All Articles Tagged "reparations"

Brazil Has The World’s Largest Slave Reparations Program, But It Needs Enforcement

July 14th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
Share to Twitter Email This

The Atlantic slave trade had long-lasting repercussions and today many of the affected people and countries are seeking some form of reparations from their former enslavers.

Caribbean nations not long ago agreed to seek slavery reparations from Europe, for example. The Caribbean Community (Caricom) gave the okay to a 10-point plan for reparations and declared that European governments in addition to being responsible for conducting slavery and genocide, also imposed 100 years of racial apartheid and suffering on freed slaves and the survivors of genocide, reports Reuters.

Caricom seeks a full formal apology for slavery, repatriation to Africa, a development plan for the native Caribbean people as well as funding for cultural institutions. It also points out the need to address chronic diseases and psychological rehabilitation for trauma inflicted by slavery, among other items.

Caricom has planned a conference in London later this summer for European and Caribbean nations to discuss the issues. If the complaint is rejected by the European nations, Caricom will take their individual cases to the International Court of Justice.

In America meanwhile the debate about reparations surges on.  Many think the United States should compensate its African-American citizens for the injustices suffered by their slave ancestors. And a group of noted lawyers and scholars have created a group called the Reparations Coordinating Committee to focus on the institutions it believes have profited from slavery, reports ABC News. As far as the government approving reparations, that seems a long way off as Congress has consistently rejected bills calling for merely a study on the issue.

But over in Brazil they have made some strides in the issue of reparations. In fact, its Quilombo Movement may actually be the world’s largest slavery reparations program. Luiz Pinto lobbies for the land rights of people who live in communities that were founded by runaway slaves. These communities are known as “quilombos” and according to Brazilian law, residents of quilombos have a constitutional right to land settled by their ancestors. The law is one thing, the reality is another. Pinto is working to make sure the quilombos get their rights.

Brazil, which imported more slaves from Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries than any other country in the Americas, was the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw slavery in 1889. “Today, more people of African descent live in Brazil than in any country in the world besides Nigeria. People of color make up 51 percent of Brazil’s population, according to the most recent census,” reports The Huffington Post.

For the most part, black Brazilians are poorer and live in the worst housing and attend the most underfunded schools. They also are disproportionately in jail. According to its 2011 census, 51 percent of Brazilians identify as either black or mixed-race. Among the poorest 10 percent of the population, 72 percent are black and a whopping 70 percent of homicide victims are black.

Now, more than 1 million black Brazilians want the government to honor their constitutional right to land. Because of their sheer numbers, Brazil’s quilombos may become the broadest slave reparations program ever.

In 1986, after Brazil’s military dictatorship ended, then-Congresswoman Benedita da Silva was one of 11 Afro-Brazilians among the 594 members of Congress elected to draft the country’s new founding document. Under da Silva’s law, quilombo members own their land outright.

The problem was that the term “quilombo” was not legally defined for years and in 2003. President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva issued a presidential decree that categorized quilombo descendants as an ethnicity so literally any black community could become certified as a quilombo if a majority of its residents wanted to do so.

The number of  recognized quilombos went from 29 to more than 2,400, comprising more than 1 million people. And there are hundreds more communities who have also applied to be recognized.

Despite all these efforts, the Brazilian government has yet to deliver all the land titles promised by the constitution. So far, only 217 quilombos have gotten land titles.

Photo by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Oops! Texas Board Mistakenly Passes Resolution On Reparations

June 19th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
Share to Twitter Email This
Shutterstock

Shutterstock

No doubt this is one for the history books… and just in time for Juneteenth! Without realizing it, politicians in a North Texas county approved a resolution this week in support of reparations to African-Americans for slavery.

A Juneteenth resolution was passed unanimously by Dallas County commissioners on Tuesday but they thought it was a routine proclamation commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The commissioners didn’t read close enough. The resolution also included a list of injustices suffered by black Americans, and also stated in the last paragraph that blacks’ suffering should be “satisfied with monetary and substantial reparations.”

Commissioners later confessed they hadn’t read the resolution before voting, according to The Dallas Morning News. “About an hour after their vote, commissioners complained they hadn’t received copies of the resolution beforehand,” says The Huffington Post.

But they should have heard what the resolution said as it was read aloud by John Wiley Price, who introduced the measure and is the commission’s only black member.  Price noted that American Indians and Japanese-Americans are among those who have received compensation for past mistreatment.

“We are the only people who haven’t been compensated,” Price said.

While this may seem like a real move toward reparations,  the vote is non-binding, so there will be no reparations made. Still some of the leaders have noted the significance of the move.

