Friday, December 23, 2005

Reparations for Black African Americans

I ran across an article today while engaging in my business activies. This article has stirred many harsh feelings and my further research on the subject has fueled rage. My feelings are not unlike those of millions of others.

The article is Black Buying Blackout - Christmas 2005. I had never before heard of this demonstration, 2005 being the second year it has been called for. I can say that I think the limited number of days should be increased to truely drive home the impact to corporations and businesses, and thus ultimately via taxes and other causes to the U.S. Govenment, what the lack of roughly 38 million Blacks' $700 billion-a-year buying power can do.

The goal of this 'Blackout' is to bring attention to the ongoing question of reparations due to black african american, descended from the slaves taken from Africa and brought to the U.S. [I will add here that I am aware that on my mothers' side of the family tree stops in 1863, with no information going beyond the fact that the family were slaves.] the exact issues are:
1) to demand reparations to compensate for unpaid labor by African slaves from 1619 to 1865, and for legal segregation and the Southern peonage system from 1865 to 1965;
2) to create pressure on the political-economic system;
3) to begin a process of unifying people of African descent for political purposes.

The Blackout and its goals are supported by multiple groups and individuals including: Bennett J. Johnson of the National Black Political Convention, the NDABA [Great Sit Down], Nation of Islam, National Black United Front, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Global African Congress, Fernwood United Methodist Church, Black Lawyers for Justice.

Beyond the Blackout and those that support it, I came to think about the statement 40 Acres & A Mule. The question of where it came from and its impact on reparations. While there is alot of information on it I found this item by Gerene L. Freeman to be most informative. Not only due to the wealth of information but also due to the fact it delves into the social conciousness about slavery. Many still do not wish to discuss slavery in America. I feel it is the one national taboo that though while addressed on a cursory level many times it has never been dealt with. It is so ingrained in people of this nation that neither Blacks, Whiters or anyone else wishes to discuss it on a national level, and even in smaller more personal groups the subject is shunned and dismissed rather than spoken about. This amounts to mass denial on a national, and due to the interconnected manner in which the world operates even global, level in my opinion. Obvisouly to me this means that something must be wrong, since it is so deeply entrenched in the American psyche not to discuss it.

But as to the 40 acres, many of the youth as well as adults (White or Black Americans) have no idea what this means. A smaller group understand it as only the name of the production company for Mr. Spike Lee. Reparations is what is being directly referred to when the 40 acres and a mule is brought up. As mentioned in the goals of Blackout, it is directly part of the compensation for unpaid labor by African slaves from 1619 to 1865. More fully it is linked to General Sherman and War Department, Special Order No. 15 - "The islands of Charleston south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering St. Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of [N]egroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States." Additional reference to First Freedmen’s Bureau Act, which stated “shall have authority to set apart for use of loyal refugees and freedmen such tracts of land within the insurrectionary states as shall have been abandoned or to which the United States shall have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise; and to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, as aforesaid there shall be assigned not more than 40 acres of such land.”

While the order by General Sherman did in fact provide for land, the above mentioned First Freedmen’s Bureau Act was shot down by Congress, this was later rescinded by President Johnson, even though it was argued that "...In my opinion this order of General Sherman is as binding as a statute." Reparations have been discussed and propased to Congress since that time for roughly 138 years, and has not been resolved yet.

Starting in 1989, U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr. began annually introducing legislation calling for a study of the lasting effects of slavery and possible reparations. Why some would ask? What benifit could it bring?

Well there is NO question that America was built largely due to the efforts of slaves. The U.S. was an agriculture based economy and the cash crops of cotton, tobacco, staples such as corn and rice, were grown in the south with slave labor.
Estimates of the value of the unpaid labor and/or the above mentioned land has been placed from $9.7trillion to $24trillion, with other estimates slightly lower and many higher. Such estimates only confirm the absolute value and impact slave labor had on the formation of this nation. The foundation of this nation, upon which all other advances and acheivements have been accomplished, is based in that fact.

After the slaves were freed, which happened with the 13th Ammendment and not the Emancipation Proclimation [you can see President Lincolns' thoughts on this matter in my post to a comment at History in America comments], Jim Crow and other equally repressive laws and actions hindered Black African Americans. Incidents have occured even in the 20th century and include the Tuskegee syphilis experiments in the 1930s, the destruction of Tulsa’s Black neighborhoods in 1921 and the loss of life and property when the all-Black town of Rosewood was destroyed by a white mob in 1923. The need to have a civil rights movement clearly states that there was massive widespread and constant repression of black african americans over many decades at the least.

Even with the many individuals and groups who have actively supported reparations, including Mr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr., there still has been no action. Yet reparations have been made to Japanese Americans and Native American Indians, at least to some degree. Remorse has been expressed by the Government to both groups. Yet the United States Govenment has never apoligized nor acknowledged the wrongs done with slavery and its actions/attitudes in the over a century since that time.

It seems incredible that any government or institution could overlook such actions, I think. The world could not abide a lack of reparations for the Holocost, yet the unknown numbers of black african americans that died (as damaged goods lost in transport for sale, or by slave owners as useless property, or from acts of cruelty) for centuries is something that can't even be discussed. I have a major problem with that.

Why reparations? In my mind it is simple... the nation has never healed, and never will until admission of its actions up to and including the civil rights movement is made. Monetary repayment is due, made perhaps in other manners besides direct cash payments [perhaps a fixed tax credit that is used over a lifetime and transferable to offspring until used], but denial of the fact of how this nation came to be is no excuse. We will never get beyond the nations largest and most subtle activity which is the division of Americans based on race, if we cannot come to terms with the past.

Not quite the cheerful Christmas thought, but then again for centuries there are many who never enjoyed it either. Your momentary discomfort will pass.

This is what I think, What about you?

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1 Comments:

At 11:23 PM, June 08, 2008 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

My name is Gerene Freeman every now and then I do a search of my name just to see what's going on with my material. I happened to see that you placed a link to my work on your website. I just wanted to say thank you and to thank you also for your kind words. Please know that I am continuing my research on this topic and hope to publish a book of my findings.
Again, thanks for your kind comments.
Gerene
gerene_freeman@yahoo.com

 

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