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what price justice?
depends on whether or not you have a coupon
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

I added it up the other day.

I have Irish/Cherokee/Dutch heritage, was raised in a single parent home headed by an abusive alcoholic mother and I’ve been six feet tall since I was 12. I’ve also nearly died in a car accident, not once, but twice.

I deserve reparations.

Two-thirds of my ancestral people were forcibly removed from their homeland and either left to starve, slaughtered, or reduced to selling themselves or being sold into indentured servitude.

My mother and father never married (my father was already married - and not Mormon) and when he left, my mother was forced to accept a variety of odd jobs and odd men to make ends meet. She drank and did drugs to ease the pain, but struck out when necessary to make some type of emotional contact.

Guess jeans never thought girls six feet tall would want to wear their product, so an appropriate size wasn’t available. Also, the price was higher than a single mother’s cleaning salary could afford. Consequently, I didn’t wear Guess jeans while in high school, and endured emotional damage and alienation by the short rich high school girls that flashed the Guess logo on their pampered behinds as they abandoned me in the cafeteria.

On two separate occasions, deer jumped in front of my car, totaling the vehicle. In one instance, the insurance company completely paid for the damage to my vehicle, but that was not the case in the other accident. Therefore, I haven’t received all the compensation necessary to fully alleviate my pain and suffering.

I’m a victim on many levels. I deserve reparations.

So whom do I sue first? Let’s start with the English Parliament, for exporting the agricultural product of Ireland to feed everyone else in the world but the Irish Catholics who opposed the English takeover of the island. The very same Parliament who wretched my unwed, undereducated great-great-great someone from her home when she didn’t starve, telling her to either accept an indentured servitude contract in Australia or America or die in the poor house, because “her kind” were no longer welcome in the British Isles.

Then I could sue the descendants of the patriarch of the American family who bid on her seven-to-ten-year contract, agreeing to free her when it expired and her passage had been paid, but who impregnated her one year before the contract was complete in order to double her servitude. As an indentured, she was forbidden to socialize or complete schooling, so when she was thrust out onto the street after nearly 20 years, she had little more than the clothes on her back and my great-great-someone.

I could also bring action against the descendants of Presidents Jackson and Van Buren and General Winfield Scott for the forced relocation of the Cherokee tribe from the Ohio Valley and western Carolina region. The Cherokee were peaceful, had a constitutional government and lands they had farmed for generations, but they since they were considered primitive and undeserving when compared to white settlers, the United States government thought it justifiable to remove the Cherokee. Breeding with the tribe’s women was permissible, though, so my great-great-great-someone was actually the chattel of an Army soldier instead of an honored warrior princess and/or revered medicine woman.

I suppose I could haul Anheuser Busch to court on my mother’s behalf, since she was obviously unaware that alcohol would cloud her judgment not only of men but also regarding the treatment of her children. I would actually be defending the lives of children of alcoholics everywhere, since alcoholism is a classifiable disease. Guess Jeans and All-State are two other companies that, because of their decisions to manufacture product for a certain size or analyze similar situations differently, engaged in extreme discriminatory practices, and must be brought to justice.

Why do I deserve reparations?

I feel certain I would have become a better writer much sooner had I been born in my native Eire and had the influences of the masters there. Had my other people remained on their ancestral land, my basket weaving and dream interpretation skills would have also been perfected, and I would make a sustainable income from them. If my mother hadn't beat me when I was a child I would have had the self-esteem to go to a better college and not eat red meat. Had I received more money from the insurance company after the first accident, I would have had the opportunity to buy a better, more durable car that could have avoided the second accident. I also could have hired a driver, even further eliminating the possibility that I would suffer in the future.

I’m sure you understand your tax dollars will be going toward a good cause.

We are all victims of something at one time or another: cruelty, crime, and circumstance are elements that exist in our world, because it is not Utopia. As is human nature, we can always blame others for the consequences of our lives. But it takes more courage to persevere than to point a finger. It takes more bravery to change the future based on the knowledge of past atrocities than to paint a scarlet V on your chest. And to be lionhearted in the face of adversity does not mean you deserve the lion’s share of whatever spoils you didn’t expect to find in the first place.

Never mind individuals suing companies for falsified nutritional labels or contracting lung or throat cancer after smoking for 40 years. The real question is how can someone put a cost on human life? Those seeking slavery reparations have averaged an amount due of $10,000 to $50,000 per black American. One would think the last thing they want is an image of a black person with a price placard around his or her neck. Those in search of greater reparations for the 9/11 disasters believe a million dollars can’t possibly compensate for the loss of $7.00-an-hour dishwasher or a stockbroker who made three million. So what’s fair?

The predominant injustice of these forms of reparations is that it widens the chasm between individual accountability and divisive victimization. The belly of our litigious society will never be full, so it should be no surprise that regardless of what it is offered, it continues to grumble. With the humanities issue, it’s not Utopia or justness these jackals want, but superiority. By controlling the monies or the programs or the distribution of both, they’ll have their turn in deciding the fate of millions of individuals, and the history of degradation will once again repeat.

There’s so much more I could say on this topic. I could talk about those of Japanese heritage who were interned during a time of war but still without just cause. I could mention the thousands of orphans trussed in lace and buttons and trained cross-country to become farm labor in the West rather than burdens in the East. I could discuss the suicide rate of those molested by others in positions of faith and power. I could probe the reasons behind the continued exploitation of immigrant sweatshop and agricultural labor in a country of supposed plenty. I could even debate whether those who suffered in the Oklahoma City bombing deserve more - or less, or none at all - than those who suffered on 9/11. Victims of cruelty, crime and circumstance are everywhere in America.

No amount of money will ever pay that tab in full.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

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jael mchenry
5.15.02 @ 11:38a

In the immortal words of the ant: The world owes me a living, tra-la tra-la la-la.

It's a good point. Everybody's got a case. How can we value some people's suffering -- or the historical suffering of their race/gender/etc -- more than others? Enough to pay them for it? The money that goes there is coming from somewhere else, no doubt.

tracey kelley
5.15.02 @ 11:47a

And how much will ever be enough? When there are subsets of the subgroups, no one will be completely satisfied. And is the true issue ever eradicated with the payment?

russ carr
5.15.02 @ 11:53a

"I want my two dollars!"

sarah ficke
5.15.02 @ 12:30p

I almost think that putting a price on someone's misery and someone's life is mocking what happened. Sure, compensation is valid for those who lost the financial support of a household, but I can't conceive that any amount of money could make up for the loss of a family member. What would I do with it? Soothe my pain by buying a playstation?

Those seeking slavery reparations have averaged an amount due of $10,000 to $50,000 per black American.

Which, if we paid, would put our government in even more debt than we already are and probably cause cuts in programs that are dedicated to helping people with current problems, not just those whose ancestors had the misfortune to be slaves.

matt morin
5.15.02 @ 12:50p

I don't necessarily think money is meant to put a price on what happened. But it does help some. And something is better than nothing.