“I am leaving my vote the way it is,” County Judge Clay Jenkins said. “This is the body’s expression of support for unity towards people, a recognition of Juneteenth.”

He later added, “I want to encourage staff to make sure that all of the commissioners have the opportunity to actually read what they are voting on before that vote in the future.”

Separately but related, if you haven’t read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ massive article in The Atlantic called “The Case for Reparations,” get on that.

It’s #TimeToAct! United Nations Demands Reparations For Victims Of Sexual Violence

June 14th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: Twitter

Enough is enough!

Following the 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, the gang-rape and murder of “low-caste” Indian teens, and a myriad of similar cases around the globe, the United Nations is taking action against perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict-ridden countries. Reparations, UN Women says, will be their first step in ensuring justice for sexually-abused victims.

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London on Wednesday, was highly-publicized with the hashtag #TimeToAct. The hashtag, proving to be more effective than just a Twitter trend, indeed impelled the world to act —  UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka unveiled the “Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence” guidance note.

Maleficent actress Angelina Jolie, who co-hosted the summit, applauded this UN-pushed initiative, which finally addresses the sexual violence plaguing women in war-torn countries.

“It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians… done to torture and humiliate people and often to very young children,” Jolie said. “We need to see real commitment and go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in to help the worst-affected countries.”

The written plan of action offers advice on how to compensate victims of sexual violence — not just once-off cash payments, but access to land and inheritance rights for “long-term, in-depth solutions.” The new UN policy also seeks to grant affected women with fistula surgery and “income-generating skills” to help them launch a better future.

“Once the perpetrator is behind bars, a woman’s life is not healed at that point. The tragedy continues for her. The stigma she lives with, and her economic wellbeing, are significantly compromised … she needs psycho-social support and material support to get her life back. Women need collateral, access to finance,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said, according to EurActiv.com.

This document was the result of two years’ work with 25 experts who field-tested the guidance note in countries such as Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We will pursue [you] with every means at our disposal. There will be no hiding place and no safe haven,” UN special rep Zainab Bangura says to perpetrators. “Sooner or later, we will get you… This is not mission impossible.”

The Case For Reparations: Should Black People Pay Taxes?

May 27th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
Share to Twitter Email This

 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

If you haven’t by now, please read Ta-neshi Coates’ phenomenon piece entitled The Case for Reparations, on why it is a scam that black people in America pay taxes.

In fact, go read the article first and then come back and read this because seriously without the context, this entire conversation will likely confuse you. And I am not saying this to be snarky. But rather acknowledging the depth of information and valuable perspective, which is covered within this 17 page cover story.

I know this sort of dedication might be too much for the TL, DR clan (okay that was a bit of snark), so I will try to capture the gist as best I can: basically Coates wants us to consider Mr. Clyde Ross of Chicago, whose lifetime of enduring systemic racism and discrimination policies, specifically as it relates to housing, has left him and his family as permanent second class citizens, unable to build wealth. And worse, many of these discrimination practices were co-signed by the government including redlining, and the denial of low-interest home loans through the government sponsored G.I. Bill (which ultimately led blacks to seek out homeownership through predatory lenders), the state-sanctioned air-bombing of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the denial of blacks into the newly formed suburbs, etc…

He also goes to great strides to dispel myths that the failures of our communities in America are due to African Americans not trying hard enough, being lazy and criminal or lacking moral integrity. In one of the more compelling passages, he writes:

From the White House on down, the myth holds that fatherhood is the great antidote to all that ails black people. But Billy Brooks Jr. had a father. Trayvon Martin had a father. Jordan Davis had a father. Adhering to middle-class norms has never shielded black people from plunder. Adhering to middle-class norms is what made Ethel Weatherspoon a lucrative target for rapacious speculators. Contract sellers did not target the very poor. They targeted black people who had worked hard enough to save a down payment and dreamed of the emblem of American citizenship—homeownership. It was not a tangle of pathology that put a target on Clyde Ross’s back. It was not a culture of poverty that singled out Mattie Lewis for “the thrill of the chase and the kill.” Some black people always will be twice as good. But they generally find white predation to be thrice as fast.”

I should preface my thoughts by noting that this is not the definite case for reparations; just a really good one. As someone, who has been championing the cause of reparations for a while (And by that I mean I made a White House.gov petition on the issue not too long ago, but nobody gave a damn so…), I feel like this is our only grievance politically. Not high crime or low graduation rates. Not single mothers or deadbeat dads. Not littering in Harlem, rolled eyes or sagging pants. Not unemployment, underemployment and not have the right job skill training. All of those issues, as far as I see it, are only symptoms to the largely issue of black subjugation in this country – if they are issues at all. Sometimes what we perceive as “issues” are just diversions to derail the conversation we need to be having: and that is how America plans on really addressing past and current injustices against black people.

