Thursday, November 09, 2006

Eleven "Smooth Stones" For the Reparations Struggle

I love working to replace white supremacy with justice and for me the struggle for reparations for the TransAtlantic Slave Trade is the ultimate way of doing this. In workshops and speeches I make around the country, I tell the audiences that there is no such thing as "racial reconciliation" until atonement has been made.

Roy Brooks in his extraordinary book, Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations argues that there can be no "forgiveness" of the crimes against humanity committed by Europe towards Afrikans unless there is a concomitant atonement for these crimes. A person simply cannot say, "I am sorry for what my ancestors did to your ancestors, will you forgive me?", and expect to receive "forgiveness" no more than if you burn down a person's house, and ask, "I am sorry that I burned down your house, will you forgive me?". You must make restitution for your crimes so that forgiveness can be enacted that can eventually lead to reconciliation.

So what are some practical things that people can do to in the struggle for reparations? I get asked this question all the time, so here is my list of eleven...

1. Read about the History of the Reparations Struggle - If you don't know who Queen Mother Audley Moore and "Reparations Ray" are, are oblivious to what the letters NBUF, N'COBRA, GAC and CURE stand for, and have no understanding of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, you need a primer on reparations. I mentioned Roy Brooks' book above but add to your reading list The Debt and Should America Pay? They are also good books to get a broad overview of the reparations struggle. Any good worker for justice must be equipped with a knowledge of what s/he is struggling for so they can provide others with strong and fact-based reasons for seeking justice.

2. Join an Organization that Supports Reparations - If you belong to an organization that does not seek justice in the form of reparations you should work to make sure it does. This has been done successfully in the Episcopalian Church, the NAACP and other organizations that may be undecided about the movement. Existing organizations such as the Global Afrikan Congress, National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, National Black United Front and Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation are four of the many organizations that see Reparations as a global movement for justice.

3. Ask all Politicians Running for Office if They Support Reparations for the TransAtlantic Slave Trade - Litmus test issues in the U.S. include, abortion, the environment and prayer in school so why not reparations? Write, call or better yet ask politicians running for office do they support reparations for the TransAtlantic Slave Trade? Don't let them waffle in answering the question. A clever ploy for them is to say that they support Congressman John Conyers' HR-40 Bill since many of them believe that it will never be passed out of committee. Follow-up by asking/writing that while such support is admirable, do you think that Africans in America should receive reparations for 250 years of enslavement and 100 years for state-sanctioned racism? Don't let them slither out of the question by allowing them to say they support jobs and education for African Americans. Press them, press them, press them...

4. Organize a Study Group in Your Community on Reparations - This is already being done in communities around the Afrikan world. It is easily done and can meet once per month to discuss developments in the reparations struggle.

5. Keep Up with Current Developments in the Reparations Struggle - You will not find Katie Couric, Brian Williams or Charles Gibson bringing the latest news on reparations to mainstream (white) media. Rather there are excellent sites, e.g., Restitution Study Group, Africa Reparations Movement, Millions for Reparations and Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation. Too often we "believe the hype" we hear on conservative talk radio, rumors and outright lies from opponents of the reparations struggle. Get your own information from reliable sources. The internet makes this surprisingly easy.

6. Lobby for local "slavery disclosure resolutions" that will aid in the development of lawsuits against governments and corporations that profited from the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. Cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Nashville were pioneers in passing ordinances supporting, Congressman John Conyers' (D-MI) HR 40 and corporations complicity in the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. These efforts were successful in educating local lawmakers about the importance of understanding history in their respective districts and its connection with the present status of Africans in America.

7. Understand the International Dimensions of the Reparations Struggle - The struggle for reparations is not confined to the United States. Movements in France, Jamaica, S. Africa and Canada are mounting efforts to litigate multinational corporations and governments that profited from the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. Acquaint yourself and others with the UN World Conference Against Racism's Final Declaration which states that the TransAtlantic Slave Trade "was a crime against humanity".

8. Have Viewing Parties of Films that Document the Current Exploitation of Africans in the World - Two films that should be widely seen are Life and Debt and Darwin's Nightmare. Both films show how the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, sale of illegal arms and HIV-AIDS are all linked in the historical exploitation of African people and continue today in even more horrific ways. A viewing party with discussion can serve as a "reparations class" for those who have not connected the historical and economic dots about the continuing impact of enslavement on Africans.

9. Immediately Write a Rebuttal to any Article that Opposes Reparations - Opponents to reparations take themselves seriously and are obsessed with spreading lies about the reparations struggle. Their emotional rather than fact-based arguments are easily countered, but if they remain unanswered the become "half-truths" and take on a life of their own. I make it a point to "search and destroy" at least two of these "letters to the editors" or "editorials" per week so that they do not grow like intellectual fungus. To quote suspect European Mark Twain, "A lie will go halfway around the world, while the truth is still putting on its shoes."

10. Become Thoroughly Acquainted with Current Commissions Studying the Impact of Enslavement and its Aftermath on Afrikan people
- The Illinois Transatlantic Slave Trade Commission, The Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice and the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission Report must be studied by all who want to understand the direct links between white supremacy's hoary legacy and the African world. The work of these committees reveal the sordid history of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade and its aftermath. These commissions' historical roots can be traced to the Organization of African Unity's 1993 Commission on Reparations that analyzed the continuing legacy of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade on the African world. The Abuja Proclamation said that, "Convinced that the pursuit of reparations by the African peoples in the continent and in the Diaspora will itself be a learning experience in self-discovery and in uniting experience politically and psychologically. Convinced that numerous looting, theft and larceny have been committed on the African People calls upon those in Possession of their stolen goods artefacts and other traditional treasuries to restore them to their rightful owners the African People.

Calls upon the international community to recognise that there is a unique and unprecedented moral debt owed to the African peoples which has Yet to be paid - the debt of compensation to the Africans as the most humiliated and exploited people of the last four centuries of modern history"


11. Tell Others About These Eleven

So there you have it: eleven practical things you can do for the Reparations struggle. Eleven practical things you can do to replace white supremacy with justice...Eleven Smooth Stones...