I'd rather have someone say, "Hey sorry this happened. I know this will never replace your loss, but let me try to do something."

adam kraemer
5.15.02 @ 2:19p

It depends on the situation, though. If we were experiencing terrorism on a daily basis, do you think the government would be as willing to pay the families of the victims?

michelle von euw
5.15.02 @ 2:31p

This column reminded me of a line on the West Wing, where a presidential appointee was defending his case for slavery reparations to Josh, who answered: "I'm sorry, but my grandparents left their wallets at Auschwitz."

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 2:37p

The history of reparations documents an ever increasing tide of international recognition for victims of the
injustices by governments. Tracey writes "one would think that the last thing they want is an image of a black person with a price placard around his or her neck." I will presume that instead of "price", the placard would be a "claimant amount" and anyone who has been unemployed has theoretically had such
an amount placed on their labor when they apply for unemployment compensation. Japanese Americans were paid 2.1 Billion by the United States for their internment during World War II and that basically ran a tab of about $20,000 to each of the 60,000 survivors. Reparations are not for assumed emotional distress. It is a step toward repairing political/economic injustice by a government.

For an afrocentric view on reparations, and detailed information about the bill sponsored by John Conyers, one may visit "Why Reparations at http://www.swagga.com/arguments.htm

And that's my 2 cents.


adam kraemer
5.15.02 @ 2:43p

Actually, I kinda like Sarah's observation that paying African Americans reparations would probably rob money from social programs designed to help the African American community in other ways. The question, I guess, is do they want the cash now or the investment for later?

Edited to reflect the fact that I know that liberal social programs like Welfare are not specifically aimed at African Americans. Across the country, more Whites are on Welfare than Blacks. But programs like those for, say, urban housing or affirmative action do tend to be more to the benefit of the African American community.


tracey kelley
5.15.02 @ 3:01p

Thomas! Finally you emerge! Welcome aboard, buddy. Since you instigated this discussion months ago, this is all your fault. :)

The Japanese internment reparations were awarded because of a direct overreaction of the American government during a time of war. It doesn't make it right, but it does make it different than the individuals whose wealth and prosperity was fostered unjustly by slavery and indentured servitude.

Oops. I'm sorry. Make that historically correct by saying indentured servitude and slavery. For one certainly begat the other.

As a self-employed person and a temp-employed person with U of M, I do not have the right to stake claim to any unemployment benefits, regardless of the corporations I worked for prior, when I don't have projects or when the study ends. Should I wage a campaign for all self-employed workers to be able to lay claim on all benefits not obtained before? Just because I choose to be self-employed or temp employed does not mean I'm entitled to sue the corporation I worked for 3 years ago for overtime not paid to a salaried employee.

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 3:07p

For many Americans, the reparations debate is an intellectual exercise akin to the discussion of extraterrestrial life. Some intellectual energy may be spent analyzing intriguing scenarios, but
few will painstakingly dedicate their daily effort to answer such important questions. We live in
a world where many people may emotionally detach themselves from such controversy easily, and
depending on one's heritage, the impact of the debate may vary tremendously. While a chicken is
"involved" in a bacon and egg breakfast, a pig is "committed." For a descendant of former slaves, it
is a debate that directly impacts their life commitment to seek economic parity, political recognition, and social justice. The "I deserve reparations" mantra sounds cute, but the debate deserves recognition..

Martin Luther King Jr., in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community, wrote, ". no amount of gold could provide adequate compensation for the exploitation of the Negro in America down through the centuries." As Tracey has correctly pointed out, it is true that "no amount of money will ever pay that tab in full." However, there is no statute of limitation on restitution sought through reparations. More aptly put, Americans, or those who identify with this government, first have a responsibility to answer the question … (A)re reparations justified? In the case of African Americans, the debate is a profound matter.

There are political, economic, legal, social, and

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 3:17p

There are political, economic, legal, social, and moral aspects of this debate. Yet, we usually fail to begin with the most important step, recognition of the right of former slaves to restitution from the United States government for the uncompensated labor that helped build this country. Failure to answer this question renders moot any further discussion of the manner in which reparations will be paid.

Pioneers in the movement for reparations have been seeking redress since the 1890's. Meanwhile, other governments have paid substantial sums to individuals based on government injustices. As Tracey has correctly mused, "I could bring …action against the ancestors of President Jackson…for the forced relocation of the Cherokee tribe…" While the musing may have been tongue in cheek, the United States has indeed compensated individuals (who can authenticate their Native American ancestry) for loss of land.

michelle von euw
5.15.02 @ 3:22p

Yet you don't hear much about reparations for the uncompensated labor that helped build this country from those with Irish or Asian ancestors.

tracey kelley
5.15.02 @ 3:24p

Pay close attention to my last paragraph. The reparations debate is a valid one, but where to begin? Unfortunately, there are too many victims in America - most often in the hands of those more wealthy and more powerful. In one way or another, the cute "mantra" applies to every less-positioned member of America, especially in the historical sense.

What is the most delicate about the reparations issue is whether the issue is, outwardly, an issue of justification, or, more inwardly, an issue of race. As Clarence Page recently pointed out "Freedom is something black Americans have earned after decades of hard-fought battles to open opportunities. Our big questions concern what we are to do with the freedom we have. Freedom is hardly the end of hard work and tough choices; it is only the beginning. That's real life. Welcome to it."

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 3:31p

Hi Tracey! And I suppose I will take credit (or blame) for starting this debate in this media. It's an important one. But just as it took over 17 years to create a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., this is a protracted debate.

Has anyone ventured to the site for an afrocentric view? Read the transcript of Maulana Karenga about the ethical dimensions of reparations. For those who are unfamiliar with Maulana, he coined the term for the "Kwanzaa" celebrations in the U.S.

tracey kelley
5.15.02 @ 3:32p

I challenge anyone to speak to a Native American and ask if they feel adequately "compensated" for their loss of land, the desecration of their culture, the oppression of their people.

Again, this divisiveness, the failure to see the whole picture of centuries of subserviance and oppression of many -not just one- cultures in America, is a primary stake in this debate.

tracey kelley
5.15.02 @ 3:34p

Thomas - thppppt. :)

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 3:44p

The dispensation of land was considered as a useful remedy for former slaves following the Union troops throughout the South immediately after slavery ended. Eventually, a new administration restored the confiscated lands to the former slave owners and lands promised to African Americans were not provided as planned through the Freedman's Bureau.

The fact that many disenfranchised groups have rights to some manner of redress does not prevent a debate specifically about one particular group. We must start with each of us weighing in our assent on the rights of the particular group rather than obscuring issues.

michelle von euw
5.15.02 @ 3:45p

It's a complex issue, there's no doubt about that. But, why should money be the solution? And why should it come from the government? I recognize that the Civil War was about issues other than slavery, but definitely, the fact that the US waged a war against half its population should count for something.

tracey kelley
5.15.02 @ 3:51p

Yes, I know. That's where the, ahem, claimant amount, of $10K-$50K comes from, isn't it? The equivilent to "40 acres and a mule"?

