We seem to be talking a lot about Race lately, but we aren't often talking about Resolutions to our Racial Issues. It appears, finally, that electing one African-American to the highest office in the land does not exactly paper over a wound that is 250 years deep. Even before the founding of this nation, we have wrestled with the original American SIN of Racialized Generational Chattel Slavery because we have consistently failed to realize that it was implemented not out of malice, nor spite, nor fear - but out of rampant unbridled greed. We have not yet realized that Racism is merely a means to an End, that it is the excuse and the justification used to implement financial and social policies that have robbed generations of their wealth, robbed them of their opportunities, robbed them of their health, robbed them of their very lives - and that we have to date - never seriously attempted to restore, rectify, or even openly admit and quantify those thefts.
It seems, when we consider it, too large a task to grasp and get our heads around - so we don't bother. All of those who were held in slavery are now dead. All of those who enslaved them are now dead. How are we to reconcile this? How are we to balance the scales?
Perhaps we can not.
But perhaps we can start to find the answer by correcting the fallacy of the initial question. The genocidal robbery that was committed against Americans of African Descent was not limited only to the slave trade, but also to more than a century of Jim Crow, Forced Segregation and random Lynchings (Terrorism), of Black land owners having their land taken, turned into sharecroppers and "employees" on what had been their own land, facing vicious terroristic cruelty if they dared raise an objecting voice, or dared attempt a correcting vote, only to have many millions flee to the North and the West and then come under another set of crushing financial theft of their job opportunities, of their living choices, of their very livelihoods, cursed and corralled into under funded, under supported neighborhoods by red-lining schemes, their hopes for a better life for themselves and their children smoldering in the ashy ruin of even more greed, more malice, more indifference. Their children, and their children's children now ghettoized, turned into the gristle for the prison mill, hopeless, helpless, recruited into violent tribal factions that rail fruitlessly against the indifference, destined for short violent lives that end abruptly with the sharp crack of a .22, .45, 9mm or AK from a rival faction, a terrified overworked police officer or perhaps someone who simply doesn't like the volume of their music, doesn't appreciate the way they bang loudly on their door in seek of assistance after a traffic accident, who doesn't think they stop and drop fast enough when shouted at to "freeze" by just about anyone with even a slightly lighter complexion - who just might find common cause and common perspective with Donald Sterling, or Cliven Bundy, or Ted Nugent ("Black people are creating their own oppression"), or Rush Limbaugh ("Barack the Magic Negro"), or Newt Gingrich ("Food Stamp President") or somewhat ousted Tea Party Express Leader Mark Williams ("Obama is a Kenyan Welfare Thug-in-Chief"), Sargent Crawley (who arrested Skip Gates for "breaking into" his own house then falsified the arrest report to cover his tracks), the now-former NC Police Commissioner ("That Fucking Nigger [Obama]") or for that matter George Zimmerman.
All of whom proclaim loudly to not be Racists, just as did George Wallace even after putting his own body in front of the School House Door to keep black students from attending. It doesn't matter what a man thinks of himself, or how he justifies his actions, it matters what he does. Again, Racism is merely a symptom of another more voracious disease, a rationalization and excuse for an ongoing generational crime spree. When we focus far too much on the symptom, the crimes go on, and on, unabated, unrelenting, unresolved.
Yes, some have escaped, scraped and crawled away from this dark fate - as has our current President and others among the various professional fields where the racial barriers first began to fall, the Military, Professional Sports, Entertainment. But not all those walls have yet fallen, nor has all the rubble left behind from the walls of Jim Crow been entirely picked up - they've remain creating a steeple chase of obstacles for our children, one where they can just as easily trip themselves up and fall flat on their face, as some others might help them take that fall for their own profit.
Yesterday the Atlantic took a look at the Case for Reparations, and it's caused quite a stir. I will discuss that article over the flip.
