Friday, December 25, 2009

Avatar, Africans and Racism: Some Brief Reflections on James Cameron’s Tale about White Supremacy

I’ve seen Avatar three times in the past five days.

Suffice it to say that Hollywood rarely makes direct references to racism/white supremacy especially when it comes to African people.

Avatar does it and does it well.

I loved the film because it is one of Hollywood’s best attempts to deal with the horrors of white supremacy and the African response to it. Julie Dash’s hauntingly beautiful 1991 film Daughters of the Dust was remarkable for its rendering of the intersection of racism, white supremacy and African spirituality. James Cameron’s latest film expands on Dash’s contribution by providing science fiction as a backdrop for discussing global white supremacy.

Avatar is not the first attempt at discussing racism in the context of science fiction. Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner, a rendering of Phillip Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, used androids (“skinjobs”) seeking freedom from their makers as metaphors for Black people pressing for civil rights. Here’s a dialogue between Harrison Ford, playing a bounty hunter (“Deckard”) and, M. Emmet Walsh playing a racist cop named (“Bryant”) discussing “skinjobs”:

Bryant: Hi ya, Deck...You wouldn't have come if I just asked you to. Sit down, pal. Come on, don't be an ass-hole Deckard. I've got four skin jobs walking the streets.

Deckard (voice-over): Skin jobs. That's what Bryant called replicants. In history books, he's the kind of cop that used to call black men niggers.

It is interesting that Dick wrote “Androids…”during the civil rights era --- the year that Martin Luther King was assassinated.

It is also interesting to note how white critics are making weak attempts to transform the blue Na’vi people into anything but Africans.

Repeat after me: The Na’vi are clearly Africans and here are the proofs:

1. All the lead roles are played by Black people (DUH!)
a. Zoë Saldaña plays Neytiri, the princess
b. C. C. H. Pounder plays Mo'at, the Omaticaya's spiritual leader, Neytiri's mother, and consort to clan leader Eytucan
c. Laz Alonso, plays Tsu’tey, Sulley’s rival for Neytiri and heir to crown of the Omaticaya
d. Wes Studi, plays Eytukan, the leader of the Omaticaya and is the sole indigenous character (Cherokee) among the clan

2. The phrase, “I see you” is taken directly from the Zulu (South African) greeting, "Sanibonani" which means, “I see you”. The reply, "Yebo, Sanibonani". “Yes, I see you”, has been widely used for centuries among the Zulu.

3. The Na’vi wear locs in their hair (not “dreadlocks”) throughout the film, a hairstyle that is as old as Egypt (KMT)

4. The dress of the Na’vi is an amalgam of south and west African clothing

5. The names of the Na'vi are direct borrowings from Africa. (Thanks to Charisma (below) for this insightful point. "The princess' name is Neytiri, which immediately caused me to think of Nefertari; a woman with beauty and brains who ruled in the new kingdom with her father. Another example is one that almost jumped off the page as I read your blog! Mo'at as the spiritual leader in the film (according to the blog), shares a profound reflection and parallel to the ancient Goddess Ma'at.

In ancient Kemet Ma'at is known as the female balance. There are 7 virtues of Ma’at, which are truth, righteousness, harmony, balance, reciprocity, justice and order. Ma’at is the symbol, energy or deity of truth justice and balance. There are 42 declarations of Ma’at that were used in ancient Kemet as a moral code for the living and the standard that the dead would be judged by."

White reviewers of the film are in a state of denial about likening the Na’vi to “indigenous Americans”. Historically, violent, rapacious, imperialistic, white supremacist attacks have not only been directed toward Africans, but indigenous people as well. Indeed, if Avatar doesn’t do anything else, it shows that white supremacy directs its malicious onslaught against all people of color both inside and outside of Africa.

The reaction to the film is also split along racial lines. Some white critics have referred to it as “cowboys and Indians in outer space”, or emphasize its “technical achievements” or dispassionately talk about Cameron’s innovative use of motion-capture animation technology. Black people see the film for what it is --- a metaphor of how Africans have been treated for centuries, and the European worldview that encourages environmental degradation, ignores the sacred and dehumanizes any group it seeks to subdue.

It’s hard for people --- mostly white --- and some people of color, to talk about the most troubling social issue of today --- racism but Cameron has made this task a little easier by providing a visual, political and spiritual experience which can become a vehicle for doing just that. Don’t spoil it by twisting the film into something it isn’t --- “cowboys and Indians in outer space”… (((sigh)))…

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

HP computers are racist

Even those who create seemingly "race neutral" technology are racist...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dracula and Racism: Some Reflections on the Contemporary Fascination with Vampires

When Irish author Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, little did he know that his blood-sucking protagonist would become the most popular monster in European literature. I believe this undead monster along with the Creature created by Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein and the werewolves of Eastern Europe, constitute a collective European worldview whenever they rise in popularity. They are “social barometers” of the angst Europeans feel when threatened.

Frankenstein, published in 1818 at the dawn of the machine age (coming right after the Luddite Riots of 1811-1815) showed how human creations can get “out of control”. Thus, the monster created by Victor Frankenstein ultimately destroyed its creator, a notion reflecting early 19th century social thought when machines were thought to be potentially destructive to humans. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger repeated this Frankensteinian theme in modern sci-fi epics like the popular Terminator series.

The publication of Dracula in 1897 marked the height of European colonialism throughout the world which literally sucked the lifeblood out of the indigenous people and their resources in Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, Canada, the United States and the Caribbean. Once again, the popularity of the monster reflected the actual behavior of Europeans.

Lon Chaney’s 1941 role as the Wolf Man was very popular at the beginning of World War II, and showed the dual personality of the European as the half man – half wolf monster. Wolves have long been the stuff lacing European children fairy tales be they the Big Bad Wolf imitating Red Riding Hood’s grandma, or the Three Little Pigs’ blowhard neighbor. Whereas Shelley’s Creature and Stoker’s Dracula remained who they were both day and night, the Wolf Man changed from human to monster depending on the phases of the moon. The Wolf Man simultaneously portrayed the “civilized” and “monstrosity” of the European personality reflected at that time with the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany --- the central nation in the werewolf legends.