However it would appear that even among us black folks, there is an inability to even consider the possibilities And I mostly get it: “what’s the point? It’s not going to happen anyway. Plus what does reparations look like and how will it be paid anyway? And to whom are we to pay considering there is no way to know who is descendant from slavery?” These are just some of questions, which have come up lots in the last few days since the article was published. Although I believe these questions to be defeatist, I do believe they are legitimate. And while there are more studied and brilliant minds around, I would like to take a stab at answering them.

What should reparations looks like?

Good question. Here is one of my ideas: Black people should not have to pay taxes. No income taxes. No sales taxes. No wage taxes. No business privilege taxes. No property taxes. No gas or utility taxes. No Exise taxes. No telecommunication taxes. Not a single iota of money, which is collected by the United States government should come from the pockets of black people. It is just unconscionable at this point to ask people, who are descendants of slaves to foot the bill for any maintenance of this country. And the way I see it, the lack of tax burden will provide incentive and space enough for black folks to acquire and more importantly maintain wealth in this country. It certainly would serve as an incentive for global corporations to seek out partnerships with black owned businesses, who too would benefit from not having to be held down by a whole bunch of business-related taxes

This is an important point considering many black folks, with newly acquired wealth find themselves indebted to the government for failure to pay taxes including Lauryn Hill and Wesley Snipes, who both went to prison for failure to pay back taxes. So did Ron Isley too. And then there was Lil Kim, Nas, Kelis, Chris Tucker, Toni Braxton, Doug E. Fresh, Lil’ Jon…the list is honestly way too long to just be a coincidence. And according to at least one study, targeting blacks in particular is actually quite common.

 

So are you saying that white people (and other non-blacks) should take care of black people?

No. I’m saying the tax burden of this country should no longer be placed on the backs of black people. Everything cost more in poor, particularly for black neighborhoods. Some call it a poverty tax, but it often results in mostly poor African Americans and Latinos paying in upwards of thousands of dollars extra in fees because they live in economically disenfranchised communities.

 

But for how long?

Well how long was slavery? Around 250 years. At least that long plus time incurred through Jim Crow and American apartheid to present installations of subjugation and inequality. Monied white folks certainly were able to benefit from all that free labor we gave them. So around 350 years should be long enough for black folks to play catchup.

 

But how do we determine, who should receive reparation by way of the tax exclusion?

Ah yes, the ole’ but everyone is mixed up argument. It would be a legitimate concern if not for the fact that throughout history, local and state governments, sanctioned and often co-signed by the federal government, put into place certain structures, which already help us determine such colorful issues. And I’m talking about the “purity” laws, which were mostly enacted to deter the miscegenation of the white race. Not only were interracial marriages and families banned, but places like Louisiana, as well as other places down South, often established freedoms based upon how much “black blood” you had.

Such was the case of Alexina (Jane) Morrison, who in 1850s sued her slaveholder on three separate occasions for freedom, claiming that her blonde hair and blue eyes meant that she “been born free and of white parentage.” She eventually won, due to a forged bill of sale provided by the owner. However if not for the fraudulent piece of paper, it was likely that Morrison, who for all intents and purposes was a white woman, would have to spend the remainder of her life as a black slave.

The point is that this system of color coding people has longed been used to help the government determine who could be kept for enslavement and who could be disenfranchised legally. And I don’t see how we can’t use the same system as a way to properly award restitution.

 

But Charing won’t that result in white folks today being hurt financially and economically based upon past injustices, which they had nothing to do with?

Yup but that’s the point. A transfer of power so that it is no longer held by a select group of people based upon race. And to put it crudely – some folks are truly going to have to ante up. And while some non-black folks might see their wealth decline, black owned enterprises and industries in particular will now have opportunities to rise in their places. And without justice, there is no equality. The real question to ask is how fair is it that America should continue to reap the benefits of inequality?

 

No seriously, how is that fair though? Not every white person held slaves.

True. However it is safe to say that the majority of white folks benefitted from slave labor and American apartheid. And it doesn’t matter when they arrived in this country and by what aim; they too benefitted from the spoils of slavery. After all great grandfather Johann from Poland likely couldn’t have bootstrapped his family up through society, based upon his own merits, if not for the total exclusion and denial of access from those same merit-based opportunities. From colleges and universities, to country clubs to neighborhoods and parks and trails and museums, etc and so on, Your ancestors got access to places where mine could only enter by holding a broom and a mop.

 

But where will the government get the money?

Where did the government get the money for two damn wars at the same time? And black folks are around 12 percent of the population, so I imagine that it would cost lots less than what we are led to believe. Besides, the government should consider suing or even taxing corporations, who have ties to the trans-atlantic slave trade.

