The Story on Reparations I’m Not Qualified to Write

Every once in a while I read a story that reminds me of how little I know about subjects I think I’m pretty well versed in. I’m not mad about it, it just reminds me how much more there is for me to learn. The story I wish I could write about reparations requires a comprehensive knowledge of American and world history, knowing how events are interrelated and the intent and impact of laws, court decisions, and even Acts of Congress. Although I have an Economics degree from Fisk University, I am unable to document both the benefits to the nation from 250 years of free labor which literally helped build this nation and the negative impact on slaves AND their descendants as a result of not only slavery but all the laws that replicated slavery as best they could.

Ta-Nehisi Coates set the standard in his June 2014 article in the Atlantic; “The Case For Reparations,” a story he worked on for almost two years. When I read that story five years ago. I recognized I couldn’t have written it in twenty years, I wasn’t qualified.

“ Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

Felice Leon from, “The Root,” produced a video, “We Built This” documenting the financial impact of slavery and how the very infrastructure of the nation and the economic advantage America had vs. other world powers. I previously knew some of what Felice put together so well, but was missing too much information. I couldn’t have put together this video, I wasn’t qualified.

“According to Cornell history professor Edward Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told,cotton-producing slaves were just 6 percent of the population but created almost half of the year’s economic activity.”

The House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights, and civil liberties held hearings on Reparations including testimony from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Danny Glover. Republicans were predictably against the concept of Reparations. Black writer Coleman Hughes said, “If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today.” Former NFL player Burgess Owens added, “What strangers did to other strangers 200 years ago has nothing to do with us because that has nothing to do with our DNA.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has demonstrated his willingness to block any manner of legislation from reaching the Senate floor said this, “It would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate,” and claims “none of us currently living are responsible for what happened 150 years ago.” He makes the case which seems to represent the view of most white Americans. “Why penalize me for something I had nothing to do with?” The primary argument against Reparations is that individuals today shouldn’t bear the brunt of what happened long ago and that enough time has passed since (choose one); the end of the Civil War, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the end of Jim Crow, the end of school segregation… that equality should have been achieved. Although I’m admittedly not qualified to make the case on the overall economic impact of slavery; beneficial to the country and detrimental to the slaves and their offspring. I’m on solid ground when addressing the political response in opposition to Reparations.

The case for Reparations has never been to exact retribution from generic white people for the harm done to slaves in time past. The case is best made against the United States Government, which has been part of every effort to suppress black people since they came to this country until the present day. The much-beloved Founding Fathers provided for slavery in the Constitution. In addition to the widely-known counting of slaves as “three-fifths” of a person. The lesser-known Article 1 Section 9 forbade the elimination of importing slaves for over a quarter of a century, until 1808. The Constitution gave black people none of those “unalienable rights” slave-owner Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence. They did outlaw the International Slave Trade in 1809 but only to protect and keep up the prices its Domestic bred slaves. They literally supported the slave breeding farms which were the feeder system to Southern plantations.

The government assuaged any guilt it might have felt about slavery by doing what politicians do, they compromised. As the nation expanded they decided in the Missouri Compromise that prohibited slavery in some new states while allowing it in others. It banned slave trading in Washington DC while still allowing slavery. Four years later that was undone by the Kansas-Nebraska Act that let territories decide for themselves. After several states seceded from the Union over the issue of slavery, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This wasn’t from any sense of altruism, he only freed the slaves in those states that had seceded, leaving it in place in multiple states and territories without issue. Lincoln himself at various times was in favor of sending slaves back to Africa or having them colonize Central America. In one of his famed debates with Stephen Douglas, he said:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”

The two primary reasons for the Emancipation were to disrupt the economy of the South which was stronger than that of the North and to keep France and Britain from siding with the South in the Civil War.

With the war almost over, in the first recognition that some sort of Reparations were due, General Sherman issued Special Field Order #15 authorizing that 400,000 acres be set aside for the freed slaves, each family receiving 40 acres. Later it was decided the army could loan families a mule which is where 40 Acres and a Mule comes from. After Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson rescinded the order, returning the land in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, to the original slaveholders. Many slaves had already been transported to the lands and started working in the fields. The government issued Reparations, then took them back.

For those that feel that equality was achieved in 1865 at the end of the Civil war, I submit it was only the presence of Federal Troops throughout the South which helped maintain the peace. Black men at least gained the right to vote and during what was called Reconstruction began a period which arguably saw the freedmen on a trajectory toward equality. They started businesses, owned land, elected local officials and Representatives of Congress. Mississippi elected someone to a statewide office. The year after the war ended also saw the birth of the Ku Klux Klan but the troops partially kept them at bay. After a contested Presidential election in 1876, in yet another compromise, the Republicans were awarded the Presidential victory (Rutherford B Hayes) while the South got what they wanted most, removal of the Federal Troops.

