So, what’s my reaction to the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent’s recent visit to the United States where they urged the federal government to consider slavery reparations for African Americans?
My reaction remains similar to what I’ve told friends who asked me this question during the past seven years: “Are you ready for a race war?”
I’ll get to the race war in a moment.
Reparations beats even religion its vast number of interpretations and emotional evocations.
For instance, President Obama explicitly stated in 2008 that he opposes reparations, even though every right-wing extremist blog and even some left-leaning African American groups don’t believe him — albeit for different sets of motivation.
Back then, Obama stated his prescription for nearly 400 years of institutional racism: to provide “Good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed.”
In other words — contrary to some reparations proponents who believe handing out checks for 400 years of work plus interest and suffering is the answer — Obama wants reparations to happen in the form of good and broad economic policies.
“Good and broad economic policies.” I won’t deal with that today, but I promise to explore Obama’s Black race report card in the near future.
The Working Group has a view of reparations that differs from the check seekers and Obama’s:
[F]ull implementation of special programs based on education, socioeconomic, and environmental rights.
The length of America’s sin is also debated. After all, “Slavery happened a long time ago,” didn’t it?
Reading the Working Group’s official statement performs a comprehensive shutdown of the previous argument by detailing scores of years of sustained institutional racist practices throughout virtually all aspects of African American life including housing practices, voter ID laws, prison sentencing, school district funding, food insecurity, and many others.
My common sense assessment informs me that creating a fair set of policies in the first place has a lower social cost than managing the effects of broken homes, impoverished communities, and undereducated populations today.
But … this is 2016, and we have an expensive problem on our hands — any way you look at it.
Now, about that race war. History shows that any perceived signs of Black progress or favoritism in America has been met with violence.
The New York City draft riots of 1863 resulted from the resentment White New Yorkers had toward fighting the Civil War to end slavery. More specifically, the Democratic Party at that time spread the fearful rumor that freed Southern slaves would travel north to compete with Whites for jobs. NYC Black adults and children, who were already free, were murdered in the streets of Manhattan and the resulting Black flight changed the demographic makeup of the borough for many years.
Reconstruction — man, I hate that word — was a post-Civil War progrom in response to Blacks leaving the chains of slavery and working to gain more political and commercial influence. A combination of biased laws and White terrorist groups saw that Blacks were beaten, murdered, jailed and otherwise intimidated from carrying on their lives as “equal” American citizens.
Whites’ ear of a rising Black labor class resulted in the East Saint Louis riots of 1917.
The increase in Atlanta Blacks’ economic and political power resulted in a 1906 race riot. The supposed sexual assaults on White women, served as matches to the kerosene keg.
It’s ironic how the Great Migration of Blacks to the northern US in search of economic opportunity and a respite from the South’s Jim Crow and lynchings created intense and competitive environments, which lead to race riots across three dozen cities across the country in 1919.
Let’s not forget the decimation of Greenwood Tulsa, OK, better known as Black Wall Street.
Detroit’s growing Black population created labor and housing tensions, which exploded in 1943.
I only mentioned a handful of riots — there have been many more.
Now, what do you think would happen if President Obama, or any other President, suggests reparations for Blacks?
I don’t expect the immediate outcome to be a pleasant one …
Song currently stuck in my head: “on love” – david t. walker