But I believe we were talking about Native Americans.

Every culture has a disenfranchised subset. Does that mean that all are deserving of historical retribution?

I see no obstruction of the reparations issue with regard to awareness.

michelle von euw
5.15.02 @ 3:52p

The fact that many disenfranchised groups have rights to some manner of redress does not prevent a debate specifically about one particular group.

Maybe not, but it's something to keep in mind. The US legal system is based on precedent, and when debating issues that can have a far-reaching effect, it is unwise to look at them in a vacuum.

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 4:00p

I trust that each of us has a community. This means that we have "sameness" in our diversity. It does not mean we have parity, equality, unity, equal protection under the law. While we all reside in the U.S., we are divided as we speak. Facing the truth of that division is part of the healing process. The Constitution counted slaves as three fifths human. It is not dividing the nation to say this. The Supreme Court declared in the 1857 Dred Scott decision that a black man had no rights as a citizen, even though Black men voted in five states since 1776. it is not divisive to say this. For those who have a courage, go to the site NoSanctuary.com , this recounting of fact is not divisive. In fact, it IS the big picture. As Americans, we must learn to live in truth rather than hypocrisy if the nation is to prevent further disunity.

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 4:02p

Error... that site is WithoutSanctuary.com

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 4:07p

Each subset is entitled to debate the merits of it's claim to restitution. But it's curious that Native Americans have been compensated in certain Congressional Acts for loss of land already but African Americans have not been compensated.And it is not simply a monetary value of labor... but the loss of their humanity during enslavement. For those who are the least bit familiar with international law, the case for reparations by Black people is unique and the U.S. acknowledgement is long overdue. If anything, analogies to other groups would tend to support the case for reparations rather than diminish it, in my opinion.

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 4:16p

OK... cut to the chase.. who agrees that the U.S. government owes Black people (as well as others) some type of redress for the centuries of enslavement .. in some form of (for lack of a better term) reparations?

Who agrees that the HR Bill by John Conyers deserves passage (to study the merits of reparations)?

The answer has already been given for Jewish people in Germany, Japanese people interned, Aboriginal people in Australia, some Native American populations. Historically, these groups did not wait until Black folks were acknowledged prior to their decisions. So if there is a precedent, what's the real question? Why NOT African Americans?

russ carr
5.15.02 @ 4:42p

Invariably someone will say those figures need to be readjusted for inflation. Personally, I'd like to go back in time, find the first person who sued for damages, and flog them. And then hang the lawyer who came up with the fool idea...the equivalent of the serpent whispering in Eve's ear: "You deserve this!"

If there's going to be reparations made on that kind of scale, there's got to be a statute of limitation. 150 years after the fact? Not bloody likely. Is it an awful thing that there was slavery in America? Sure. But slavery had existed for thousands of years prior, and continues in various ways today. Don't blame any one country; blame society...blame the human capacity for evil. But cutting a check in the hope of making the guilt go away? That's BS. If people spent half as much time improving their interpersonal relations or their communities as they do kvetching, most of these social ills could be cleaned up...and pride could take the place of guilt.

BTW, "Hannibal" sucked.

adam kraemer
5.15.02 @ 4:44p

If we were to agree that the US government owed African Americans (not all Black people are descendents of slaves) for past wrongs, does that mean that the government of Egypt owes any Jew who can claim descent back to the time of the Pharos?

And why this current government? Why these current people? I agree that the US government and some Americans were in the wrong for more than half of the history of this country, but I feel that if we're going to pay reparations to descendants of former slaves, we should define exactly who should be taxed to pay these fines. Surely not those whose families weren't even in the US at the time (my great-great-great-whatever in Kiev did not own slaves). And definitely not those whose ancestors fought against slavery - their families have already done enough.

My personal feeling is that reparations in 1890 would have made sense. Reparations more than a century after the Civil War would only create more problems than they purport to solve.

thomas harris
5.15.02 @ 5:04p

I am amazed that in 2002, people can agree that "Slavery was wrong" yet adopt a "let's move on" posture with no regard to the historical amnesia it
entails. The HR Bill proposed by Congressman Conyers recommends that funds be allocated to decide what, if anything, should be done. But the fundamental question still meets with resistance.

Thanks Adam for weighing in that.."My personal feeling is that reparations in 1890 would have made sense."

But did you know that Rep. Thaddeus Stevens introduced reparations bills in 1866 and 1867? These acts were met with the same resistance but perhaps a different set of reasons.

adam kraemer
5.15.02 @ 5:17p

It's not a "let's move on" posture as much as a "no one who is alive today was either a slave or a slave-owner so let's see what we can do, other than throw money at an issue, to improve the lives of those claiming to be worse off because of their ancestors' circumstances." Wouldn't it make more sense to spend money on ways to end racism and promote equality in our culture than to single out a certain group of people and award them a settlement for something no one who's currenlty alive had anything to do with?

russ carr
5.15.02 @ 5:19p

Nothing says "We'll solve society's debt to the long dead" like shelling out funds to form a committee to decide if something should be done.

You can't unring the bell. You can't take the drop of ink out of the bottle of milk. Why not spend the time and money working toward preventing social injustices, rather than exacerbating old wounds by continuing to apply new salves and bandages...only to rip them off to try something else with each successive Congress or administration?

jael mchenry
5.15.02 @ 5:38p

Okay, I think I've got a difference btw Native Americans and slaves, which is also relevant to the Japanese-American internment reparations issue. The government took away the traditional tribal lands and deeded them out to citizens. The government put Japanese-Americans in camps during the war. The government, however, did not enslave free men in Africa and bring them to America. Yes, their laws made it possible, but enslavement was the act of individuals.

And I agree that the money is better spent on programs and plans for the advancement of African-Americans through education and employment goals, not a meaningless "blank check" saying "Oh, sorry bout that."

tracey kelley
5.15.02 @ 6:07p

Conyers' bill doesn't necessarily state that an individual check will be cut -rather, the money will be trusted to develop programs and other pro-black efforts of advancement.

One of the main problems I have with reparations - to anyone, in any form - is the generalized mentality. This society continues to shirk individual responsibility and circumstance. This happens in a variety of ways. If Firestone makes a substandard tire that, even when inflated properly, driven under normal tested conditions and at appropriate speeds, explodes, then the company is at fault. But if Joe Bob decides to go turtle hunting in a log-riddled swamp and drives his Jeep at excessive speeds over those logs with under-inflated tires and the tires explode, whose fault is that?

Individual accountability is lost 150 years after the fact. Not every American owned indentured servants or slaves. (And I'm sorry, but I refuse to separate the two. 500,000 of one set and 1,000,000 of the other does not tear the issue in two.)

