Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Reparations in a Nutshell

Mary Mitchell, an Afrikan columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, has written one of the most compelling AND succinct articles on reparations for enslavment I've ever read. If you know *nothing* about reparations, which many reparations opponents are too ashamed to admit, here is a "Reader's Digest" version of "Why Reparations for the TransAtlantic Slave Trade?" for you...

Slavery was the Black Holocaust, so Treat it with the Same Respect
by Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times

fortunately, this is not a novel view, nor is it one that has only been expressed by white people.

Nearly a decade ago, the former Nairobi bureau chief for the Washington Post, Keith Richburg, caused quite an uproar when he allegedly told a white colleague that "it was better to have been brought across the ocean in leg irons than to be stuck now in modern Africa."

Blacks routinely portrayed in negative light

That anecdote -- retold across black America -- was included in Richburg's book Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa, and has been a mantra of some black intellectuals ever since. And truly, given the horrific problems Africa has faced -- now being ravaged by HIV/AIDS -- only the most romantic and those on a mission of penance would leap joyfully at the prospect of relocating to Africa.

But a black person at least has an inherent right to make such a statement.

Where does a white person get off telling black people how they benefitted from their ancestors being slaves?

Still, I'm not surprised that at this juncture of the reparations debate, the "there's-no-better-place-to-be-impoverished-than-in-the-U.S." argument has found its way into a mainstream newspaper that reaches countless black households in Chicago and in the suburbs.

I wouldn't address such lunacy except that it was given voice in a newspaper where I have worked for 15 years. That angers me. And it raises a question about the liberties everyone feels they can take when it comes to black people.

I support free speech, but it seems to me that we are slipping back to the time when blacks are routinely portrayed in such a negative light in media that we might as well be back in the '50s. Really, had a black writer argued in mainstream press that Jewish people are better off because of the Holocaust, I don't believe his or her article would have seen the light of day.

It doesn't matter how successful Jewish people are today, the fact is, the Holocaust was an unimaginable tragedy. And for a black person to argue that the Holocaust had some hidden benefit for the modern Jew would have been seen as an obscene and explosive argument.

Frankly, I don't believe it would have gotten past an editor.

Slavery was the black Holocaust, and whether people agree or disagree with reparations, this unimaginable tragedy for blacks should be treated with the same respect. But slavery is rarely treated in the same sacrosanct fashion with which the Holocaust has been treated in this country. Indeed, Jewish people are free to say whatever they want about the Holocaust and slavery. But blacks who dare utter a disagreeable word about Jewish people -- period -- are labeled anti-Semitic.

More important, who can speak with certainty as to what level of progress Africa would have reached, absent colonization by racists and mercenaries?

Who can say the type of society that would have evolved and the contribution that society could have made to the world had the continent not been stripped of its resources?

And I'm not so sure that most Africans who have endured the worst of times in their own land wish to come here and endure the disgusting racial attitudes against blacks that still exist in the Unittes.

Slavery not just free labor

If that were the case, Nelson Mandela, and hundreds of other political prisoners, would have caught the first boat out of South Africa when that country's apartheid government ended and the prison cells opened after 27 years. Instead of South Africans fleeing here, we saw black intellectuals from across the country making the reverse trip back to Africa -- sitting in first-class seats.

I think some of us need to be reminded that slavery wasn't simply a matter of Africans not being paid for their labor.

As noted in The Slave Community, a historical text by John W. Blassingame, slaves were "constantly exposed to the whims and passions of every member of the family; from the least to the greatest, their anger was wreaked upon" them.

Blacks will never have it so great here that they forget the torture, rape and murder of their ancestors who survived American slave ships, any more than Jewish people can forget the torture, rape and murder of their ancestors in German concentration camps.

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