Reparations: Social Injustices against African Americans
By Amber Hemphill
For many years there have been ongoing debates on reparations for African Americans. Following the debate, questions like "Should African reparations be given by 2012? Or given at all," are being asked. This social issue affects everyone—not only on a national level but on a global level as well. The law that governs this state is set to protect and at the same time provide equal opportunities for every one of its citizens. If the law in any way is bent or twisted, then where is the guarantee of human rights or rights of any kind to be obeyed? Reparations is a term that refers to payments of debt owed; the act of repairing a wrong doing or injury; atonement for wrong doings; amends; something made whole again; fixed damages; a repaired nation; compensation in money, land or materials for damages. The fight for “Social Justice” lies in the argument on the following grounds: morals, legal actions, economic status, cultural discrimination, religion, and political factors.
Different types of reparations have been proposed and fought for by individuals and organizations who share similar social and political points of view. Black activist and leaders believed that in order to get back what was taken from them they must fight for it. Especially people in the eighteenth century like John Brown a profound white man with morals; Frederick Douglass an ex slave, black leader, publisher of the North Star, and Henry Garnet, a nationalist. There was also Marcus Garvey. Compared to people in the twenty-first century who also believe in fighting for the rights of African Americans and the right to be treated equal, people like Sojourner Truth organized a petition campaign in hopes of gaining free public land for former slaves. And others like Camille House, John Conyers, Bernie Grant, Reverend Amos Brown and Bishop Henry Mc Neal Turner.
Dating as early as the 1800’s there have been many attempts made to compensate African Americans. Over the years many activists, scholars and political leaders like Bernie Grant fought on behalf of this issue. Organizations have also been established to reach out to Africans in every part of the world on a national and social level. In 1854 a Black Emigrations Convention was held and the people demanded national indemnity for “[t]he redress of our grievances; the unparalleled wrongs; undisguised impositions, and unmitigated oppression which we have suffered at the hands of the American people” (1). Organizations such as the OAU (Organization of African Unity), ADP ( American Democracy Project of Indiana State University, and the ARM (African Reparation Movement) had been established in favor of reparations for African Americans. This proves that there have always been black advocates and active leaders who were involved with and concerned about the future of black people. Reparations should be given to African Americans for many reasons some reasons are because the deprivation of natural human rights, abuse endured during slavery, unpaid labor.
Some of the other reasons are because it’s the right thing to do. Other groups such as Jews, Germans, Native Americans and Latin Americans received not only compensation but an apology for their maltreatment. Not only were African Americans forced to migrate, but they were subjected to forced labor. They were deprived of their culture and wealth by segregation—and racism. Many young African children ages fifteen to twenty years old were robbed of their childhood and land. Their innocence was taken by experiences of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. An example of this would be a woodcut of a black father being sold away from his family (134). Another example is the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. In addition, the exploitation of black women by white slave holders who "maintained that black women were naturally promiscuous and seduced white men” (136).
Also poor living conditions that caused future long term problems. According to statistics, Blacks live five to seven years less than Whites. Infant mortality rate within the first year is 17.7 per 1,000 births compared to Whites' at 2.2; the cancer mortality rate has increased since 1995 to 50%; diabetes is 33% more common among Blacks. For strokes, Blacks' death rate is 1.93% higher than Whites'. Even though Whites needed us to do things like cook, clean, pick cotton, and build trenches in the war, they took away our dignity, killed, tortured, tore families apart, kidnapped free men and enslaved them. What they took from African Americans no dollar amount can amount to and the lives lost can never be returned. However, it is only right for the U.S to repay in whatever way possible to try and reconcile past mistakes and heinous crimes ever done by man. It is also only right to take aversive legal actions to assure reparations are distributed to those who deserve it.
To the descendants of the slaves who worked and didn’t get paid, law suits should be filed to show the seriousness of length we the people are willing to go when it comes to the equality of our people. We have rights and it is our job to uphold the law and challenge anyone on the basis of fundamental rights. Also, it is our job to point out flaws in the justice system, so we cannot let the issue of reparations go without being addressed. We must oversee and uphold: The Fourteenth Amendment- Citizenship Rights Sections: 1, 2; the Fifteenth Amendment-Race No Bar to Vote sections: 1, 2.
Reparations should include vouchers for private school; college acceptance with all expenses paid given to those who qualify; more grants and programs that focus primarily on the growth of Black people (an example of this is black studies); health care provisions and land/ property grants. Because the economy is in a recession, other reparations should be given out until the state can afford to pay off everyone it owes.
When it comes to religion, a good portion of slaves were Christians. They believed in God and had faith in him even though all hope seemed to be gone. Even in the churches, they had to face discrimination and deal with White priest basically protesting white supremacy. “They also began schools and various voluntary associations. They spoke against slavery, racial oppression, and what was considered weak amongst African Americans”(159). Similar to churches today which have programs like Sunday school, bible study, and youth choir, they are designed to encourage and develop the spiritual growth of this generation. Culturally, the history of many slaves was erased. In these times political figures keep their beliefs to themselves so as not offend anyone, but even they know right from wrong.
Political factors are very important when deciding on issues such as reparations for African Americans. Politics ties into everything, especially social issues that determine human rights. Congressmen must decide whether African Americans should receive reparations and if so when? Historically, looking back on past cases like the Dred Scott decision makes you wonder if factors like racism play a key role in deciding the future for blacks. Even though slavery is documented as abolished, is it really? The justice system has many flaws and is known for wrongfully accusing people, throwing them in jail without a decent lawyer or decent jails: hand cuffs, cells, uniforms and work for little or nothing resembles slavery. Because there are so many wrong doings and no one to answer for them should be all the more reason to pay reparations. If reparations are not paid in some form or another, it would be only logical to assume the reason for it is racism and hatred for Blacks to this day. In order for this country to be on one accord, justice must be served, proven that this state truly does believe all men are created equal as it is stated in the Declaration of Independence.
African Americans have fought for the equality and justice since slavery began. They were taken against their will to work and provide dangerous jobs that were physically tiring. These types of life style lead to things like to the destruction of Africans but the enrichment of white supremacy and the uprising of African Americans. Not only were the conditions of slavery harsh, but so was the discrimination slaves faced on a day to day basis. For many who died and didn’t get the chance to see the changes America has made, things are slowing going to improve. We now have a black man as our president (Barrack Obama) which fifty to sixty years ago, people would would have said was impossible. Despite the trials and tribulations Africans are set out to get what is owed to them: nothing more and nothing less. Now how much money that is or what they’re expecting is something different. It would be unjust for the U.S to deny African Americans of what is rightfully theirs.
Lack of Accountability in