Lesser monsters reflecting the social anxiety of Europeans are zombies who were popular during and after the Eisenhower administration culminating in George Romero’s 1968 classic film, Night of the Living Dead. The McCarthy Era was replete with flying saucer “invasions” which again illustrated the angst of Americans over the “Red Menace” of communism.

If you rank the three monsters in order of their popularity it would be Dracula, the Creature and The Wolf Man. More literature has been devoted to vampires than any of the three favorite European monsters, and so it is today.

It’s been interesting to watch the resurgence (or should I say continued interest) in vampires.

They’re everywhere.

True Blood’s
gothic southern style vampires on HBO, the adolescent Twilight series; Laurell Hamilton’s vampire hunter, Anita Blake; Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and the list goes on. TV shows, books, favorite Halloween costumes, reenactments and films are full of creatures sucking blood, fangs piercing the necks of helpless women and men, and yellow, black and red eyes staring emptily at frightened audiences.

If past is prologue, (and it is) the omnipresence of vampires in today’s media reflect the European reality that banks and corporations are sucking the economic life out of their customers. They reflect the rapacious nature of the white world’s demand for “more blood” from those already existing as half-dead victims of white supremacy. Indeed, the very “lifeblood” of the planet --- air and water --- is oozing down the throats of insatiable blood-sucking companies indifferent to ideas for sustainable growth and who pay millions of dollars to lobbyists and scientists to “prove” that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth is a convenient lie.

Dracula’s nemesis of course, was the laconic Dutch professor, Abraham Van Helsing. He had a vast array of weapons against the blood-sucking living dead, used them and was incredibly cool under pressure. He rescued accomplices of the half dead who unwittingly succumbed to the seductive nature of the Count.

Enter Barack Obama as Van Helsing.

As a Van Helsing symbol, supporters of Obama should not be surprised that the vampires of small town and corporate America resist the light of day regarding the reality of the failing American economy. It’s like driving a stake through the heart of the highly vaunted, but oh so vague notion of “the American Dream” which began crumbling two years ago when the mortgage bankers and Wall Street vampires initiated the housing crisis.

Lamias hate garlic because it thins the blood and makes their victims less “tasteful”. In the health care debate the “public option” has been lampooned by the health insurance industry because it makes the victims of the health care insurance industry more powerful and immune to the blood drinking tactics of these corporations.

I expect the love of vampirism to grow as we see the European world decline in economic significance to China, Japan, South America and Africa. Its citizens, like their ancient cousin Count Dracula will writhe in anguish as the light of truth, garlic of reality and cross of color finally put a stake in the heart of white supremacy once and for all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nappy Ass Hair

Viral on the 'net, this video says much about how Our hair is viewed by Ourselves. Is it child abuse --- both physical and psychological? You decide...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Black Funeral of Michael Jackson

An absolutely brilliant article by Sister Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University...

The Black Funeral of Michael Jackson
by Melissa Harris-Lacewell
Princeton University

Funerals tell us more about the living than the dead. It's why anthropologists often begin with rituals of death as an entry point for understanding societies and cultures.

I remember watching the funeral of Princess Diana. It was a perfectly British event: the poignant, silent march of her children, the bells tolling at Westminster Abbey, the red coat pallbearers. But I remember being taken aback as the car carrying Diana's casket drove through the streets of London. I was surprised because at that moment the mourners began to applaud.

They'd stood for hours lining the streets and as the casket passed they needed to grieve collectively and publicly. Stiff-upper lip British culture does not have a mechanism for such public grieving. There is no piercing death wail, no garment rending, no ceremonial dance, so instead the British applauded. Those applause revealed the missing place in English life for public mourning.

The death and remembrance of Michael Jackson has been an interesting window into American culture, its relentless cable news cycle, and the overwhelming but false sense of intimacy our celebrity culture engenders. But for me it was the peek into African American culture that was most intriguing.

Within a week of Jackson's death I watched the avatars on my twitter feed turn from Iran-solidarity green to iconic photographs of Michael Jackson. But the photos were exclusively of "black" Michael Jackson: some from his childhood, some from the Off The Wall era, and many from the Thriller era. Few of my African American tweeps were visually remembering the Michael Jackson of the past decade with diminished features and whitened skin.

Memorializing Jackson included selective collective memory that allowed African Americans to see him as belonging especially, if not exclusively, to black folks.

Some African Americans were incensed by the misogynist, racially stereotypical B.E.T. Awards that gave the first public tribute to Jackson. Many have been critical of B.E.T as a network for more than a decade, and the tribute to Jackson renewed that those criticisms. The contrast of Michael Jackson with Soulja Boy felt particularly stark, regressive, and embarrassing.

Memorializing Michael Jackson renewed critical conversation about the direction of black music.

Jackson's passing inspired memorials that reflected local cultures, my favorite was the Second Line in New Orleans, but it was the massive funeral in Los Angeles on Tuesday that was most revealing. Michael Jackson was an international music icon and his memorial was covered on mainstream media, but it was black tradition most fully on display Tuesday.

African American death rituals have long been celebratory as well as mournful. As a marginal people whose collective identity is rooted in struggle, death is celebrated as a release from pain, inequality, and torment. As a deeply religious people, death is celebrated as an opportunity for reunion with God. As a people who were often denied dignity in life, the dignity of a proper homegoing is a critically important sign of respect. Along with these celebratory aspects of funerals, death rituals among African Americans are marked by loud, deep, displays of emotion and public grieving that mark the sense of loss experienced by the whole community.

All of these aspects of black life were on display Tuesday. And it tells us more about us than about Jackson himself. Jackson's radical surgical choices largely eliminated his black phenotype. Jackson's romantic choices did not include black women. His wealth and eccentricities set him apart from most black people. In the final years of his life his music was much more popular in European and Asian countries than among black American listeners. But in death black folks embraced Jackson.

Memorializing Jackson reminds me that death is still a segregated business in America. Funeral homes still anchor black neighborhoods and are a central path of black entrepreneurship. Though he may have transcended or "escaped" blackness in life, Jackson was rendered fully black in death. And that says much more about us than about him.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Prophecy of James Baldwin on Michael Jackson

"The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael.

All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth; the blacks, especially males, in America; and the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair--to all of which may now be added the bitter need to find a head on which to place the crown of Miss America.

Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated--in the main, abominably--because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires."

--- James Baldwin from his 1985 essay, "There be Dragons", from his book, The Price of the Ticket...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Welcome Home, Brotha Michael...

Of all the media portrayals of Michael Jackson during the past few days, the one that captured his essence most for me was done by NBC News' Rehema Ellis. Ellis unabashedly addressed the rift between Michael Jackson and the American African community since his magnum opus Thriller --- something that has been widely discussed for 25 years in barber and beauty shops, pool halls, churches and around dinner tables in American African households. The clip was the most honest assessment of Jackson's roots in American African community and how he "left" the community after Thriller.

The white media orgy over Jackson's death replays Black or White and emphasizes how he drew all people together "regardless of color", as if his music, like him, had become deracinated and homogenized into an amorphous lump of rock/pop/blues/jazz/gospel that was completely disconnected from his roots as an American African. The opposite is true of course; Jackson's music is deeply embedded in the blues idiom that informs all American African music. The blues is most evident in my two favorite Jackson songs, Human Nature and Man in the Mirror where Jackson does a powerful self-reflection on how it feels to be an African man embedded in a white supremacist world.

I love Michael Jackson, always have and always will even during his obsession with plastic surgery, marrying Lisa Presley, choosing a white woman as a surrogate for his children and the silly Black and White, because I, like many other Africans knew that he was one of Ours but had drunk the kool-aid of white supremacy that ultimately took his life.

Brotha Michael, welcome home, we always loved you...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HR40: Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans

HR 40 IH
1st Session
H. R. 40
To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.

January 6, 2009

Mr. CONYERS (for himself and Mr. SCOTT of Virginia) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ‘Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act’.

(a) Findings- The Congress finds that--
(1) approximately 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and colonies that became the United States from 1619 to 1865;
(2) the institution of slavery was constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned by the Government of the United States from 1789 through 1865;
(3) the slavery that flourished in the United States constituted an immoral and inhumane deprivation of Africans’ life, liberty, African citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of their own labor; and
(4) sufficient inquiry has not been made into the effects of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in the United States.
(b) Purpose- The purpose of this Act is to establish a commission to--
(1) examine the institution of slavery which existed from 1619 through 1865 within the United States and the colonies that became the United States, including the extent to which the Federal and State Governments constitutionally and statutorily supported the institution of slavery;
(2) examine de jure and de facto discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants from the end of the Civil War to the present, including economic, political, and social discrimination;
(3) examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the discrimination described in paragraph (2) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States;
(4) recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission’s findings;
(5) recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission’s findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1) and (2); and
(6) submit to the Congress the results of such examination, together with such recommendations.

(a) Establishment- There is established the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the ‘Commission’).
(b) Duties- The Commission shall perform the following duties:
(1) Examine the institution of slavery which existed within the United States and the colonies that became the United States from 1619 through 1865. The Commission’s examination shall include an examination of--
(A) the capture and procurement of Africans;
(B) the transport of Africans to the United States and the colonies that became the United States for the purpose of enslavement, including their treatment during transport;
(C) the sale and acquisition of Africans as chattel property in interstate and instrastate commerce; and
(D) the treatment of African slaves in the colonies and the United States, including the deprivation of their freedom, exploitation of their labor, and destruction of their culture, language, religion, and families.
(2) Examine the extent to which the Federal and State governments of the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of freed African slaves to repatriate to their homeland.
(3) Examine Federal and State laws that discriminated against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
(4) Examine other forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
(5) Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States.
(6) Recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission’s findings.
(7) Recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission’s findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4). In making such recommendations, the Commission shall address among other issues, the following questions:
(A) Whether the Government of the United States should offer a formal apology on behalf of the people of the United States for the perpetration of gross human rights violations on African slaves and their descendants.
(B) Whether African-Americans still suffer from the lingering effects of the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4).
(C) Whether, in consideration of the Commission’s findings, any form of compensation to the descendants of African slaves is warranted.
(D) If the Commission finds that such compensation is warranted, what should be the amount of compensation, what form of compensation should be awarded, and who should be eligible for such compensation.
(c) Report to Congress- The Commission shall submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the Congress not later than the date which is one year after the date of the first meeting of the Commission held pursuant to section 4(c).

(a) Number and Appointment- (1) The Commission shall be composed of 7 members, who shall be appointed, within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, as follows:
(A) Three members shall be appointed by the President.
(B) Three members shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(C) One member shall be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate.
(2) All members of the Commission shall be persons who are especially qualified to serve on the Commission by virtue of their education, training, or experience, particularly in the field of African-American studies.
(b) Terms- The term of office for members shall be for the life of the Commission. A vacancy in the Commission shall not affect the powers of the Commission, and shall be filled in the same manner in which the original appointment was made.
(c) First Meeting- The President shall call the first meeting of the Commission within 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, or within 30 days after the date on which legislation is enacted making appropriations to carry out this Act, whichever date is later.
(d) Quorum- Four members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number may hold hearings.
(e) Chair and Vice Chair- The Commission shall elect a Chair and Vice Chair from among its members. The term of office of each shall be for the life of the Commission.
(f) Compensation- (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), each member of the Commission shall receive compensation at the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay payable for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code, for each day, including travel time, during which he or she is engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Commission.
(2) A member of the Commission who is a full-time officer or employee of the United States or a Member of Congress shall receive no additional pay, allowances, or benefits by reason of his or her service to the Commission.
(3) All members of the Commission shall be reimbursed for travel, subsistence, and other necessary expenses incurred by them in the performance of their duties to the extent authorized by chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code.

(a) Hearings and Sessions- The Commission may, for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act, hold such hearings and sit and act at such times and at such places in the United States, and request the attendance and testimony of such witnesses and the production of such books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers, and documents, as the Commission considers appropriate. The Commission may request the Attorney General to invoke the aid of an appropriate United States district court to require, by subpoena or otherwise, such attendance, testimony, or production.
(b) Powers of Subcommittees and Members- Any subcommittee or member of the Commission may, if authorized by the Commission, take any action which the Commission is authorized to take by this section.
(c) Obtaining Official Data- The Commission may acquire directly from the head of any department, agency, or instrumentality of the executive branch of the Government, available information which the Commission considers useful in the discharge of its duties. All departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the executive branch of the Government shall cooperate with the Commission with respect to such information and shall furnish all information requested by the Commission to the extent permitted by law.

