Point of View Columns

On the Last Day of Black History Month – What Happened to Reparations?

Due to the observance of Leap Year, Black History Month got an extra day in 2020. As has been noted, Black History Month should serve as a foundation to educate all Americans, not just Black Americans, with respect to the history of Black people in this country. And certainly, any true history of Black America must begin with slavery and continue to this day with the very impact of slavery on this entire country in every aspect of these United States.

We live in a country which has such a bifurcated perspective on slavery and Black Americans that there are thousands of monuments commemorating the leaders of the traitorous rebellion to protect slavery and promote the eternal squalor of white supremacy. Somehow Black Americans are supposed to feel respected while these Confederate statutes and memorials stain the landscape of this nation, with this statuary sewage even seeping into the Arlington National Cemetery.

We live in a country where racial disparity has been abundantly clear – in health, in housing, in education, in life expectancy, in economic status and in incarceration rates – and none of these disparities are viewed as a national shame, and more importantly a national emergency. And that is where the Democratic presidential primary comes in – as a living, breathing illustration of the rank hypocrisy that pervades all sectors of the American socio-political universe when it comes to Black Americans.

If you go back in ancient history to early 2019, virtually every Democratic presidential candidate spoke out in favor of reparations for Black Americans. This was noteworthy in that this simply had never happened before, even though reparations was a key point of advocacy in the abolitionist movement and urged upon this nation by Frederick Douglass and grudgingly endorsed by Abraham Lincoln before his death.

Reparations for the formerly enslaved Black Americans would have meant so much in terms of providing a foundation for economic as well as civic freedom. Reparations would have extirpated slavery by the roots and torn the branches of white racism asunder. And, of course, that is why reparations was blocked by the self-proclaimed “president of white men”, Andrew Johnson – and by1876, reparations has withered away as a serious talking point in any consideration of the conditions and future of Black Americans.

And the late Congressman John Conyers kept the flickering flame of Black reparations alive with multiple resolutions calling for an exploration of a realistic implementation of the concept. And those resolutions were politely but firmly dropped – notably without the unified and non-negotiable support of the Congressional Black Caucus – until 2019.

That is when virtually every one of the candidates for the Democratic Party Circular firing squad clearly stated their support for reparations for Black Americans. This historic, game changing set of pronouncements was noted by political commentators and then…….

….and then things got serious and reparations for Black Americans went to the back of the American political bus. So much so that, as the South Carolina primary, taking place on the last day of Black History Month, in South Carolina where 60% of the voting Democrats are Black, there has not been anything resembling the whisper of a mention of reparations.

And once again, we see the divergence of stated American ideals and the reality of where Black Americans are placed in terms of relevance and respect in the American political spectrum.

And perhaps that is the most important lesson to be learned during Black History Month 2020.

 

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One thought on “On the Last Day of Black History Month – What Happened to Reparations?

  1. Antonette says:

    Thank you for sharing this piece. Reparations has not been discussed in a while and it should continue to be a part of the conversation until black people are entitled the reparations they deserve.

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