job opening for Fair Director? It aint a White thing; it is how human beings constantly abuse each other and has probably been that way since humans first walked on two legs.
I am proud of my children and their generation and how they view such ideas as race, or sexual preference, or personal privacy. Real equality is not going to come about as a result of a redistribution of tax dollars. It takes social maturation and that requires multiple generations. In hindsight 50 years, I can say that we are miles from where we were just a short time ago. Though we may have miles yet to go, we are headed in the right direction.
Forget the free money. Stop being a victim. Take responsibility for yourself and future generations. Work together and not against each other. Don’t distinguish; embrace. But, never forget your history. True reparations will take the form of respect and assuming a place of dignity in society.