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January 13th, 2016

What’s the Status of Black Reparations?

William Reed
“The principal income mechanism for the growth of the United States was cotton. It made us a powerful country.  The people who produced the cotton were never paid.” – Randall Robinson
The way they preened and frolicked, you’d have thought they’d done something regarding the cause. In a ceremony at the Capitol, Washington lawmakers commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery.  But no one mentioned reparations.  At the Statue of Freedom in the Capitol Visitor Center, President Barack Obama and numerous House and Senate members participated in what descendants of slaves should consider a sham: readings detailing the history of the 13th Amendment.  The bluster  included  Obama saying the country would do a disservice to “warriors of justice” like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, President Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. if it denies the scars of the “nation’s original sin” are still there today.

What’s wrong with this picture?  Approximately $100 trillion in reparations is owed to America’s Blacks while their politicians frolic and preen in lieu of demanding payments.  While Blacks immerse themselves in “mainstream politics” the words “we apologize for slavery” has never have made their way into a formal resolution by U.S. lawmakers.  While the nation’s lawmakers frolicked the words of an apology came no closer to making it to the Oval Office for signature.  Our nation’s original sin has not been reconciled for a century-and-a-half; does it make sense that Black voters are content with career politicians’ “reading” its history to note the abolition of slavery?

They’ve fiddled with it.  In 2008, 143 years after ratification of the 13th Amendment, the House voted by unanimous consent to issue an apology to African-Americans for slavery.   The following year, the Senate also passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. But, those apology resolutions have never made it to Obama’s desk for signature because neither chamber could agree on language that would exempt the U.S. from claims for slavery reparations.

Blacks’ should be alarmed that the speeches given at the ceremony made no mention of reparations as a way to atone to Blacks for 245 years of enslavement.  Black voters should check their pockets to see what they’ve gained for loyalty to the party and president.   Not even the first Black Commander in Chief, in the final stretch of his presidency, has formally apologized for the generations-long slave trade, a gesture that could clear the way for compensation to slave descendants.

Blacks could reap a million dollars per family from just reparations.  Instead of allowing “readings” on the abolition of slavery Blacks must demand more from Obama and people they’ve put into office to “represent” them.  Obama could implement Blacks’ compensation through executive order.   The Congress could pass H.R. 40, the bill that studies the effects of slavery on the nation and Blacks.

Actually, the work toward justice did not end with the abolition of slavery, it only began.  The government owes descendants of slaves money for forced and unpaid labor and for loss of culture and of humanity.   Contemporary Blacks have failed to use their clout in politics to take care of the most basic and fundamental of issues: reparations.  It is not a “mainstream” issue, and Whites will do all they can to ignore and downplay reparations.  It’s up to those who know and understand the inequities of America to keep the reparations issue in the political mainstream. 

Reparations should be recognized for what it could do for Blacks now.  Some type of compensation should be provided to the descendants of the nation’s enslaved people, in consideration of coerced and uncompensated labor their ancestors performed over centuries.  Such reparations for slaves are not a new concept.  General William Tecumseh Sherman first suggested that freed slaves each receive “40 acres and a mule.”  But, President Andrew Johnson and the Congress rejected it.  But the spirit of Sherman’s idea has survived among many. There is currently a reparations bill before Congress that those who contributed “readings” could actively support.  Contact Keenan Keller, aide to Chairman Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee via (202) 225-6906.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America”
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