It is an injustice that the Birmingham bombers are just now being brought to account for their crimes. The beauty in the eventual justice at hand is that the individuals responsible are paying for their mistake in judgement. Individual choice, individual accountability.


sarah ficke
5.15.02 @ 6:32p

I am amazed that in 2002, people can agree that "Slavery was wrong" yet adopt a "let's move on" posture with no regard to the historical amnesia it entails.

I don't think that "let's move on" entails historical amnesia at all. It doesn't mean denying the history of slavery in America and the slaves' roles in building this country. What it does entail is a bit of forgiveness. My ancestors may well have owned slaves. I have no way of knowing for sure. What I do know is that I have never owned one and I would never knowingly aid and abett anyone who owned one. And, for all I know, my great-great-great-great whatevers ran a stop on the underground railroad instead. So, I am not a huge fan of the idea of the government taking money out of my puny paycheck and my grandmother's social security to ante up for reparations.

African-American opression in this country extended (extends) well beyond slavery - to Jim Crow laws, voter intimidation, and all sorts of civil rights abuses. Many problems African-Americans face today can be traced back to slavery and the conditions immedietely following the emancipation, and looking at the development of the problems and the various methods African-Americans used to combat them can be useful to see what does and doesn't work. However, society has changed so much in the last 150 years that I don't think giving every descendant of slaves the modern equivilent of 40 acres and a

sloan bayles
5.15.02 @ 11:11p

First of all, I could have my timeline wrong, but I don't think African Americans were held as slaves for centuries, plural. I know it was around 150 years, and yes, of course the argument that one day of slavery is one day too many. Personally, I don't think monetary reparation is the answer. And I am one of those people who will argue that my fore fathers were over in Ireland and Norway, and then Minnesota. Why should I pay? I may need to stand corrected on this too, but I believe African Americans got to vote long before Native Americans. As my husband is half Native American (and no, we don't own part of a gambling casino, unfortunately) I have never had much room for argument as he simply comes back with "all of you people can get off my land". No witty comeback for that one. Europeans stampeded North America with their own version of vini, vedi, veci and brought disease, plague, war, desicration and desimation of the land, and humiliation to a proud and basically peaceful people. No Native American may have one day invented electricity, but then certainly not the atom bomb either. As an insurance claims adjuster I am self admitedly jaded, and see every day that we live in a "you owe me" society. It's sometimes amazing how some people feel instantly cured or made whole by the color green.

adam kraemer
5.16.02 @ 10:21a

I was thinking about this earlier this morning. If you're going to ask for reparations for the descendents of slaves, wouldn't the first place to start be the descendents of those African tribes that sold them to the White man in the first place?

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 11:29a

Unfortunately, that's only half-true. Often, members of the Dutch slave trade (oh, the agony of my people) pillaged entire Africian villages, plundering the wares, raping the women and capturing people against their will.

But yes, in many documented circumstances, tribal leaders were offered money and goods in exchange for people. Again with the individual accountability.

I suppose if I had more confidence that any type of monetary reparations would actually accomplish something, perhaps I'd support the action more. But even in the case of 9/11, a situation where reparations are a charity offering, thousands of people are holding their hands out saying, "That's not enough- give me more." The tragedy was horrific, but it wasn't against a particular group of people - it was a ambiguous terroristic act aimed at a large congregation of (primarily) Americans, designed to attract media attention and cause destruction. Could have happened at the Super Bowl, or on the DC to NYC bullet train, or anywhere. But a precedent is being established that whenever any type of tragedy happens, Americans who had nothing to do with it are expected to pay again and again - with emotions, restrictions, prejedice and money.

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 11:39a

I think what disturbs me about the slavery reparations bill is:
1) It doesn't include indentured servitude.
2) It doesn't reference the tragedy of child labor in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
3) It doesn't reference the longstanding migratory worker's battle Chavez fought -and died -for. Which, by the way, still exists.
4) It doesn't address the previously mentioned plight of Asian and Irish slavery an indenturement within railroad, factory and building trade.
5) It doesn't acknowledge that, until 1920, women of any race were officially listed as "property" of their husbands, and less than human by the American government, with no right to property, to vote, to head a household.

In other words, it only, again, acknowledges a subset of American history, instead of directly addressing the entire issue of degradation in America.

adam kraemer
5.16.02 @ 11:41a

Well, regarding 9/11, I think that more than just sympathy was a factor. My guess is that it was as much an effort to stave off a major recession in NYC and nationally. Did the survivors of Oklahoma City receive anything? I don't remember.

Regarding your second point: in truth, the history of African Americans cannot really be compared to those of other ethnic groups, in that everyone else, while they were admittedly degraded upon their arrival to this country, chose to come here. Sure, they had pressure on them - famine, poverty, intolerance in their homelands, but to the best of my knowledge, the Africans were the only ones actually captured, forced to come to America, and then treated legally as property.


thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 11:57a

Victim blame is a very disingenuous rationale to deny the merits of reparations. I would like to refer those who need more historical accuracy to the site created by Randall Robinson of TransAfrica who authored the book, The Debt go to http://www.oneloveforall.com/black_manifesto.htm

Also, even the most Eurocentric history books date the arrival of Africans in America as 1619. The supposed emancipation o slaves was 1865..... hmm is that 2 centuries? or just 150 years.. and even if the time is not centuries (plural) how much suffering will qualify? Slavery breeded a disruption to the life of an entire population. Money isn't a cure. What if the independent African countries decided to declare war on the countries that participated in slavery and sought retribution instead of reparations? Is that more logical? Thanks Tracey for reading the Conyers proposal. But doesn't prescribe that all Black folks become couch potatoes and get a check.

No one has asked individuals for money out of their hard earned check to cover for the lack of individual responsibility of a new generation of frican Americans. There is simply one question on the floor... does anyone actually understand what it is?

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 12:15p

We have a series of injustices to address that includes the treatment of those who were ORIGINALLY here in North America , then called ATZLAN and not America. Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus were canonized when they were in a sense invading lands already settled. The Asians who helped build U.S. railroads were exploited. Immigrants to America, although voluntarily arriving without chains, also experienced hardships. Reparations does not suggest we forget those others. It is a specific proposal on the floor.

Who is familiar with the Berlin Conference where Africa was carved up between several European countries? The historical injustices that have not been addressed is a very long list, yes... but the simple fact that we have precedents of payments.. means we can take steps on specific wrongs sanctioned by the U.S. government. And by the way, the Pope and the U.S. government did SANCTION slavery. Those "individuals" were not pirates when they captured a race of people for centuries, and created the commodification of human life between North America and South America and Africa. Those were men who had the blessings of their countries.

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 12:20p

Charles Ogletree believes that a large charity fund could be established to assist "the poorest blacks who haven't benefited from affirmative action" and thinks that this bill is akin to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, hoping that it will rebuild black communities in America.

