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 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 and benign neglect have always characterized 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 sense.

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 andlo treatment of black Americans as the other 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 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 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 discuss and 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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Point of View Columns

The Birth of Trumpageddon

Historians will undoubtedly look at the 2016 presidential campaign as being unique. The looming and tantalizing presence of Trumpageddon will virtually overshadow everything, much the same way as Donald Trump himself sucks up the media oxygen every day of this very bizarre year. But the most astute historians will go back a half century earlier to discover the roots of Trumpageddon, roots that have nothing to do with Donald J. Trump and have everything to do with the intentional reinvention of the Republican Party in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the national Republican party was indisputably more progressive when it came to civil rights for black Americans. After all, the Democratic Party was deeply rooted in the South, roots that went back as far as the end of Reconstruction and the federal occupation of the formerly treasonous Confederacy in 1876.

After all, the Republican Party came into being with the abolition of slavery being a principal plank in its national political platform in 1860. Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was a Republican. And when the seething South was liberated from federal occupation in 1876, due in large part to the tricknology of Rutherford B. Hayes who swapped the freedom, civil rights and physical safety of Southern black people in exchange for the presidency, southerners embraced the Democratic Party as their own.

The Democratic Party in the South was the party of Jim Crow and lynching. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, invited the first black American to dine at the White House. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic president, hosted the premier of “Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president, never supported anti-lynching legislation for fear of alienating his Southern party members. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Prior to his untimely death, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was nowhere near a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act that was passed posthumously. And in 1960, Richard Nixon, his Republican opponent in that presidential election, had virtually the same amount of support in the national black community as did Kennedy.

As late as 1964, the Democratic Party was the home of  blood-soaked and hate drenched racist villains such as Thurmond and Stennis and Faubus and Wallace and Bilbo. And in 1964 every state that had been a part of the Confederate States of America was firmly on the Democratic side of the national political register.

And then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the urging of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And as if by magic, during the following decade, the Republican Party was ascendant in the South, vacuuming up all the disenchanted white Southerners, supposedly in the name of conservatism and state’s rights, but in reality the transition was fueled by the deep and abiding resentment that black Americans were afforded some measure of citizenship and recognition of their humanity by the Damned Democrats.

Should there any be any doubt regarding the linkage of race and the Republican ascendancy, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of Republican conservatism, launched his national presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than twenty years after three civil rights workers were lynched within miles of the podium on which he stood. And when Reagan proclaimed that “government was the enemy”, he was referring to that same federal government that was often the only source of protection for black Americans seeking asylum and vindication in their own country. That dog whistle blew loud enough for white ears in the South and throughout the nation.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the modern Republican Party, reborn in radical response to the advancement of racial civil rights progress would be the home of the impending Trumpageddon. It certainly should be no surprise that the political party that turned a blind eye to the clearly racist and racial efforts to delegitimize the first African American presidency would serve as the incubator for those would seek to delegitimize the entire apparatus of the federal government.

Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who refused to extinguish the dark magical thinking that claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “hates America” or is not even a citizen, cannot be surprised that a master manipulator like Donald Trump could harness this malevolent harvest and turn it into a movement. And now, for good historical reason, Trumpageddon is upon us.

The Republicans are reaping what they have sown, and that harvest is being served to America.

 

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Point of View Columns

The Eternal Terror

Perhaps the Confederate flag in South Carolina will fly at half mast now that a damaged excuse for a human being named Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a South Carolina Church. All reports indicate that Roof sought to kill black people so this was not a random act of murder – this was an act of terrorism. And this latter day Neanderthal monster reminds us that American terrorism directed against black people is a horrific and very real part of the history and present tense of this country.

Consider the irony in the fact that the site of the murders, Emanuel AME Church, was founded by Denmark Vesey who had plotted an extensive slave revolt which failed in 1822. After Denmark Vesey as executed, white South Carolinians burned the Emanuel AME Church to the ground and actually banned all black churches in the state in 1834. The history of Emanuel AME Church is soaked in blood and scarred by the fires of hatred and bigotry.

And the history of Emanuel AME Church is an important reminder as we consider the current atrocity at that church. Terror against black people has been a constant theme in this country starting with the Barbadian Slave Codes which were then exported to the American colonies, beginning with South Carolina.

The Slave Codes were created to impose absolute white domination over black slaves, and to protect against slave revolts and as well as safeguarding the significant financial investment that slaves represented. Under the Slave Codes there were literally no limits to the violence and savagery that could be suffered by black Americans. Indeed, it can be argued that Slave Codes injected the virus of white racist violence and terrorism that still runs through the veins of America.

There should be no doubt that the Slave Codes begat Jim Crow which begat wholesale lynching which begat legally sanctioned terrorism to confront the civil rights movement. Lest one think that this virus is confined to the former Confederate States of America it should be clear that New York City and Boston police worked closely with slave catchers and the state of Indiana had the largest Ku Klux Klan membership of any state in the history of this country.

Dylann Roof is a direct descendant of the mobs that confronted the Little Rock Nine in Arkansas and James Meredith at the University of Mississippi as well as Louise Day Hicks who encouraged the attacks on school buses carrying black children in Boston. Dylann Roof is a direct descendant of the Klansmen and the “ordinary citizens” who organized and participated in the lynching of thousands of black men and women in the 19th and 20th centuries. Dylann Roof is a blood relative of the terrorists who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and he belongs to the same family as the scores of police officers who have shot and killed black men, women and children without cause, simply because they were black men, black women and black children.

We should all be saddened by the carnage in Charleston. But we should not be shocked. Terrorism directed against black Americans is part of American history.

And we should certainly not be shocked by Dylann Roof’s actions – after all, he is a white American. And there can be no cure for the disease of white racial terrorism in this country that still afflicts so many white Americans until we are willing to accept that the illness exists.

It is the first step to recovery.

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