Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reparations and H.R.40

Ta-Nehisi  Coates has written in interesting article for Atlantic Magazine, entitled, "The Case for Reparations". The idea that whites owe blacks for the sufferings of slavery, Jim Crow and the pain, the violent separation of families and the deaths associated with the heinousness of slavery, was something I'd never bought into. To the degree that I did believe, I considered it a moot point because, as I've said before, 'They ain't paying...!'

But Coates (who also had problems with the idea of reparations), makes a compelling argument. A very compelling argument. His article looks at black life from the time of the first blacks arrival to America in 1619 to the present and in doing so looks at reparations from the how big a check each black person should receive.

But for Coates, this is not just a new form of 'race entitlements', it's bigger than money,  "Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders."

What is unquestionable, is whether it is 'Black Wall Street' in Oklahoma, Rosewood in Florida, the case of SNCC workers, Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, or Emmitt Till, or the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr, the fact is whites have visited on blacks unusual cruelties and through White Citizens Councils and other systemic injustices. The question is, to what degree is American society, complicit in the crimes of its citizens when those crimes are 'legal' or condoned by tradition as a state. 

The clip below is Ta-Nehisi Coates, seeks to answer that question in his interview with  Bill Moyers...

The second clip is from the online version of the article which looks at 'contract buying' in Lawndale, a community in Chicago. Contract buying was the means by which an owner my buy his house for $15,000 but sell it for $30,000 yet the 'home buyer' actually never buys the house. Never accrues any equity and in fact never really has any security. If the home buyer misses one payment he or she can be evicted. The process led to redlining of communities and other types of, what are currently illegal practices. Civic, state and federal law, either upheld these racist practices, condoned them or set up similar statutes and laws...

This is one of the reasons U.S. Representative John Conyers, has, every year since 1989, has presented H.R. 40, a bill that each session establish a commission that would study the need for reparations. Its never been brought to the floor for a vote.

As I said, prior to reading this article by Ta' Nehisi Coates, I've never been a proponent of reparations. I'd long since relegated this to a side issue which didn't deserve par with more important issues. But frankly, this is the type of conversation we need to have in this country.

I still have hope its possible...

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