Which stands to question - what is the "typical" black community in America? How did it get to be in such a state that it needs rebuilding? Has anyone looked at rural Iowa lately?

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 12:23p

Well the Pope is sanctioning the protection of child molesters, too. All the more reason for a separation of church and state.

(for more on that exciting topic, see Russ' column!)

adam kraemer
5.16.02 @ 12:24p

I still haven't gotten a clear answer on whether there should be a statute of limitations on a claim like this. How many generations should pass before it just gets out of hand? Because, as I said earlier, if there is no limit, then the government of Russia owes me for the pogroms of the 1800s and the government of Egypt owes me for the slavery described in Exodus.

By the way, even Gifford notes "The US payments to Japanese Americans were aimed at making restitution for the suffering of those actually interned. The Austrian payment was to survivors of the concentration camps, again to make reparation for the physical and mental agony of the concentration camps. If a victim died before the claim were agreed, his claim died with him, since the pain and suffering were personal to him."


tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 12:26p

And Thomas, you know better than I that it's not just the U.S. Government that bill expects to own up - corporations and universities are involved, too. So this is not a valid "wrongdoing by the U.S. government" argument.

And, consequently, can and should involve the exploitation of other cultures for political and corporate gain.

Adam - precisely.


russ carr
5.16.02 @ 12:33p

I would suggest that blaming anything on America (or trying to assign recompensary responsibility) can't predate the federalization of what were, until the Declaration of Independence, English colonies. In other words, from 1619-1776 (or 1774, if you want to be generous) the closest you could come to "someone in charge" would be a colonial governor appointed by HRMajesty...so please, let's drag the UK into this.

If you're going to get anal, you've gotta go all the way.

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 12:33p

You're a doll, Trace!

adam kraemer
5.16.02 @ 12:43p

If this weren't actually such a serious topic, I'd be mocking Russ for the rest of his life for that "anal" comment.

Also, when talking about who should be the claimants, Gifford suggests that "Difficulties of scale or procedure should not be obstacles to justice." But when talking about from whom the reparations should come, he says "Enormous research would be needed to identify the companies and families, to determine how much money was made by their ancestors, and to calculate how much should be forfeited by the present shareholders or family members" as an argument about why governments should pay. He needs to make up his mind.


thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 12:44p

We need a mass political education process to enable white Americans to understand what reparations means. We need a mass political education process to enable black Americans to understand what reparations means as well. Most of us have not had the benefit of a politically correct education and the ideas we express are reinforced in the public schools and universities in general.

Are Black people owed a debt from the U.S.? Yes. Are other groups owed debts? Yes. Are all acts of reparations a matter of cutting checks? No. If we pay one group, do we pay all groups the same? No.
When a Native Americans says "Get off my land"... it is reflective of an unjust war that was waged. The U.S. has enacted laws to address the loss of land although there is still room for more change. The struggle of women for voting rights was not the exact same struggle for emancipation from slavery that was fought by Africans brought to America, many of whom (as maids) served the ancestors of these women. The Constitution did not specify white women as three fifths human, nor was their humanity ever in question.. only their rights as citizens and within their families.

But as Martin Luther King Jr. also said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I agree that all who suffer have a right to redress. However, those who have already had reparations did not have to wait for the entire world to be healed first.

jael mchenry
5.16.02 @ 12:55p

You're saying that African Americans shouldn't have to wait until the rest of the world is healed to get reparations, but the manifesto cited above refers to the precedent of Japanese-American and Holocaust survivor reparations as two of the reasons African American reparations should be considered. This acknowledges the interconnectedness, and if we're all part of that, then there's nowhere that it ends. Everyone is owed something by someone who historically oppressed them. Women, as Tracey says, for example.

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 1:03p

Well, I don't agree with a bit of that.

I'm a firm believer in the responsibility of the individual, and really don't think the State bears any responsibility beyond defense of our borders. I don't want the government in my pocket, my bed or my church.

Furthermore, I don't want a "politically correct" education and I'm damned if my children will have one. Like "moral majority," "politically correct" is an oxymoron.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 1:05p

sloan bayles said "First of all, I could have my timeline wrong, but I don't think African Americans were held as slaves for centuries, plural."

The authority of the colonies was not in question. A reference was simply made to "centuries" of slaves.

Russ Carr says..from 1619-1776 (or 1774, if you
want to be generous) the closest you could come to "someone in charge" would be a colonial governor appointed by HRMajesty...so please, let's
drag the UK into this.

Britain was responsible for expeditions to Africa in the first place , yes... they dragged themselves into that African Holocaust . I mentioned the Berlin Conference of 1885....right? The Berlin Act of 1885. It was attended by representatives of Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Russia, U.S.A., Portugal, Denmark, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Turkey. Go to http://web.jjay.cuny.edu/~jobrien/reference/ob45.html

And as far as Gifford being contradictory.. he says ...difficulties should not be obstacles.. and enormous research would be needed. That's what the HR Bill proposed.

And in earliest America, as now, corporations and the military determined much of what happened so they have a responsibility . Yes Tracey. But the act will be an Act by Congress, not as much as court orders by the Judiciary on reparation liability.

And some mock what they don't understand. Read the posted sites and the issues are not so blurr

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 1:15p

I don't see any blur. Tracey's point is still my bottom line:

"We are all victims of something at one time or another: cruelty, crime, and circumstance are elements that exist in our world, because it is not Utopia. As is human nature, we can always blame others for the consequences of our lives. But it takes more courage to persevere than to point a finger. It takes more bravery to change the future based on the knowledge of past atrocities than to paint a scarlet V on your chest....

"The predominate injustice of these forms of reparations is that it widens the chasm between individual accountability and divisive victimization. The belly of our litigious society will never be full, so it should be no surprise that regardless of what it is offered, it continues to grumble."

And for the record, I even mock the stuff I understand.

adam kraemer
5.16.02 @ 1:25p

Russ is right. He does.

And if Gifford's difficulties should not be obstacles, then let those who are the progeny of the opressors make up to the progeny of the opressed. Don't say, "It's not too much trouble to research all who were affected by the slave trade, but it is too much trouble to identify exactly who should make amends."

I'm not a fan of just saying "bygones" and moving on. But you can't create a double standard here by saying "we're singling out the group of payees, but it's too much trouble to specify those who owe them."

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 2:49p

I would hasten to remind anyone who suspects that African Americans have not demonstrated perseverance and bravery (to a fault) that despite the denial of fundamental rights as citizens, Black men and women fought on behalf of the United States in every war it has engaged in. And despite a history of slavery, Black people have done remarkable things to overcome adversity. It isn't asking for a handout to propose reparations. So what does it mean that you can die for your country but cannot have the fruits of your sacrifces? What does that mean? That we don't live in Utopia? Well, utopia for the few should not exist. Unjust privilege amid oppression cannot be resolved by later telling the have nots to suck it up and accept things as is. And to quote Dr. King (since so many know who he is) "Truth crushed to the ground shall rise again".