(a) Staff- The Commission may, without regard to section 5311(b) of title 5, United States Code, appoint and fix the compensation of such personnel as the Commission considers appropriate.
(b) Applicability of Certain Civil Service Laws- The staff of the Commission may be appointed without regard to the provisions of title 5, United States Code, governing appointments in the competitive service, and without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of such title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates, except that the compensation of any employee of the Commission may not exceed a rate equal to the annual rate of basic pay payable for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code.
(c) Experts and Consultants- The Commission may procure the services of experts and consultants in accordance with the provisions of section 3109(b) of title 5, United States Code, but at rates for individuals not to exceed the daily equivalent of the highest rate payable under section 5332 of such title.
(d) Administrative Support Services- The Commission may enter into agreements with the Administrator of General Services for procurement of financial and administrative services necessary for the discharge of the duties of the Commission. Payment for such services shall be made by reimbursement from funds of the Commission in such amounts as may be agreed upon by the Chairman of the Commission and the Administrator.
(e) Contracts- The Commission may--
(1) procure supplies, services, and property by contract in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and to the extent or in such amounts as are provided in appropriations Acts; and
(2) enter into contracts with departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the Federal Government, State agencies, and private firms, institutions, and agencies, for the conduct of research or surveys, the preparation of reports, and other activities necessary for the discharge of the duties of the Commission, to the extent or in such amounts as are provided in appropriations Acts.

The Commission shall terminate 90 days after the date on which the Commission submits its report to the Congress under section 3(c).

To carry out the provisions of this Act, there are authorized to be appropriated $8,000,000.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Chances of Being Paid for Past Injustice Look Up

Chances of being paid for past injustice look up

US President Barack Obama. He said the US could do to compensate African-Americans for past injustices was to provide better inner city schools.Photo/FILE

By JAMES KARIUKIPosted Friday, April 24 2009 at 19:09

A few days before South Africans elected their fourth post-apartheid president, a US court allowed a case against multinational corporations accused of victimising Blacks during apartheid to proceed.

In all likelihood, whoever made that ruling was altogether unaware that he may have been setting the stage for the making of racial history.

During his 2008 US presidential campaign, Barack Obama was asked about the issue of reparations for Black Americans. He responded that the best that the US could do to compensate African-Americans for past injustices was to provide better inner city schools. By implication, reparations in form of monetary restitutions were out of the question.

Obama’s response was politically tailored for the American electorate; his stand on the question of payment of reparations for Global Africans remains unknown.

But it may not be long before the US President has to take a position on the matter as the victims of apartheid will not relax on their case. Should they win, it is difficult to visualise restitution in any form other than cash.

In 1804 Haiti made history by undertaking a full-scale slave revolt against the colonising French. That revolution became the first successful strike against subjugation of Black people.

Haiti hit the world headlines again in April, 2003, by demanding that France pay back $21 billion in restitution for money paid in 1825 to French “settlers” as a precondition for recognising the island’s independence. This demand was conceivably the first international claim for reparations for Black folk with a specific amount attached to it.

In April, 2004, South Africa celebrated its 10th anniversary of democracy after the end of apartheid. That revolution became the final successful strike against legal subjugation of Blacks worldwide. South Africa concluded the racial liberation launched by Haiti 200 years earlier.

Affinity quickly developed between the two nations. In January, 2004, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki attended Haiti’s bicentenary celebrations of its revolution, the only Head of State to do so. Shortly thereafter, in May, 2004, Mbeki’s regime granted asylum to Jean-Bartrand Aristide, the president who had demanded reparations from France the previous year.

Seasoned critics insist that Aristide’s forced exile was triggered by his demand for reparations. Under the guise of seeking political stability in Haiti, we are told, Western powers colluded to force a popularly elected leader out of his homeland.

Meanwhile, South Africa was already caught in a storm of animated debate: Should Black South Africans seek legal restitution from Western multinational companies that had benefited from their exploitation during apartheid?

Opinions varied vastly. One proposition, championed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was that victims of apartheid were indeed entitled to seek legal restitution and, if found liable, the implicated corporations were duty-bound to make amends. Tutu was on record as a key “friend” of the claimants in a case lodged in New York.

Mbeki’s government differed, urging that in the interest of national healing, South Africans should let bygones be bygones.

Additionally, there was concern over the sensitive matter of jurisdiction; Mbeki’s presidency was opposed to the notion of its citizens seeking legal restitution in foreign lands for domestic grievances. On these grounds, the Justice minister wrote to the relevant US Court urging dismissal of the apartheid case.

By resisting the quest for restitution, Mbeki’s government added to a widely held perception that his was not a government for the ordinary people.

For the moment, Mbeki’s regime found itself trapped in the awkward position of being on the same side of the fence as the generally discredited George W Bush, who was of the view that demanding reparations would contaminate relations between Pretoria and Washington.

More alarmingly, Mbeki’s government found itself locking horns with Archbishop Tutu, the respected ex-chairman of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Further, the government held a position that was antithetical to the cause of its most celebrated international guest, Haiti’s ex-president Aristide.

Historians would probably agree that Blacks have endured greater “collective injury” than all the other groups combined. Yet, no reparations have ever been paid to them. African-Americans have aspired for reparations for enslavement since the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to no avail. Each freed slave is still waiting for 40 acres and a mule.

In April 2009, previously, anti-restitution forces vested in the persons of George Bush and Thabo Mbeki are no longer on the scene, replaced by Barack Obama and Jacob Zuma. Should Zuma uphold his pledge to be “president of the people”, he will throw his weight behind the apartheid’s victims.

President Obama’s position is less clear but it would be disingenuous if he actively opposed reparations while he started his political career in support of divestments against apartheid South Africa.

