Monday, June 27, 2022

Reparations on My Mind

Like many of you, I experienced the overturning of Roe v Wade as terrible defeat, something that will inflict hardship and pain on many many people and make women across the nation feel that the advances they have made over the past 50 years are under assault. But I also experienced it as a wake up call, an incentive to push harder on issues where I am best equipped to make a difference And for me, one issue I am determined to push forward on, which I have supported, but not actively organized around, is Reparations for African Americans. Given what my own research, and that of many others, has uncovered, documenting the huge variety of policies, many of them extraordinarily violent, which undermined wealth acquisition among African American in the years following the end of slavery, I think we can make a powerful argument why Reparations are not only fair and just, but can help heal our wounded and divided society. Before proceeding to the justification for my position, which I will present in somewhat compressed form, I want to give credit to all those who have pushed forward on this issue long before I have, resulting in a Reparations movement that is already making headway among Universities, and Corporations whose complicity with Slavery and the Slave Trade has been documented by scholars What I propose doing is extending the logic of Reparations for events which occurred after Slavery ended, and targeting state and local governments for restorative justice. The Logic Behind Reparations for Post Slavery Events When we look at the racial wealth gap in the United States, which is far greater than racial gaps in income and education, we need to address the murder and displacement of Black property owners and the destruction of thriving Black communities by angry white mobs. a process which began in Reconstruction and continued through into the late 1920's Some of these dynamics involved the execution and mass murder of Black elected officials, such as occurred in Louisiana in the Colfax Massacre (1872) and in North Carolina in the Wilmington Massacre (1898) but most involved the killing and displacement of black landowners and the destruction of thriving Black business districts Racial pogroms, involving the murder of hundreds of economically successful Black people and the burning of Black neighborhoods, took place in Elaine Arkansas ( 1919) Oceoo Florida ( 1920) Tulsa Oklahomoa ( 1921) and Rosewood Florida ( 1923) But those truly awful events were paralleled by larger patterns which took place over decades one of which was lynching, the other which was "whitecapping." Lynching, an ugly pattern of racial terror used by southern whites to maintain white supremacy,, was not only directed against Black people accused of murder and rape, it was directed against Black landowners and business leaders who failed to show proper deference or defended themselves and their families against assault. Whitecapping, widely practiced in Mississippi during the Jim Crow years, involved white mobs seizing the land of black independent farmers and driving Black landowners out of the communities where they had acquired property. When you put all of these things together- the murder of Black elected officials, the murder of successful black landowners and business owners, and the burning and destruction of some of the South's most prosperous Black business districts, you are confronting a pattern which not only discourages wealth acquisition among Black people, but makes it life threatening and dangerous. In states and communities where this occurred, which I believe can be found in most of the American South, restorative justice needs to take an economic form in terms of compensation for the victims and their descendants. There can be no real healing until this history is understood, and its consequences addressed. You can issue court decisions limiting Affirmative Action, but the more we know about our history, the stronger the logic for Reparations becomes