Whenever Black Americans seek redress for injustice, they are seen by some as lazy for not pulling themselves up by the bootstraps they never had, or they are seen as unpatriotic, or seen as whining or lacking initiative or reverse racist. In fact, there is a cadre of so called Black intellectuals that will make these very same comments. It's too bad that some prefer not to have an education that is historically accurate or as I referred to ..a "politically correct" education... because to change the future requires more than a token litigation or a symbolic memorial to the past. Human beings will have divisiveness without

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 2:54p

Um. No one's playing the race card here, that I've noticed.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 2:58p

Human beings will have divisiveness without justice. Reparations are a remedy to heal.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 3:03p

The "race card" is a slick new term. It has no place in a discussion of reparations when the very topic is ABOUT a racial group getting a remedy. Everything that
HR 40 proposes has implications of race.

The card that should be played is a justice card. All I see is the "you can't please everybody" card.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 3:08p

Perhaps the reason i pointed out African Americans or Black people is because the original article did so. Any group that deserves reparations.. I say make your case. But there have been Blacks who have gotten awards from the United States as a specific group of claimants done wrongly by the government. The current debate just revolves around a larger group, descendants of slaves. If there is a statute of limitations, I would say that it means we pursue redress within governments that currently EXIST...not the Roman Empire et.al.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 3:15p

All reparations are unfair unless all interconnected groups get their just due at the same time? How does that work? Do we amend Conyers proposal to a line item for Asians, women, child labor victims, the migrant farm workers etc. ? If the reparations due to the descendants of slaves become a reality, the society will most certainly change. And wouldn't it be good to have a nation where justice and liberty does exist?

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 3:25p

"Political correctness" is also a slick new term. And "historical accuracy" is also something of an oxymoron. The Past is an absolute; History is not. History is the recording of the past, and as such is subject to the perspective, generally in hindsight, by revisionists with an agenda, or at least a shaping ideology. I don't care what nation you're in -- your history will differ based on your culture, your political and religious systems, your economic worth, and a myriad of other extenuating factors. And as a result, all "accuracy" is subjective...and not that accurate at all. Is this fair, or just? No. But as Tracey pointed out, This Ain't Utopia. It never will be. And seeking redress for long-past transgressions only exacerbates the tension. It's not a remedy, it's a buy-off. Color it anyway you will. It's a placebo, a would-be social panacea with no lasting social impact...about as meaningful as the Pope's apology to the people of southeast Asia for the abuse of women by clergy.

Justice is a vague term, loosely bandied on television fare created by Dick Wolf. Is justice an eye for an eye, executing those who have murdered? Or is life in prison sufficient? Should the family of the murderer pay reparations to the family of the murdered? Will that somehow balance the ledger? But what if the murderer killed the victim because the victim had molested him as a child? Who had justice done? What is "sufficient"?


thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 3:29p

Ok. I see I have been too vocal. Not many replies so I will confess that I have a sense of humor too. I can see where the idea of cutting new checks to millions of people (Black people, especially) might seem unfathomable. Blacks were seen as getting too many government checks before welfare reform so this might just be way over the top to ask for something else huh? So what would be the worst thing? People who have no viable manufacturing infrastructure for their "subset" would simply end up SPENDING all the reparations money with the same powers they got the money from. So relax...until certain folks start asking for a Constitutional Amendment that restricts foreigners from exploiting their neighborhoods with overpriced stores/services/goods. Hey.. my ancestors were slaves... but the descendants had some land, still do. If I want my 40 acres and a mule, all I have to do is drive to the South and ta daaa! What people really need, on the serious side, is a just accounting and a healing of a nation.

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 3:35p

If the reparations due to the descendants of slaves become a reality, the society will most certainly change. And wouldn't it be good to have a nation where justice and liberty does exist?

Sounds to me like you're equating financial redress with justice. A "Great Society" for the new millennium. As for the "most certainly change" line, that's a huge, ungainly assumption.

Liberty (Webster's: "The state of being free.") has nothing to do with it. Liberty is a personal perception, and a whole new can o' worms.

And even if society changes, who's to say that change would be for the better. Rather than rectifying an injustice and promoting equality, you could spawn a new generation of litigants. As Anyanka might say: Be careful what you wish for.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 3:46p

The proposal for reparations doesn't mention the Utopia card. But I think that it would be a good thing to get the family of a murderer to compensate the family of the victim. But that's just ME. What if the murderer was molested? And the victim became the murderer? Then no compensation. But since all vigilantee type crime is punishable, any murderer must go to jail. We are no longer in the Wild Wild West.

But when it comes to healing and correcting a wrong, am apology is spoken recognition of a wrong that deserves remorse. No apology ... is the pits!

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 3:52p

Russ.. when I write my column on semantics, we will have a great time replying. Meanwhile, I just offer the HR40 as the key to the topic at hand.

BTW redress is a measure of justice , not Utopia... or a Great Society. I need to go back and check the Conyers Bill to see if he predicated payment on a future promise of Utopia. But change the state of those at the bottom and you can transform a nation.

And my references to justice and liberty are no more vague than the pledge of allegiance that we were taught to say in school every day, only to see contradictions in reality.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 3:54p

H.R. 40 was introduced on January 6, 1999 by Rep. John Jr. Conyers (D-Mich.). The bill is "to acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the thirteen 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.

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 3:59p

Which is part of my point regarding the Catholic Church's treatment of victims of priestly abuses: they're not apologizing. The Christian thing to do is to forgive your transgressor, even without his asking... but when the transgressor is the church, shouldn't the first thing they do be to remorsefully seek absolution? For the record, I'm not in favor of settling with those who brought lawsuits against the Boston Archdiocese, and I'm glad the board (against Cardinal Law's wishes) elected not to pay the plaintiffs off without a trial.

I think a public apology is far more powerful in its benefit than any material recompense.

And then as far as compensation for crime victims, does the State then construct a standard on compensation -- not unlike an insurance policy -- for redress made either by the State (for the government's abuses) or for use in sentencing guidelines (for the criminal)?

"Okay, you gave the victim two black eyes...that's $250 each....one broken arm, that's $1,000... That'll be time served and $1,500 -- please pay the Court Clerk. NEXT!"

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 4:01p

Regarding the specificities of HR40: I think an independent counsel or commission, not funded by the government, could perform the task just as well, outside of taxpayer expense and government oversight.

Just me, trying to get the government out of the process again...

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 4:03p

I believe that before reparations are seriously considered for African Americans, the same type of effort mobilized to create state sponsored, federally funded education about the Jewish holocaust will have to be demonstrated by African Americans.

Then it won't seem so incredible. And the curriculum did not focus on Native Americans, child labor, U.S. women's rights, et al.