Prof Kariuki is a writer and independent consultant in international and African diaspora affairs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Information on the Spanish Reparations Movement

From: Federación Panafricanista []
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 3:17 PM
To: Coates, Rodney D. Dr.
Subject: Fwd: solidarity with Spanish Reparation Movement

Brother and Sisters:

I informed you that at the initiative of Black Community: Spanish parliaments are discussing now to apologize African people for slavery and colonialism maafa . So we have launched the campaign we are not alone. need your support the legislative initiative to become law.
We request your solidarity to collect 5 million signatures to turn this initiative into law. SIGNATURES

We attach you the original document


Abuy Nfubea

Madrid Declaration Black Community
2008 International Merit Award Emilio Castelar

In Madrid, Spain, December 5th, 2008 we, the undersigned, participants of the Emilio
Castelar Award to Merit DISPERSOS E INÉDITOS event, in representation of the
organized civil society of the black community and African descendants from the
Americas and the Caribbean, and of kindred organizations , in the framework of the
Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery and Slave Trade, the European Year of
Intercultural Dialogue, the Latin American Year of Non-Discrimination and Youth, the
Tenth Year of Black Communities, the Millennium Objectives 2015, the Follow-up
Report of the Durban Plan in Cincha/Perú ONU/CES 27 February 2006, Act 62/2003 on
Equal Treatment- Spain, in commemoration of the Thirtieth Anniversary of the
Spanish Constitution, Sixtieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the Tercentenary of the incorporation of Equatorial Guinea to the Crown of
Castile, and the Year of Planet Earth.

Considering our shared commitment and interest in using effectively the great
progress and development achieved by humankind in the fields of human, civil and
social rights, participative and representative democracy, citizenship, equity, equal
rights and justice, social peace, tolerance for the development of multicultural
diversity and multiethnic, cultural and educational diversity, in the protection and
defence of natural resources and the environment.

In view of our common concern about the vulnerability, inequity and social injustice
the black community and African descendants are subjected to, as reflected in the
high rates of marginality, poverty, illness, hunger, exclusion, armed conflicts and
generalized violation of their human, civil and social rights and the significant
repercussion this has on structural and institutional racism.

We here present the following Madrid Declaration of the Black Community, urging
democratic governments to implement affirmative actions to ensure in an effective
manner the inclusion of the black community in all spheres of activity, cultural, social, economic and political.


UNDERLINE the significant historical contribution of the Black community to the
political, cultural, economic, social, and religious development and to World Peace,
which makes it deserve other forms of relations with the states and official and private
bodies, to guarantee the implementation of universal citizenship, as an expression of
participative and representative democracy and of social corporate responsibility.
Abolition of Slavery and Slave Trade, Human Rights and Intercultural Dialogue, a
preamble encouraging Spain to become an example for other nations throughout the
world in the dignification of the black community, along with other counties such as
the United states, United Kingdom, France, and the Vatican. /
STRESS the success of the event Dispersed and Unknown which was granted the
Award to the Merit Emilio Castelar in 2008.
HIGHLIGHT the meeting of Black Community representatives with representatives of
the two Chambers of the Spanish Parliament.
EMPHASIZE the clear will of the organized black civil community and that of Spanish
sympathizers to establish the BROWN RIBBON as symbol to the memory of the
victims of the holocaust and of the triangular trade of slavery, between Europe, Africa
and America.
REQUEST that the goodwill shown by the EUROPEAN UNION and SPAIN vis-à-vis the
indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean be EXTENDED TO AFFIRMATIVE
ACTION POLICIES to meet the aspirations of slave descendants in the form of specific
international cooperation schemes geared at their access to a comprehensive social
development, the social and economic fund and to the different civil bodies organised
around international cooperation.
REQUEST that the aspiration of the Black Community, its Diaspora and descendents
be placed on equal footing and be fully recognized in Spain as an ethnic minority and
as a socially excluded group (like Sephardic Jews, Saharawi, Gypsies, Muslims,
Buddhists, Protestants, Homosexuals), on the grounds of long-established settlement,
historical links and equal treatment.
1. Human rights cannot be legitimated without taking into account the victims of
cruelty be it holocaust, racism, xenophobia, slavery, genocide and crimes against
humanity which do not prescribe or cannot be granted amnesty, and all connected
forms of surreptitious, legitimate, institutional exclusion.
2. We urge the States to recognize and include without any restrictions the Black
community among ethnic minorities, with priority treatment by the state.
3. We urge the Spanish Administration to publicly acknowledge slavery, to proclaim
forgiveness for the black holocaust and to draft proposals to foster the full recognition
of the black community in Spain.
4. We demand that the States open up their institutions to encourage dialogue and
reconciliation and to foster effective inclusion, visibility and empowerment of the black
community in all functional areas of the state and of human development.
5. We ask for the criminalization of racist acts leading to segregation and exclusion,
detrimental to the civil and social rights and freedoms of the Black community in
6. We request the tipification of the Black community and that of other ethnic
minorities in the Spanish Constitution to guarantee their democratic representation
and participation as well as their political participation, through a special
circunscripción (constituency), and full representation in the legislative, judicial and
executive powers of the Spanish State. /
7. We request the tipification of the Black community and other ethnic minorities to be
acknowledged in the European Constitution.
8. We urge the governments to guarantee compliance of the regulations and rules of
international bodies such as Durban 2001, the Human Rights Commission,
UN/ECOSOC 2006, OAS, SECIB, FRA,UNHCR, CERD/SP/69, ODM, Coalition of
American, Caribbean, African and European Cities Against Racism, Xenophobia and
Signatory countries and representatives:
Instituto Brasilero de fluencia
Centro Europeo Ibero andino de España
Asociación Iberoamericana de Integración de España
Asociación Africa Viva
Asociación Mboloni
Federación de Asociaciones Cubanas e Iberoamericanas Siglo XXI – FEDACI
Federación de Asociaciones de Afro descendientes de Ibero América en España –
Asociación Progreso Da Nacao Angolenha
Documentation Sciences Foundation
Fundación Vida – Grupo Ecológico Verde
Federación Panafricanista de España
Plataforma Solidaridad
In attendance:
Member of Congress
Director Sixth Nepad Region – African Union
Member of Parliament
International Jurists Commission
General Secretary of Organised Civil Society and Corporate Social Responsibility /

Monday, April 13, 2009

Father of Reparations Movement Joins the Ancestors

Ray Jenkins, a longtime Detroit resident, will be remembered for his work advocating slavery reparations for African-Americans from the federal government, his family said.

