Reparations: The Value
of White Privilege
Highly Suspicious Christian
Neighborhood Watch in Havana
Binges and Wars Over
are junctures in time that delineate human progress - or, sometimes,
regression. For the moment, most Americans and others in the "West"
think of September 11 as such a juncture, a date that, before or after
which, epochs can be defined. This may or not prove to be true. Certainly,
the perpetrators have a different interpretation of the significance
of the attack than do those who suffered the brunt of it. Both parties
will probably agree, however, on the historical weight of the numbers
9-11, at least until something even more time-wrenching comes along.
the world as seen through African American eyes, definitions and delineations
can also blur. What time period do we actually refer to when we speak
of "The Sixties"? Was the 1963 March on Washington the starting
point of the "era," and when did it "end"? Did the
modern "Civil Rights Movement" begin with the Montgomery Bus
Boycott of 1955, or should the impetus of the Brown Supreme Court
decision, a year earlier, be regarded as the seminal event? Why not
Truman's order desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces, in 1947 or, better,
A. Phillip Randolph's 1942 threat of a March on Washington unless
President Roosevelt banned job discrimination in the war industry.
are not idle exercises; everybody understands that you have to know
where you've been in order to get where you want to go. Serious political
thinkers strive to find their place in time, to figure out the significance
of what they are seeing and doing, the long term meaning of events as
they unfold. Once you believe you have a handle on the way time and
events are flowing, you then reach for the impossible - the power to
predict! - in order to achieve something that is possible: the
ability to shape events in your own people's and cause's favor.
Reparations movement marks a maturation and turning point in African
American political thinking. In that sense, the August 17 "Millions
for Reparations March," in Washington, may one day be seen as an
historical juncture. In the future, participants in the long saga of
the Reparations movement will argue over whether this summer's rally
was the point of departure, or that "The Call" that
went out from participants in the Durban, South Africa conference of
200l represented the signal event, or that Congressman John Conyers'
1989 introduction of a Reparations Study bill marked the movement's
arrival - and on into the mists of previous decades.
looms as a giant fact is that Black America is assuming "ownership"
of the idea of Reparations in some form for the crimes of slavery, Jim
Crow and whatever we will someday call the assaults that are occurring
right now. By "ownership," I mean the kind of people-wide
embrace that masses of African Americans finally extended to the word-concept-identity
"Black" back in the days we now call The Sixties. We "owned"
Black, and Black owned us. Rivers of ideas, energies, sacrifices, hopes
and glorious failures flowed from that embrace.
Reparations claim has become general, encompassing strong bodies of
thought in all sectors of African American society. We need not worry
about when it happened; the transformation has occurred. Unionists
and businesspeople, scholars and street thugs, all share the common
claim and complaint: we are owed by this society.
we have something righteous to argue about: in what form and by what
means will we seek payback? That is an argument broad and deep enough
to envelop and engage an entire people, and to sweep a nation down roads
it does not want to go.
through this common claim that we can begin to address basic questions,
such as the ones raised by Daniel Gainer in an e-Mail to this publication:
long would reparations last? How much do people receive? Where does
the money come from?
that I said we could begin to answer such questions. Having arrived
at popular agreement on the existence of The Debt (the title of Randall
Robinson's indispensable book), it becomes incumbent upon the various
constituencies of the Reparations movement to devise formulas and rationales
for The Payback. This is where the really interesting stuff starts.
symmetry of gain and loss
of our most illustrious lawyers say, not surprisingly, Sue the bastards!
We at The Black Commentator wholeheartedly agree. Sue them all, public
and private! The fruits of past, unpaid Black labor fatten others in
every sector of present day society. In self-satisfied oblivion, the
undeserving children of thieves live out our ancestors' stolen dreams.
By all means, sue.
we the clients must demand a thorough and adequate tally of The Debt
before any settlements are made in our name. During what will be a long
and exhaustive process of "discovery" - to use the lawyers'
term - an energized people will, we hope, look into the sources of every
deep pocket in the land and around the globe. In the life and time of
this noisy, often incoherent, joyful and sometimes dangerous Reparations
movement, Black America will find itself propelled by its own
momentum to examine the basic structure and workings of the society
in ways that were only superficially ventured back in The Sixties.
is the proper bill for Reparations? It is better to begin with the
question, What is the value of white privilege and the resulting accumulation
of wealth and status?