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the articles initial section looks at the life of 91 year old Clyde Ross. Born and raised in Mississippi his story is one that spans much of the experience of Americans of African descent long after the official end of chattel slavery, and the failure of the so-called "Reconstruction".
In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy. The majority of the people in the state were perpetually robbed of the vote—a hijacking engineered through the trickery of the poll tax and the muscle of the lynch mob. Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state. “You and I know what’s the best way to keep the nigger from voting,” blustered Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi senator and a proud Klansman. “You do it the night before the election.”It was into this system that Clyde was born, eventually his family had the land they owned taken away due the artificial manufacture of more debt via price manipulation for the crops they harvested. They were made share-croppers, and still were continued cheated and robbed. Clyde was drafted into the Military, and after being initially stationed in California he found he that in that State he did not have to bow in deference and fear to any random white person any longer. He could walk openly into a coffee shop, or lunch counter, or hotel and easily expect to be served. He was shipped out to Guam during the War, then returned home to Clarksdale MS, only to find...
The state’s regime partnered robbery of the franchise with robbery of the purse. Many of Mississippi’s black farmers lived in debt peonage, under the sway of cotton kings who were at once their landlords, their employers, and their primary merchants. Tools and necessities were advanced against the return on the crop, which was determined by the employer. When farmers were deemed to be in debt—and they often were—the negative balance was then carried over to the next season. A man or woman who protested this arrangement did so at the risk of grave injury or death. Refusing to work meant arrest under vagrancy laws and forced labor under the state’s penal system.
tyranny had followed him home. This was 1947, eight years before Mississippi lynched Emmett Till and tossed his broken body into the Tallahatchie River. The Great Migration, a mass exodus of 6 million African Americans that spanned most of the 20th century, was now in its second wave. The black pilgrims did not journey north simply seeking better wages and work, or bright lights and big adventures. They were fleeing the acquisitive warlords of the South. They were seeking the protection of the law.Joining the migration, Clyde moved to Chicago. Found a job, found a wife, and started to build a life for himself. In 1961 he bought a home in the North Lawndale area - but even here the tyranny still followed. He faced more of the Kleptocracy.
Three months after Clyde Ross moved into his house, the boiler blew out. This would normally be a homeowner’s responsibility, but in fact, Ross was not really a homeowner. His payments were made to the seller, not the bank. And Ross had not signed a normal mortgage. He’d bought “on contract”: a predatory agreement that combined all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of renting—while offering the benefits of neither. Ross had bought his house for $27,500. The seller, not the previous homeowner but a new kind of middleman, had bought it for only $12,000 six months before selling it to Ross. In a contract sale, the seller kept the deed until the contract was paid in full—and, unlike with a normal mortgage, Ross would acquire no equity in the meantime. If he missed a single payment, he would immediately forfeit his $1,000 down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself.Amazing how little times changes isn't it? This seems to me, to be an near carbon-copy replica of what just happened to millions of Americans in the 2008 Housing Crisis that crashed the global economy. Particularly since this scheme as played out both in 1960's Chicago, and 2008 America also critically impacted African-Americans, robbing them of their primary access to Wealth, their home.
The men who peddled contracts in North Lawndale would sell homes at inflated prices and then evict families who could not pay—taking their down payment and their monthly installments as profit. Then they’d bring in another black family, rinse, and repeat. “He loads them up with payments they can’t meet,” an office secretary told The Chicago Daily News of her boss, the speculator Lou Fushanis, in 1963. “Then he takes the property away from them. He’s sold some of the buildings three or four times.”
From the New York Times via the ACLU.
"Pricing discrimination — illegally charging minority customers more for loans and other services than similarly qualified whites are charged — is a longstanding problem. It grew to outrageous proportions during the bubble years. Studies by consumer advocates found that large numbers of minority borrowers who were eligible for affordable, traditional loans were routinely steered toward ruinously priced subprime loans that they would never be able to repay."Just as shady lending and employment practices stole the farm of Clyde's parents from them, so have millions of American homes - particularly those of minorities - again been Stolen by the Banks and Wall Street. The theft took place right in front of our eyes, right under out noses. And yet, how likely - even now - are we to see those who were systematically robbed be made whole again after just a few years, let alone 50 or 100?