Go to http://www.state.nj.us/njded/holocaust/about2.htm

matt morin
5.16.02 @ 4:05p

I think we've strayed waaaaay too far off the point here. The point isn't: Families of former slaves deserve something from the government. And the point isn't: We need to make up for transgressions in the past.

The point is: You can't have justice without being fair. And you can't be fair when you give reparations to African-Americans but ignore other groups who have been wronged. And Tracey's whole point is that everybody has been wronged, and there's no way (or even reason) to try and fix that.

And Thomas, to use the murderer analogy...

For Americans now (many of whom have absolutely no connection to slavery) to foot the bill for reparations is akin to sending the murderer's granddaughter to jail.

The people who participated in slavery are long gone. And you can't punish a dead person.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 4:07p

Correction.. the curriculum BEGAN with Jewish holocaust education then INCLUDED the following...

"Districts reported the inclusion of the following genocides in their curricula: African-American (slavery); Native-American; Great Irish Famine; Cambodia; Armenia; and Ukraine. Thus, a range of genocides is included by a significant number of districts"

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 4:17p

The sins of the fathers.. does not apply to those who were not in America right? But once that family has American citizenship, they inherit the benefits of that citizenship correct? Do they NOT inherit the burden of correcting the societal inequities of the country that they profess allegiance? Are immigrants only American to the extent they have opportunity but not to the extent of participating in responsibility of their government actions? I mean.. we all pay taxes and these dollars are used by the government. The programs that were created BEFORE new citizens came here may still exist. We still have social security. We still have the federal reserve banks and the constitutional representation in government that structured how wealth were apportioned to the States over the history of this country. So now... after these institutions have been established, are we to forget HOW they came to be? And are those citizens who decide America is a land of opportunity, yet remain silent regarding racial discrimination on every level... are these new citizens absolved of all responsibility? We didn't create slavery, we should not be billed. Indeed... but you support the same structure that was built under slavery and nothing needs to change?

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 4:23p

Some countries have impassioned citizens who feel all Americans are part of a great Evil. America is the "Great Satan" in some parts of the world. Taking an American hostage is a standard political protest in certain places. And if any of the citizens of America travel abroad to.. let's say an EMBASSY... are we to convince these people of our innocence because we only gained citizenship as of 1985? We are not a part of the wrongs committed prior to our allegiance? Just because you did not personally put someone in chains, personally seize their children and sell them like cattle, personally commit acts of random violence and bomb little girls in churches, or tell your corporate executives to refuse to hire from a certain group... personal allegiance to the States that do.. makes us all responsible to correct things.

matt morin
5.16.02 @ 4:28p

Does that mean if I move to Germany and become a citizen, I should be financially responsible for any future bill that makes reparations to the Jews?

No, I do not think you inherit the burden of anything. That'd be like taking a new job and someone saying "Well, the last guy who had this job broke the copy machine and we were deducting $100 a month from his paycheck. So now we're going to deduct $100 a month from yours, too."

I think, as Americans all we have is the responsibility to make sure social inequities don't happen again.

matt morin
5.16.02 @ 4:30p

With that logic, we should lock up all Afghanistani people living here because they're "responsible" for 9/11.


tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 4:30p

Not many replies 'cause some of us actually have work to do. :) That happens from time to time.

I think what surprises me about this bill is - again - a sweeping generalization that all black Americans (sorry - my American friends from Belize, Haiti and Morrocco don't like being called African Americans) are disenfranchised because of slavery. Ogletree is a Harvard Law professor. Conyers is a senator and a lawyer (I think?). Obviously, these men, these proponents of progress, have achieved great things. How on earth did they accomplish them?

Thomas, as I mentioned in my email weeks ago, I read Lawrence Otis Graham's book "Our Kind of People." Twice. Do you denounce what he displayed in that book? Is that the "Black Intellectual" group of which you speak?

The tongue-in-cheek mentions of atrocities in my own life were, nevertheless, true. Abuse. Alcoholism. Discrimination. Poverty. All have a place in my own history. The past of my culture(s)is quite well-documented. Consquently, some might see me, as disenfranchised.

I do not.

michelle von euw
5.16.02 @ 4:34p

I'm not sure how fair it is to judge the past based on today's moral, political and ethical standards. I hope that in 100 years, American citizens will look back with the same disdain and anger we have for slave owners toward our current climate which discrimates based on sexual preference.

But I sure as hell hope my great grandchildren's tax dollars aren't spent making up for it.

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 4:37p

We speak of correcting injustices in this country. As a Big Sister mentor, I watch daily how, with meager economic means, gang violence interrupting classrooms, and a generalized opinion that, at 13, dating a 16 year old boy with a car is at least a way to see the other part of town, my little Sister struggles to make the right choices, to dream, to learn from past mistakes of her drug addict mother and her married at 15 grandmother.

Almost daily, I watch as she tries to understand the world we live in, and asks me questions. Me. Someone who is not rich, or widely successful - just someone who believes you can indeed make a great society, one person at a time.

These pillars of the national community who believe throwing money at the "problem" of the disenfranchised should sit down with my little Sister. Then maybe they would realize the answer to healing the atrocities of the past lies in the eyes of our children - one at a time.

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 4:41p

It doesn't take money - it takes time. Time to care, and demonstrate proper choices. Time to actually become engaged in the process. Time to understand what is real in the world now. The salve is not written as "Money heals all wounds...."

But in our society today, that's what some would like to believe. The programs this bill would fund? The rebuilding of the black communities? There are people trying to do that now -

- just not enough of them. I would respect the efforts of Conyers and Ogletree a lot more if they'd step out of their ivory towers, roll their sleeves up, and take a chance outside the court system. King walked among the people. He was certainly not a complete saint in character, but he was not afraid of the contact with real people. From that, he learned more than anyone could just standing at the podium.


thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 4:50p

Methods to redress a wrong may vary widely. Someone can sue in court, litigate. Someone may appeal to their government for legislation. Someone may seek personal retaliatory retribution against an individual, or a collective of individuals. Someone may be cathartically healed by an admission with an apology from a transgressor. Some may pray for the healing of the soul of their oppressor. Some may find spiritual enlightenment and move beyond their temporal concerns. Some may turn inward and become an oppressive subset all of their own, even against their own. Someone may shift their allegiance and side with their former exploiter for mutual benefit. Some may not give a damn. All answers will suffice for someone ...somewhere. If an individual solution is extrapolated as a remedy for an entire group, I would see a problem. But as a group, a remedy can be sought that may not include all individuals. For those exceptions, the ones left out may petition for redress as they see fit. That does not create a dilemma.