Black Commentator raised that question in a May
8 essay, "The True Value of Some
Land and an Animal," a what-might-have-been tale about a hypothetical
Black family headed by an ex-slave named "Paul" during the
35 years following Emancipation. We explored the lost promise of Congressman
Thaddeus Stevens' 1867 "Forty Acres and a Mule" legislation.
In the process, white privilege was revealed as both the evidence and
the spoils of the crime:
is this privilege, which both public and private America conveyed
to millions of white immigrants during "Paul's" era, that
allowed non-English-speakers with foreign habits and sensibilities
to push his generation aside. Without his land and mule, Paul never
had a chance.
acres and a mule, combined with the coherence of a large population
rooted in a common experience and speaking the same language, would
have given African Americans a leg up as the nation was taking on
modern form. The multiplying effects of Stevens' bill would have likely
resulted in a relative Black advantage despite the proximity
of the slave experience. The new and diverse crop of Europeans would
have found it much harder to compete with free Black men and women.
It is likely that many of their descendants would still be
these Europeans gained is what "Paul" and his lineage lost....
U.S. gross domestic product was ten trillion, two hundred billion
dollars in 2001. A portion of that amount is based solely on historical
white privilege, the inherited gift that keeps on giving.
the percentages and values as you choose. Use any model you like.
The results will astound you; any fraction of $10 trillion
is a lot of money, flowing year after year, reproducing more privilege.
Misery isn't the only thing that gets passed down through generations.
percent of $10 trillion is $100 billion, yearly.... The debt America
owes to Blacks is huge, but so are its pockets.
want a one percent Reparations tax? Only people in motion can make such
demands. Who would administer the funds? Leadership and responsibility
are demonstrated in struggle. (We can all name some folks who should
definitely not be allowed near any money.) How long would reparations
last? That depends on how long the movement can be sustained, and what
uses the money is put to.
rooted in a shared past can unify the children of oppression, but that
is no substitute for programs of action suited to evolving, contemporary
battlefields. The beauty of the call for Reparations is that it connects
the crimes of the past to the outrages of the present.
past 50 years, the very landscape of America has been reshaped through
a monstrous crime, a public-private conspiracy against Black America,
the impact of which is easily visible from outer space. In August, we
will publish an essay on the invention of Suburbia and its relevance
to the Reparations movement, titled, "Who Pays for a World Turned
grand scope of the - literal - American reconstruction after World
War Two was designed to meet a howling white demand: affordable housing
and racial segregation. To achieve this, the national landscape
would have to be reconfigured. The suburbs were born, and the core
cities were brought near to death.
how many billions in compensation is that crime worth? Don't
bother with your calculator - the criminal enterprise is ongoing.
is a disorienting disconnect between the fearsome technology of the
U.S. military and the archaic crudeness of its Commander-in-Chief. George
Bush threatens laser-death vengeance in every corner of a wired world,
then slouches around like some good ol' boy
racist provocateur back here on the ranch. His TIPS program is too racially
brazen for even the sheep farmers in Congress to sanction. "Y'all
see any 'spicious characters actin' funny and such, y'all call somebody,
words ain't code when they're that blatant.
truly require a national mobilization to involve one out of every 24
Americans in the Justice Department's proposed Terrorism Information
and Prevention System. Attorney General John Ashcroft's millions of
volunteers would need proper indoctrination as to what is, and what
is not, suspicious. For example, Bible-thumping in the middle of the
night is normal. Ashcroft does that all the time.
white Christians are normal, including those who belong to the World
Church of the Creator. That's the affiliation of the female half of
a Boston couple, charged with planning to bomb, assassinate and otherwise
provoke a race war that "would lead to an all-white Aryan nation,"
according to prosecutors. The church has a website, in which it piously
proclaims to the victims of the World Trade Center attack, "Our
condolences are extended to the families of those killed and to those
injured who are of our White Race."