Rampant lending discrimination during the housing bubble exposed black and Latino communities to the harshest consequences of the economic crisis. The link between race, subprime lending, and devastating rates of foreclosure has been crystal clear for some time. Researches at Princeton have found, for example, that "the greater the degree of Hispanic and especially black segregation a metropolitan area exhibits, the higher the number and rate of foreclosures it experiences." That same study found that these disparities are due in large part to the disproportionate chance that minority borrowers will receive subprime loans.
Yet again, it's just too big a problem to fully address. Again, it's just too costly for those who implemented the theft, to be forced to returned their ill-gotten gains and RESTORE AND REPAIR those whom they duped into an unfair deal and robbed!
Why even bother? Why not just give up now? Well, despite all the odds against him - Clyde didn't give up. Neither did many others in Chicago, who gathered together to form the Contract Buyers League. They sued, and more they put in some shoe leather in their campaign, knocking on the doors of their lenders neighbors and informing them of the details of their practices. They brought their case before a jury in 1976 only to be defeated, not by the facts of the case - but by an mood of increasing racial impatience as expressed by the jury foreman who hope their verdict would "end the mess Earl Warren made with Brown v. Board of Education and all that nonsense."
Eventually North Lawndale became a full-on Ghetto, and that Ghetto has become a shooting gallery of violence fed by the deficit of Hope fueled by decades of theft and avarice, an outcome not destined by "inevitability" from the influx of black and brown persons but one borne of design by those who continue to ravenously seek to extract every ounce potential profit they can get away with while returning as little investment and infrastructure to that community, it's roads, it's schools, it's hopes and it's dreams as possible.
And this blueprint of wealth extraction and divestment has been repeated in towns and cities all over the nation, from Los Angeles, to New York, to Houston, to Detroit. And still yet when, oh when, can we expect any of it to be repaired? When will we even attempt to make these communities whole again? Will we ever?
Many of us became aware of Shirley Sherrod after she was slandered as an anti-White racist by Andrew Breitbart, but Mrs. Sherrod is also well-known for being a participant in the Pigford Farm Lending Discrimination Suit. When the U.S. Congress sought to implement Pigford II, which was intended to include some who had been unfairly disqualified by the original suit we literally had people such as Steve ("Cantaloup Calves") King loudly proclaim "America Does not do Reparations".
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who's been one of the most vocal opponents of the Pigford settlement for black farmers, has taken to cable news and the floor of the House to speak against the settlement. King's argument is that the bulk of the Pigford II claims are fraudulent because there are fewer black farmers than claimants -- a flimsy argument when you consider that many African-Americans lost their farms over the past few decades due, in part, to USDA discrimination that denied them loans -- which is the point of the settlement program.And America just doesn't do that. Except that they did in this case. And it did for the Japanese Interned During WWII back in 1988. We did it in 1974 for the survivors of the Tuskegee Experiment. If we could posthumously pardon the Scotsboro Boys, if Germany and France could pay Reparations for the Holocaust, we can do more than just wave our hands in helplessness at situations like the redlining in Chicago, and in LA and other cities. We can look further at policies like Stop-N-Frisk and do more than just end them, we can start - if we're willing - to beging to repair them. Here I find the most striking quote for Coate's article, which echoes Malcolm X.
On Monday night, he suggested that President Obama, as a senator, may have been prejudiced to help the black 8he's going to run for president, and what does he do?" King said. "He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim."
He then said the claims -- which stem from discrimination against black farmers in the 1980s and 1990s -- are "slavery reparations."
Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. We believe white dominance to be a fact of the inert past, a delinquent debt that can be made to disappear if only we don’t look.No, of course the bleeding doesn't stop right away - that takes time. It takes time for the wound to heal, if indeed it ever does. And even when it does, it leaves scar tissue - there is still physical, emotional, and financial damage that has been done. Walking away and pretending not only that this violence did not happen, and does not matter, but that it doesn't continue on today in both small and large ways is worse than doing nothing. It's tacit approval that nothing that was done, was even wrong in anyway.
How could this be considered "right"?
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.Reparations, Restoration and Reconciliation is not just about Slavery, it's not just about Jim Crow, it's not just about Racial Terrorism of that era, not just Racial Segregation, Profiling, Red-Lining, Predatory Lending, Educational Divestment, Discriminatory Sentencing, Voter Suppression, Stop-N-Frisk, Concealed Carry or Stand Your Ground Laws - it's about the Future.
Isn't it about repair and rebuilding the faith of both black and white people in the nation that has produced this wound?
The message the young black boy receives from his country, Billy Brooks says, is “ ‘You ain’t shit. You not no good. The only thing you are worth is working for us. You will never own anything. You not going to get an education. We are sending your ass to the penitentiary.’ They’re telling you no matter how hard you struggle, no matter what you put down, you ain’t shit. ‘We’re going to take what you got. You will never own anything, nigger.’ ”Because that's the message that's being heard, loud and clear on the streets of North Lawndale. It's what people from there feel because it reflects the reality around them, it's not like it's something that needed to be taught to them by President Obama or Eric Holder as one recent Hannity guest claimed.
“Eric Holder’s attitude is crippling for blacks,” said guest Gavin McInnes, Vice magazine co-founder and so-called “hipster racist.”And some may say the same thing about Coate's article. But it's clear he's not imagining any of this, it's all well documented and clearly real. The NAACP and GLAAD don't have to invent vilians - there really are some genuine vilians out there. However, simply admitting that reality doesn't mean that one can't fight back against them, and occasionally beat them from the time to time - which actually IS the message coming from Attorney General Holder and President Obama, because pretending they don't exist is exactly what they would want you do to in order to continue their predatory scams.
“Because when you portray the world as ‘They’re out to get you’ and ‘You can’t make it, there’s no use even trying,’” McInnes continued, “that’s much more harmful than any of this mythical racism they’re talking about.”
Earlier this month, he published a column in the Libertarian-leaning Taki’s Magazine called “The Myth of Prejudice,” in which he in which he assailed the idea that there is any racism, sexism or homophobia left in the West. People who disagree, he said, are just whiners who “need villains.”
“The problem with these three -isms not existing, however,” he wrote, “is that there is a massive industry devoted to them. Organizations like the NAACP and GLAAD and the entire feminist movement need villains” and so they “create monsters where there are none.”
Not every White Guy is out to scam Black people. Not every Black person is out to "take back vengeance" on every White person. But neither is it true that none of them will ever do their worst either. The challenge we all have is not to bow down to despair and negativity, but to understand the danger, understand the challenges, and still have the courage to take that necessary risk, take that LEAP OF FAITH that our worst fear isn't TRUE on a case by case basis, while knowing full well that it still could be true anyway. Every White guy that thinks he's "justified" in assuming any ole' Black Kid in a Hoodie is "dangerous" (ala Mark Cuban's comments in the wake of Donald Sterling), is exactly proving the worst fears of that very same black kid about how he can expect to be treated - (ie. unfairly) - and vice versa. If White guys are tired of being presumed to be Racists, imagine how tired of presumptions those Black kids are?
If we're going to change the attitude of negativity, we need to make some real changes in the way America admits, handles and fixes the things it has done wrong, and continues to do wrong. It's not just a "pay-off" it's a correction.
What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.Truth and Reconciliation. We've never tried it. We've never done it. If we don't address and redressed the first great American Sin, we will continue it, we will repeat it. The wound will never heal.