Point of View Columns

Time to Walk and Chew Gum

The tsunami of compelling stories continues. The entire country continues to wrestle with the COVID-19 monster while over a thousand Americans die every day. Since the Atlanta race murders two weeks ago there have been twenty recorded mass shootings – defined as four or more people killed or seriously injured by gunfire. And all along the Big Lie of 2020 Voter Fraud stains the socio-political fabric of this country – perhaps forever.

And it is within this environment which borders on dystopic that the Biden-Harris administration endeavors to govern. The $1.9 trillion America Cares Act was and is a major accomplishment. And now President Biden is set to propose a $3 trillion infrastructure proposal that will literally transform America for the better. Considering that there estimates that this country has a $30 trillion infrastructure deficit, this is a good start.

And most Americans welcome the return of sanity to the White House, regardless of political affiliation. No doubt there is no longing for more megalomania and general madness.

However, the pragmatic approach of President Biden – dealing with infrastructure first, and then endeavoring to address the raging inferno of voter suppression is just not a viable strategy. History shows that denying Black Americans the right to vote has been the goal of white American supremacists since the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery. The deconstruction of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Black Codes, lynching were all centered around the franchise to vote.

It was the laser like focus on curtailing the voting rights of Black people by white supremacists that caused almost all white Southern Democrats to become Republicans when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. And celebration in the white supremacist universe was deafening when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Acts in the Shelby v. Holder decision in 2013.

And now, using the cover of the Big Lie of 2020 Voter Fraud, 43 states have either passed or are considering legislation that will seriously curtail access to voting for all citizens – but placing the heaviest burden on Black voters. This brazen resurrection of Jim Crow as James Crow is taking place in plain view and must be stopped in its tracks. The flashing red alarm lights signaling injustice are plain to see and if these transgressions are not stopped now – there will not be a when.

It matters not that there will be new bridges and shiny airports while the rights of Black citizens are thrown onto the bonfire of white supremacist resurgence. It will matter not at all that the nation’s highways are in fine repair if Black Americans are placed under house arrest when it comes to exercising rights that white Americans have always taken for granted.

The rights of Black Americans are already under very public and extremely serious attack – there simply can be no waiting in some kind of strategic line. If the rights of Black Americans are going to have to wait in line while the president that was elected by Black Americans focuses on bridges and tunnels, then Black America will have been sold down the river of disappointment – again.

It is possible for America and the Biden-Harris Administration to walk and chew gum at the same time. The Biden-Harris team is full of talented and experienced professionals who are on the team because they know how to get things done. Asking Black Americans to wait patiently while their House of Rights is on fire is simply wrong.

Again – The flashing red alarm lights signaling injustice are plain to see and if these transgressions are not stopped now – there will not be a when.

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Point of View Columns

Reparations -America’s Past Due Bill

Reparations from the United States to the descendants of black slaves has been alternatively treated by mainstream media as a pipe dream or as a concept with no basis in reality. But the reality is that every year since 1989 House Representatives John Conyers and Sheila Jackson Lee have introduced the HR40 Reparations Bill which would establish a federal commission to study the issue of reparations for American descendants of slaves and to recommend viable strategies for moving forward.

But times do change and HR40 has been given new life. The progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are supporting the modest, but important step, of having Congress (which is seated in the Capitol building which was built with slave labor) seriously consider a means of finally recognizing the horror of slavery and the need to establish a mode of reparations as a first step towards true reconciliation on the issue of race in America.

From the earliest record of Africans and people of African descent in this country racially based sanctions have existed. Black Codes, slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, lynching along with malign and benign neglect have always circumscribed the existence of black Americans in this country. And it was on the anvil of slavery that the principle of white supremacy was forged and embedded in the soul of America. So profound was the enslavement of black Americans that even a century after the shackles were broken by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, there were laws, proscriptions and sanctions which clearly and indelibly marked black people as “the other”.

And that is why the issue of reparations to black Americans by the United States of America is so important. For two reasons – no matter the dollar figure, monetary damages paid to every black person descended from slaves would not be enough. Just as the billions of dollars paid to the state of Israel by Germany will never be enough, the centuries of pain, suffering and inhuman degradation can never be adequately reduced to dollars and cents.

But dollars were paid to Israel by Germany as a way of acknowledging the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust as well as a way of recognizing the humanity of its victims and survivors and their descendants. Certainly the unspeakable horror of slavery and the need to finally recognize the humanity of the victims of slavery as well as their descendants warrant similar treatment by the only means possible – reparations.

The second reason is perhaps even more compelling. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January of 1863 and the 13th Amendment was ratified in December of 1865, the degradation and ill treatment of black Americans did not stop. It did not stop with the termination of the protection of black people by federal troops in 1876. It certainly did not stop throughout the domestic terrorist campaign waged against black people by the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Magnolia, the White Citizens Councils and virtually all of the local and state governments in the South and throughout much of these United States.

The mistreatment and denial of the humanity of black Americans continued through almost a century of lynching and the infernal bounds and barriers imposed by Jim Crow and the legalized dehumanization of men, women and children who were descended from slaves. And the current race- related disparities in education, housing, mortality rates, incarceration rates and various indicia of standards of living that still leave black people on the lesser side of the national ledger are facts that compel a serious discussion of how reparations should be structured.

Simply put, to dismiss reparations is to ignore history and dismiss the humanity of black Americans. It is past time to put reparations in the center of the national discussion. Proclamation of the legal rights of black Americans without reparations is to intentionally fail to recognize the humanity of black Americans alive today as well as to somehow turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of millions of black men, women and children who may be nameless to the United States government but are well known and remembered by a Power greater than this country.

There has never been a convenient time to discuss reparations in this country. There will never be a convenient time to discuss reparations in this country. And that is all the more reason that now is the time to move forward on the issue of reparations for black Americans.

The stain of slavery, racial discrimination and white supremacy will never be removed from the fabric of this country’s history. Reparations would be an important step in restoring its soul by finally and definitively recognizing the colossal mortal sins committed against men, women and children of African descent.

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