 

But Charing, the Republicans are never going to take it serious though. I mean it’s not really realistic to think of that.

Again another truism, but the obstructionists in Congress also has to be the dumbest reason not to pursue our just cause. I mean, if that is the case, why do I bother to go vote considering the Republicans are just going to block and hinder progress. Just like every cause we have fault, it will be up to us to make reparations a political issue. We must not only speak on it but be infatuated in our claims. Likewise we have to hold our politicians and civil and human organizations accountable for their lack of leadership in getting reparations into the national conversation.If gay rights and immigration are national platforms, why can’t the cause for black reparations be treated with the same dignity and respect?

 

So that is my plan for helping to right the wrongs of the past. And just like Coates, this is not the definite idea of what reparations looks like; just one (and a damn good one I think). I’m curious as to what are some ideas folks have about what black reparations should look like. Remember at this moment, there is no right or wrong answer; just as long as we are talking and thinking actively on the issue.

 

14 Caribbean Countries File Lawsuit Against European Countries For Slavery Reparations

October 4th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
Share to Twitter Email This
Princess Margaret Beach, Bequia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Shutterstock

Princess Margaret Beach, Bequia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Shutterstock

Fourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade, reports Al Jazeera America.

The Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves remarked at the United Nations General Assembly that the European nations must pay for their past deeds.

“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity – a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean – ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said. “The European nations must partner in a focused, especial way with us to execute this repairing.”

The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, a regional organization that focuses mostly on issues such as economic integration, has filed the lawsuit. It will be brought to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands. No word yet when the court proceedings will begin. The lawsuit focuses on Britain for its role in slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean, France for slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a Caricom member and former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America.

The Caribbean countries have retained the British law firm of Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government as they fought for the liberation of their country during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s.

The first step of the lawsuit will be to seek a negotiated settlement with the governments of France, Britain and the Netherlands along the lines of the British agreement in June to issue a statement of regret and award compensation of about $21.5 million to the surviving Kenyans, according to Martyn Day, a lawyer from the firm.

Caribbean officials have not specified a monetary figure for the lawsuits, but at the time of emancipation in 1834, Britain paid 20 million pounds – the equivalent of 200 billion pounds today – to British planters in the Caribbean.

Slavery reparations have long been debated in America also.

When the Civil War ended, about 400,000 acres of land along the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts was taken from former slave owners and set aside for freed slaves, who would each be given a 40-acre plot of land to farm and make a living. “It was the first attempt in the U.S. at reparations, and was reversed by President Andrew Johnson after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865,” reports Al Jazeera America.

And in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama caused an uproar when said he did not support reparations for the descendants of slaves. This put him at odds with the NAACP, The Urban League, the SCLC and about two dozen members of Congress who sponsored legislation to create a commission on slavery.

The House, however, did issue an apology for slavery in July 2008, and the Senate did the same in 2009. Neither mentioned reparations.

Mayoral Candidates Go after Emanuel on Taxes, Slavery reparations

February 10th, 2011 - By TheEditor
Share to Twitter Email This

(Chicago Tribune) — Rahm Emanuel found himself criticized on issues ranging from taxes to reparations for slavery Wednesday night during the first forum featuring all six candidates for Chicago mayor.  The former White House chief of staff mostly ignored the barbs, especially those from Gery Chico, former Chicago school board president. He contended that Emanuel would burden taxpayers with a service tax Emanuel has proposed as part of a plan that would include a quarter-point cut in the city sales tax.  Two other candidates, William “Dock” Walls and Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, slammed Emanuel for his positions on tax increment financing districts and reparations. Emanuel agreed with most candidates in supporting reparations for descendants of slavery, but said that all citizens need to keep in mind that the city has a significant budget deficit to tackle.  Watkins, a community activist and one of three African-American candidates, said she was offended by Emanuel’s comments because the nation was built “on the backs” of slaves. It’s unclear exactly what a mayor could do on the issue. Previous efforts at City Hall have been mostly symbolic. The question came up at a debate hosted by the Chicago Defender newspaper at the DuSable Museumof African American History. The candidates also discussed changes to TIF districts, with Walls hammering Emanuel’s plan to use the funds to hire more cops.

Read More…

Ending the Slavery Blame-Game

April 24th, 2010 - By TheEditor
Share to Twitter Email This

(NYTimes.com) — THANKS to an unlikely confluence of history and genetics — the fact that he is African-American and president — Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to reshape the debate over one of the most contentious issues of America’s racial legacy: reparations, the idea that the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ unpaid labor and bondage.

Read More…

No thanks