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 4:52p

All Rosa Parks had to do was sit still.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 5:06p

Lawrence Otis Graham is a Harvard trained attorney who took a job as a busboy at an all white Connecticut Country Club in order to expose discrimination. Conyers and Ogletree now have lofty positions. Martin Luther King Jr. graduated from Morehouse and eventually served as the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Martin became a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and he was a spokesperson true, but change occurred as a result of a mass movement. Students were sitting in before Dr. King became world reknown. And resistance to discrimination was successful only when the shoulders of many against walls of power began to push. Individual men of higher learning or influence may speak on the debate, but change will occur when a mass movement is mobilized. While we need individual mentorship and effort, social change and correcting injustices that have existed long before we were born will take a movement. As each of us has opinions that may be for or against reparations, for some or against all... as detached commentors.. we affect little. I would like to invite all who believe that reparations deserve a debate, to attend The Millions For Reparations Rally that will be held in Washington, D. C. on August 17, 2002

tracey kelley
5.16.02 @ 5:21p

And a rock musician from an Irish band is trying to do the same thing for indebted and impovrished nations, isn't he?

Thomas, you still didn't answer my question about Graham or his book...:) I know what he did as a busboy -don't sound-bite the issue.;>

See, we say the same thing, but for a different reason. Money will not solve the problem. True, dedicated engagement by all people will solve the problem(s) of the world. If not the world, then at the very least, our nation.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 5:29p

I don't think the logic of locking up all Afghanistanis is a sensible idea. My point was... how one can feel they may be innocent of their government's actions yet the victims may disagree and associate you.

Responsibility from a legal standpoint can be determined by the laws of that country and international law. The burden of finanical costs of any government is shared by all citizens deemed to be in the group who pays. We all pay taxes despite our objections to what our taxes get spent for. No one said you have to like it.

And Tracey, I mentioned your tongue-in-cheek reference to your Cherokee ancestry... Did you know that you have to APPLY to be approved as a member of a Native American tribe? They actually have identification cards issued. But the proof is a difficult process, and it can afford you a portion of compensations from the United States.

The sweeping generalization is not insisting all who are Black people IN this country are African American descendants from slaves. The term is simply referring to those who are.

Fighting injustice is not always a matter of individual acts. Sometimes we have injustice meted out through INSTITUTIONS and perpetuated through the same institutions, therefore change requires institutional change. That is what legislation is all about. As citizens, perhaps it would be a matter we feel strongly about .. but our ELECTED officials have the duty to vote based on their constituencies.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 5:59p

I disagree with the proponents of individual responsibility who eschew the petitions for civil remedies made by others...prime example is Justice Clarence Thomas. He reached his position through such "handouts" as affirmative action educational opportunity, now he dissaproves of the remedy?!

Lawrence Graham criticizes the color distinctions among Black people , yet these are remnants from the slave experience. Many have found ways to go farther than the average American, despite racial barriers, so the possibility does exist that one may be upwardly mobile and live like any citizen would. But that freedom cannot be enjoyed by the masses and that is where institutional barriers are evident.

Does Oprah get reparations like someone homeless from generations of poverty? Sure we have singular exceptions like wealthy individuals, but that cannot happen for everyone. Change... is for the many.

russ carr
5.16.02 @ 6:03p

If we say that a rich black person doesn't deserve reparations, even though she can trace a lineage to a slave family, that's not exactly fair. As soon as you start making "singular exceptions," you remove the equity...the fairness...the justice.

Everyone's equal but some are more equal than others? Now where'd I hear that...?

adam kraemer
5.16.02 @ 6:04p

I find it hard to believe that giving money to a single group will end predjudice against that group.

It isn't asking for a handout to propose reparations. So what does it mean that you can die for your country but cannot have the fruits of your sacrifces? What does that mean? That we don't live in Utopia?

I don't seem to recal the current laws of our country excluding African Americans. And social injustice has little to nothing to do with the amount of money any particular ethnic group has.

matt morin
5.16.02 @ 6:09p

I don't think the logic of locking up all Afghanistanis is a sensible idea. My point was...how one can feel they may be innocent of their government's actions yet the victims may disagree and associate you.

But if I'm not guilty of the crime (especially one that occured when I wasn't a US citizen - hell, I wasn't even born yet), then those people can unfairly associate me to it all they want. I'm still not guilty.

thomas harris
5.16.02 @ 6:48p

Guilt, political allegiance, financial beneficiaries with no sense of responsibility,.. different concepts.

If you golf at a country club that excludes a race, are you guilty? If you have allegiance to that idea, yes. If it began before you were even born, yes .. if you agree with it, no if you oppose it. Do you have a responsibility? If you continue to golf at that establishment, yes. Guilt and responsibility differ.

If a government establishes itself with occupation, enslavement, economic inequality, institutional oppression (legally, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was necessary to protect the excluded rights African Americans to vote in OUR lifetime), .. at what point does a citizen have no culpability? Only when that citizen participates in supporting legislation or movements for social change designed to correct these injustices are they absolved. Simply saying I didnt enslave anyone is not supporting change. As long as most Americans feel that way, it will be status quo.

matt morin
5.16.02 @ 6:52p

But there's a big difference between supporting future change and being responsible for someone else's past transgressions.

I will happily do the former. I resent being forced to do the latter.

adam kraemer
5.17.02 @ 10:12a

Yeah. I'm not in favor of slavery. I'm not in favor of racism. But whether I personally apologize for those in the past who were, it doesn't at all change what happened in the past, and it's especially silly since those people were not my ancestors.

tracey kelley
5.20.02 @ 8:10a

While reading about people who volunteer, I came across a great Gandhi quote: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

That really sums it up for me.

tracey kelley
5.30.02 @ 3:13p

More information on slavery reparations worth noting by wonderful columnist William Raspberry:



adam kraemer
5.30.02 @ 4:14p

Interesting thought, and I'm all for it, but I'm curious how by allowing people to redirect where their tax money is going, that doesn't take money away from the places it's going to now.

tracey kelley
5.30.02 @ 6:02p

And then there is the whole funds management issue. And would this be considered a charible organization, or a federal program fund? It's not like it's not worthy of discussion, but it just reeks of potential corruption.

jael mchenry
5.31.02 @ 9:15a

I, too, have problems with the idea of voluntarily diverting tax money into a reparations fund being seen as... not diverting tax money.

It does, however, remove the idea of punishing guilt on the part of the offenders' children's children's children. The money would come from anybody who wants to give it, which would certainly include a lot of people whose families weren't around when slavery went on in this country.

tracey kelley
5.31.02 @ 12:24p

That's exactly why I thought the idea was interesting.

Talk about reparations - how about those "conditions" Libya has chained to the reparations for the Lockerbee disaster? My oh my, tell me that isn't a hotbed made in Hell.


matt morin
3.29.04 @ 10:16p

[serious bump]

Saw this today and remembered this Tracey column.

sarah ficke
3.29.04 @ 11:03p

Always an interesting topic,this. I can't wait to see what happens.

tracey kelley
3.30.04 @ 10:54a

Oh boy, isn't that the truth. The snake is continuing to uncoil.

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