Mr. Jenkins believed reparations were the debt the country owed blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors.

During the late 1950s, Mr. Jenkins began speaking publicly about his cause of getting reparations for African-Americans. At the time, it was a very unpopular notion.

"I used to go with him to meetings. People used to ridicule him to no end ... black and white," said his son, Ricardo Jenkins.

"They thought it was the most ridiculous thing. It wasn't until (the U.S. government paid Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II) that their moods changed. They saw it could happen. He then became a hero."

Mr. Jenkins, known as "Reparations Ray," or the father of the reparations movement in the city's black community, died Friday, April 10, 2009 of complications of a blood infection in Providence Hospital in Southfield. He was 88.

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Mr. Jenkins came to Detroit in 1942 for job opportunities. He also was veteran who served in the Philippines during World War II. He received an honorable discharge from the military, said his son, Ricardo Jenkins.

After arriving in Detroit, Mr. Jenkins worked a series of odd jobs before eventually settling into the real estate business as a salesman and then a real estate broker.

In 1958, Mr. Jenkins opened his own real estate business, Ray Jenkins Realty. The office was at West McNichols and Wisconsin on the city's northwest side.

In a July 1994 article from The Detroit News, Mr. Jenkins spoke about spending $50,000 of his own money and putting in countless hours in his efforts to push the federal government for a payoff for blacks.

Ricardo Jenkins said his father never thought reparations should be a blank check to African-Americans.

He said his father wanted the U.S. government to repay blacks for slavery through educational trusts and home ownership programs.

"He thought every black American who wanted to attend college should be able to attend for free," said Jenkins.

Besides his son Ricardo, survivors include his wife, Geraldine; a daughter, Lajuana; two grandchildren; and a nephew.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bakari Kitwana: Did John Hope Franklin Want $100 Trillion for Blacks?

Bakari Kitwana: Did John Hope Franklin Want $100 Trillion for Blacks?

Posted using ShareThis

Dr. John Hope Franklin, the wildly accomplished historian who documented Blacks' place in the great American story, firmly believed in reparations -- the idea that the descendants of slaves in the United States should be compensated for the centuries of free labor that enriched slaveowners and their descendants and the American empire. It is a fact overlooked by the recent flurry of mainstream media coverage commemorating his life work. (He died at the age of 94 late last month.) But it is no small detail.

Consider his response in 2007 to state legislators in North Carolina and Virginia who balked at apologies for slavery introduced by their peers. For him a mere verbal apology wasn't enough.

"People are running around apologizing for slavery," he said. "What about that awful period since slavery -- Reconstruction, Jim Crow and all the rest? And what about the enormous wealth that was built up by black labor? I think that's little to pay for the gazillions that black people built up -- the wealth of this country -- with their labor, and now you're going to say I'm sorry I beat the hell out of you for all these years? That's not enough."

When Dr. Franklin spoke of history, he did so with the definitive authority of an expert who spent over half a century culling through the details. His accomplishments are legendary: distinguished Duke University professor who taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard University (where he earned his doctorate in 1941); author of 20 books; first African American to chair a history dept at a predominately white university; over 3.5 million copies of his book From Slavery to Freedom have been printed since it's 1947 publication.

It is very easy now in our age of political correctness to courteously applaud the accomplishments of a barrier breaking African American in the field of U.S. History, which he said he wrote without "the embellishment of emotional display." But an entirely different pill to swallow is the conclusion he gleaned from his analysis: reparations are essential to acknowledging the country's wrongs.

"There are all kinds of ways you could do it," Franklin said in a video interview at Duke University, in which he insisted he wasn't asking for reparations personally -- even though he was entitled. "What about scholarships? What about descent places for people to live? Out of the fortunes that were made, you could build a mansion for the descendant of every former slave."

Others have argued that reparations should be paid directly by the U.S. government, which Harpers magazine (November 2000) estimated at $100 trillion dollars for 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865 with compounded interest of 6 percent. Still others have argued that payments should come from corporations who benefited as well as former colonial governments.

The idea of reparations for Blacks has for years been met in the American mainstream with at best contempt and at worst ridicule. But for John Hope Franklin the essential truth of American history was found not just in the large sweeping narrative, but also in the subtleties of the racial divide lived everyday.

His careers as a historian and as an activist (he was a researcher for Thurgood Marshall for the Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education case and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma) are well documented. Less known are his day-to-day confrontations with the legacy of white supremacy, subtleties he often related in personal anecdotes:

As a 6 year-old boy, his father's business in Tulsa was destroyed (luckily his father survived) during the infamous 1921 race riot. As one of the first Black boy scouts in 1927, he was severely reprimanded midway through helping a blind white woman cross the street upon her discovery he was black. In 1995, while in DC to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest award for a civilian, he hosted a party for friends at the Cosmos Club where he was a member and was asked by a white woman to get her coat, even though uniform attendants were present.

Personal insults like these only scratch the surface of the economic and psychological setbacks he suffered, like countless other African Americans, at the hands of white supremacy ingrained in American culture. Insults like these were a reminder of the big picture reasons why descendant of enslaved Africans lagged behind in the present. For Dr. Franklin, this was a direct result of American slavery.

"They ought to develop some kind of modus operandi that they can do something else -- something to absolve themselves of three centuries of guilt from which they are the direct beneficiaries," he said in a 2007 interview. "How large is the black population now living in abject poverty in this country? How large is the population of blacks who have poor health? Sometimes they inherited the poor health right from their forebears who were beaten and treated like they were animals all over this country."

It is true, as opponents of reparations argue, that America's troublesome history of racial inequity was born in the past. But it is equally apparent, as John Hope Franklin insisted, that our future is defined by the ways we address its legacy in the present.

If we really seek to commemorate him, it seems to me that the best we can do is to not just pay lip service to the man. Instead we should honor him by paying homage in the form of meaningful national policy that considers the conclusion of his life work.

Bakari Kitwana is visiting scholar at Columbia College's Center for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media and co-author of the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era (Third World Press, 2009). He also writes for

Friday, April 03, 2009

Ray Winbush's Belinda's Petition Now Available for Purchase!