Christian folk. Nothing suspicious about them.
male Aryan belongs to the White Order of Thule, which must not be suspicious,
since we've never seen the organization listed on any Homeland Security
Terror Alert. We assume there is no Black Order of Thule - because that
would be highly suspicious.
Christian couple's neighbor, 22 year-old Harvard student Kathy McGaffigan,
told reporters that she knew her friends were planning to build a bomb,
but didn't want to pry.
was intimidated," she said. "Leo just got out of jail, and
Erica was moving here on a whim. I didn't want to interrupt anything."
It's all about learning to fit in and get along.
out for the neighborhood
columnist who believes himself to be an open-minded, liberal kind of
guy stole a sneer at the TIPS idea by comparing it to pervasive spying
in the Countries Formerly Known As Communist, and to the very much alive
and socialist republic, Cuba.
for the Defense of the Revolution, or CDRs, are encouraged to operate
in every Cuban neighborhood. I met with groups of CDR activists in both
Havana and Santiago-de-Cuba, during a 1985 visit to the island, and
was impressed with their... ordinariness.
nests of terrorists living with impunity just across the water in Miami,
constantly threatening to resume the bombings and sabotage of their
homeland that were weekly events throughout the Sixties and Seventies,
you'd think the CDR people would have been full of diatribes against
the U.S. Instead, these middle aged busy-bodies, most of them women
with grandchildren, talked constantly about sneaky youngsters who they
suspected of being marijuana smokers, various good-for-nothings who
didn't get up and go to work like they should, and men who like young
I am nobody's dupe, I confronted the do-gooders: You're really a Neighborhood
Watch, aren't you, I challenged. Deflated and defeated, they confessed:
Yes, we watch the neighborhood. That's what we do. All the time.
Women's wing of the Pan African Liberation Organization is pulling together
"women's organizations and individuals that oppose the U.S. Blockade
against Cuba." Their press release states, "PAWC believes
that the women and children of Cuba are most affected by the illegal
Blockade established by the U.S. in 1962."
sisters are building toward an international display of solidarity on
July 26 of next year, with "protests, press conferences and rallies
to take place at U.S. Embassies all over the world."
way things are going, it will be difficult to get near a U.S. embassy
anywhere on the globe in 2003. Enemies, once mostly imagined, are certain
to proliferate exponentially in the face of America's world-wide deployment
of forces. Bush is like a mean drunk in a bar; before the night is out,
everybody wants to kick his ass. Unfortunately, his butt is attached
to our own.
other people's lives away
real crisis - the one that shakes up the corporations that run the newspapers
- is the crisis of confidence that threatens to cripple crony capitalism.
Little George Bush is pure crony, his only function within the system.
Since he has never run a company, Bush has never had to learn the meaning
of malfeasance, which is why he pronounces it "malf-ance."
And, since he has grown rich after already being born rich without doing
anything to earn even one dollar, the current economic trouble seems
to Bush like the after-effects of a party:
must get rid of the hangover that we now have as a result of the binge,
the economic binge we just went through. We were in a land of endless
profit. There was no tomorrow when it came to the stock markets and
corporate profits. And now we're suffering a hangover for that binge.
who look like they never heard of Oscar Brown, Jr's "The Lone Ranger
and Tonto" were moved to write, "What you mean we,
White Man?" providing us with a little comic relief. But some of
the people around Dubya not only work hard stealing millions, they will
kill millions to keep it. Bush crew insider Lawrence Kudlow's plan for
an invasion of Iraq is nearly identical to one that "leaked"
out of the Pentagon, in mid-July. Kudlow explains what the war is really
shock therapy of decisive war will elevate the stock market by a couple-thousand
points. We will know that our businesses will stay open, that our
families will be safe, and that our future will be unlimited. The
world will be righted in this life-and-death struggle to preserve
our values and our civilization. But to do all this, we must act.
man reflects the thinking of Bush's inner circle. He's not a bit funny.
Kudlow: Taking Back the Market - By Force, National Review
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