In 1782, Belinda, an African on the Ten Hills Plantation in Medford Massachusetts, petitioned the state legislature for reparations for her 50 years of captivity and unpaid labor by her former owner, Isaac Royall. Royall had fled to Canada shortly after the American Revolution since he was a “Loyalist” to Britain and feared for his life and his own captivity what would become the United States. This story of her captivity, enslavement and liberation is an incredible tale of resilience during a time when Africans in America were seen as something a little more valuable than livestock.

Belinda’s Petition is but one in a long history of the reparations struggle that is sewn in the fabric of African history for the past 550 years. This concise story of the reparations struggle is meant to provide a “view from the bridge” on the ongoing struggle of Africans throughout the world in obtaining justice for the most heinous crime of the past millennium --- the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Whether you support or oppose reparations is unimportant; what Belinda’s Petition will show you is that the western world is built upon 500 years of the unpaid labor of millions of enslaved Africans whose call for justice has been conscious, courageous and consistent since they were first captured in 1441 by Europeans.

Monday, March 30, 2009

'White people with blue eyes' caused financial crisis

See, this is an *honest* statement about the global financial crisis and one we should discuss. It is also one of the hard truths that, as US Attorney General Eric Holder said in February, that Americans are too cowardly to discuss...

Brazil's President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has raised a few brows by suggesting the global financial crisis has been caused by "white people with blue eyes".
Mr da Silva met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the capital Brasilia to argue that G20 economies back a $US100 billion expansion of finance to reverse a slowdown in global trade.

The President has been one of the most outspoken advocates of giving developing countries more say in multilateral organisations like the International Monetary Fund.
He has also been a fierce defender of more open farm trade, trying to forge a common front among developing nations.

Asked to explain his comment that the international crisis had been fomented by "white people with blue eyes," Mr da Silva said he had no ideological bias. But poor people were the first to suffer from the crisis, he said.

The President has often blamed the United States for causing a global crisis by practising "casino capitalism". Mr da Silva and Mr Brown said countries should adopt more fiscal and monetary stimulus to help combat the global economic crisis and called for tougher financial market regulations.

Leading industrial and developing nations, including Brazil, will attend the G20 summit Mr Brown hosts in London on April 2.

"If the G20 becomes a meeting just to set another meeting, we'll be discredited and the crisis can deepen," Mr da Silva said.

"We must not let the crisis drag on as long as the Japanese crisis did," he said, in reference to a decade of stagnation in the Asian country.

Mr Brown is on the third stop of a tour through Europe, Latin America and the United States to seek support for the G20 meeting that will discuss measures to tackle the global financial crisis.

He said the meeting was a vital opportunity to take international action required to "restore global demand through concerted and coordinated fiscal and
monetary policy action".

Some European leaders have opposed calls by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and US President Barack Obama to agree to larger stimuluspackages at the G20 meeting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yet Another Indicator of the Myth of a "Post-Racial America"

In its mad rush to declare a "Post-Racial America", the nation fails to see how blind it is to its own current racist attitudes.

Appearing in today's New York Post, this Sean Delonas "political" cartoon conflates the tragedy of the recent chimpanzee attack with the just signed Stimulus Package by Barack Obama, and creates a twisted and sick rendition of what is unconsciously (and consciously) on the minds of many Americans --- the death of the President.

Post-Racial America, may be better described as "Racist Amerikkka"...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

When Are We Going To Get Over It?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE:) This article is how race and racism should be discussed in the United States. The frankness, openness and honesty of Professor Andrew M. Manis is rare among white Americans, and is to be commended...

For much of the last 40 years, ever since America "fixed" its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African-Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, "When are African-Americans finally going to get over it?" Now I want to ask "When are we white Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?"

Recent reports that "Election Spurs 'Hundreds' of Race Threats, Crimes" should frighten and infuriate every one of us. Having grown up in "Bombingham," Ala., in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than "talk the talk." Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame, we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.

We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent. Conservative whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right.

Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes. Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was a nonpolitical mental case who wanted merely to impress Jodie Foster.

But elect a liberal who happens to be black, and we're back in the '60s again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we've proven what conservatives are always saying "” that in America anything is possible, electing a black man as president. But instead, we now hear schoolchildren from Maine to California are talking about wanting to "assassinate Obama."

Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, "How long?" How long before we white people realize we can't make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can -- once and for all -- get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior? How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with nonwhites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin? How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations? I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners? How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become president of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?

How long before we start "living out the true meaning" of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that "red and yellow, black and white" all are precious in God's sight?

Until this past Nov. 4, I didn't believe this country would ever elect an African-American to the presidency. I still don't believe I'll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem. But here's my three-point plan during the Obama administration: First, every day that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I'm going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people.

Second, I'm going to report to the FBI anyone I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama. Third, I'm going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can sing of our damnable color prejudice, "We HAVE overcome."

Andrew M. Manis is associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


William Wilberforce

(Speech given at the Slavery, Anti-Slavery and the Road to Freedom Conference in Halifax Nova Scotia, June 25-30, 2007, by Ray Winbush)

I always feel uneasy about commemorations. They force one to look at an historical event and then, like Rubik’s Cube, attempt to twist and turn them in such ways that others will see it with all of the events in order and in one way. There is a desire on the part of the “commemorators” if you please, to give everyone a shared vision or a “co-memory” of an event that allows people to have a homogenzed understanding of the event.

In 2006, we witnessed the attempt by the current administration to create a “co-memory” of the events of September 11, 2001 by having a commemoration ceremony, characterized by a jingoistic fervor for things American and ignoring a bankrupt American foreign policy in the so-called “Middle East” that may have triggered this horrific event in the first place. Creating a “co-memory” between George W. Bush and let’s say Muqtada al-Sadr for 9/11 is impossible since commemoration at the government level is, in fact, what politicians want their citizens to remember and forget about the past.

And so, on March 25, 1807, the once mighty British Empire where the sun never set, through the efforts of William Wilberforce abolished the most heinous and longest lasting crime of the 2nd millennium, the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. Commemorations of this event have abounded throughout the former colonial holdings of the UK including the United States and I am at once struck at the white supremacist nature of them. William Wilberforce is being venerated by commemorators during this period to the extent that my African colleagues in the UK have dubbed this fawning over him “Wilberfest”.

I reluctantly went to see the new film about Wilberforce entitled Amazing Grace, since I knew audiences would be asking me about it. It should have been titled “Amazing RACEism”, since there were only three speaking roles for Africans in the entire film and was more about white men running around in waist coats and powdered wigs valiantly saving Africans from the horrors of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade.

What Amazing Grace represents is how commemoration is totally a subjective process and is an act left up to the conquerors as to how it will be done. The US does not commemorate the dropping of bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the Japanese do. The descendants of this settler nation don’t talk much about the Trail of Tears in my former state of Tennessee in but the Cherokee do. I have no doubt that one day, the atrocities of Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq will be commemorated by Iraqis --- both Shiites and Sunnis --- but I doubt that such a day will be recorded on any calendar made in the United States.

At the UK’s March 25th commemoration of the abolition of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, Toyin Agbetu, a human rights campaigner, ran in front of the altar at London's Westminster Abbey -- packed with dignitaries -- shouting "you should be ashamed," "you're a disgrace," and "this is an insult to us." Needless to say, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II were apopleptic as Brother Toyin yelled to his fellow Africans in attendance, "We should not be here, this is an insult to us. I want all the Christians who are Africans to walk out."

I like Brothers like Toyin; they speak truth to power in ways that are pure and simple. Nothing he said was untruthful and his one-man protest represents the best in civil disobedience and illustrates the schizophrenic nature of commemoration since he, rather than joining the orgiastic praise for William Wilberforce, chose to commemorate his Ancestors’ agency in their struggle for freedom which began in the rain forests of Africa and continue in the diaspora today. Toyin, like me, believes that although the institution of slavery was symbolically abolished 200 years and 17 days ago by the English, the mentality of the slaveowner and the slave mentality still exist in the world today. It is reflected in Don Imus calling my African sisters “nappy-headed hos”, or Clarence Thomas sycophantic relationship with Antonin Scalia which tells Old Massa that he is still a good slave. It is reflected in the mentality of Condoleezza Rice propping up her Marse President and also in comedian Michael Richards rant that included what would have happened to Black men just 50 years ago.

I doubt if any African will have the shared experience that white commemorators want us to have especially when it comes to enslavement. My reflections on enslavement include the heroism of Nat, the courage of Paul Bogle, Bussa and Harriet. My reflections also pause when I ask the question how a people can capture a human being, shackle them, transport them, castrate them, rape them, work them for 300 years and then rationalize the behavior as being divinely ordained and scientifically justified.

What we can do is to seek racial reconciliation by linking forgiveness with atonement. I repeat: what we can do is to seek racial reconciliation by linking forgiveness with atonement. It is not enough to say that I am sorry without restitution. Put another way, apologies without atonement is a deserted road to racial reconciliation. Reparations are the only way to move from hollow apologies or “deep regrets” as Tony Blair puts it, to a true understanding of the greatest crime against humanity of the past millennium.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A White Person Who Favors Reparations for Enslavement

Historically, most people associate the reparations movement with Black people. This article shows the increasing number of white people who see them as an essential means of acknowledging this crime against humanity and its after effects. Paul Devlin provides a good historical context why reparations for enslavement as a stimulus package deserves consideration.

Reparations as an Economic Stimulus
by Paul Devlin

Jan. 8, 2009--Don't call it reparations. Call it a belated bailout of the Freedman's Savings Bank, chartered by Congress in 1865 as a financial haven for freed slaves and failed in 1874 because its white board lost all the money after a spree of wild speculation.

It was like black people's version of the Bernie Madoff scandal (but the bank was thought to be as safe as the government could make it, and it was for a time). Thousands of African Americans lost millions of dollars—millions that had been earned through pure sweat and toil—when the bank failed. That combination of real assets lost and hundreds of thousands of people involved (to whom most African Americans today could claim an ancestor) provides a legitimate cover for, or different way of looking at, reparations. It's not a giveaway; it's a bailout, you know, just like the kind white people get today.

And OK, I am white. But as some of my best friends are black, I hope to at least get a meal or two out of any future reparations package.

All jokes aside, now is the perfect time, perhaps the only time, that African Americans might be in a position to achieve the elusive goal of reparations. The nation has dashed to the rescue of the undeserving, most notably in the sickening $150 billion bailout of the unhedged fund known as AIG. The automakers were bailed out by the White House, despite some Southern senators who have a complex about unions. And then there's the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

Barack Obama's election certainly makes reparations more likely than they were under, say, Woodrow Wilson, but nobody thinks Obama has the political will to fight the fight, nor should anyone expect him to play with such political dynamite. Some enterprising Southern or Southern-ish GOP senator (paging Mitch McConnell, who'll never win another term anyway) needs to see the big picture, glimpse his place in history, foresee how African-American reparation spending will help his state/region and proceed to call in every favor and twist every arm until every congressman signs. It's not like Obama won't sign it. My calculations show it would cost a mere $900 billion. Now that we're on the verge of deflation, it's time to rev up the printing press anyway.

A belated Freedman's Savings Bank bailout package would effectively kill two birds with one stone. It would finally acknowledge and attempt to compensate African Americans for a portion of their fair share in creating this nation while simultaneously stimulating the economy.

Dave Chappelle, as funny as he is, did a disservice to the idea of reparations with his skit on them, which many average white people are likely to reference if the issue is brought up. Sure, maybe some black people will buy trucks full of cigarettes and act extra ignorant. But, I think it's safe to say that most African Americans will not rush the money to Switzerland, Bermuda or the Caymans. Most of the money will not disappear in insufficiently hedged or unhedged "hedge" funds.

No, instead the money will pay off mortgages, hopefully recapitalizing banks and stabilizing them. The money will go to buying new appliances. It will also go to higher education. Can you imagine how many people will return to school to finish degrees or get new ones? People will suddenly have the breathing room to do so. Crimes of a desperate nature will decrease. The money will go to churches and finance new church building projects. Some money will line the pockets of some worthy pastors and some unworthy pastors, but that's fine, because both groups will spend. Blighted neighborhoods will spruce up. Dreams deferred will become more possible. Much of the money will actually be spent in red states, thus placating the GOP.

Sounds like a rising tide!

Paul Devlin is a graduate student and writer on Long Island, N.Y.