That action, The Compromise of 1877, effectively ended Reconstruction, empowering both Democrats and the Klan to take back all the gains made in the previous decade, primarily through violence. The US Government through its actions and inactions led to the reversion to an underclass, buttressed by the Jim Crow laws that defined the next ninety years.

One might believe that oppression and suppression was a purely Southern thing and the North was exempt. The primary means most American families attained wealth was housing. Banking laws, approved by Congress, provided for red-lining and segregated housing. Sanctioned discrimination kept black people in many cases from obtaining loans and otherwise dictated they live in inferior neighborhoods, generating less wealth. While numerous Civil and Voting Rights Acts have been passed by Congress throughout the years. Every single one without exception has been diluted by the Supreme Court which has always found something Unconstitutional to legislate in favor of black people or minorities. Let’s remember that the Constitution gave no value to black people originally so why would any interpretation of it later find differently?

The case for Reparations isn’t one where your white co-worker, or neighbor, or struggling white family that Mitch McConnell is appealing to should sacrifice part of their earnings for a black person that was never a slave. The case must focus on the US Government and its systemic policies that didn’t end with slavery, or Jim Crow, the government that deprived black people of benefits from the G.I. Bill. Discrimination didn’t end under the Federal Housing Act of 1968 or the most recent of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s. As it always has, discrimination simply took another form, not always based on race, sometimes on class like the 2017 Tax Cut.

I wish I were qualified to make the case I really want to. Backed by statistics, laws, and dates. While writing this piece I heard a talking head dismissing Reparations as morally sound but a political loser. That’s the problem with politics that simply doing right is always measured against the potential reaction of those who don’t want to see right done. Maybe, if the government hadn’t reneged on 40 Acres and a Mule, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Kanye West Hears From Ta-Nehisi Coates… Who Hears From Ben Shapiro And The National Review

Ben Shapiro apparently feels comfortable enough in his privilege to tell Ta-Nehisi Coates what he is and isn’t entitled to say to Kanye West regarding his recent tweets in support of Donald Trump and “free-thinking.” Shapiro penned a piece called, “Coates To Kanye: Stop Thinking Outside the Box or I’ll Call You White.” In it he thoroughly misrepresents the tone of Coates’s earlier piece, “I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye,” published in “The Atlantic” on May 7, 2018.

In case you don’t know who Ben Shapiro is, he’s a conservative political writer and commentator, former editor-at-large of Breitbart News, founder of “The Daily Wire,” and host of, “The Ben Shapiro Show” podcast. Shapiro is no particular fan of Trump, claiming his position against him in the election made him the victim of vicious racist and anti-Semitic attacks, coinciding with his departure from Breitbart where he co-existed with the alt-right and anti-Semites until his bitter departure from Breitbart when they failed to stand up for a female Breitbart reporter that was assaulted by Corey Lewandowski of the Trump campaign.

If you had not read Ta-Nehisi Coates piece for yourself, and only listened to the description provided by Shapiro. You’d think Coates rained down holy hell on Kanye for daring to step off the Democratic Plantation and for having and expressing free thought. You’d have no idea of the admiration and appreciation Coates expressed for Kanye, the praise and the love. Yes, there was gentle admonition in a couple of areas; West is unfamiliar with the policies of the man who he gives unwavering support. He knows nothing of the Muslim ban and as little of Jeff Sessions reinstatement of mass incarceration. His support of Trump is far less free-thinking than literally thoughtless. The type of “free-thinking” one can indulge in when one is removed from the concerns of those who might mindlessly follow the self-named, “Yeezus,” whose hits on the album of the same name included; “New Slaves,” “I Am a God,” “Black Skinhead,” and “Bound 2.” The bottom line is you can’t be Yeezus and give zero thoughts about the flock.

Kanye say’s what he wants is the freedom of free-thinking. What he seems to most desire is freedom from responsibility. In the film, “New Jack City,” Nino (Wesley Snipes) lived by the motto that he “was his brother’s keeper,” until he adopted the philosophy; “the world is mine.” Which motto does Kanye live by? But back to Ben Shapiro.

While Ben might have had his moment in the harsh spotlight where his one-time friends spewed hatred and animosity towards him. He is not now, nor has he ever been black. In his writings, he has acknowledged that once upon a time black people received harsh and unfair treatment but denies the existence of any remaining systemic racism. He can proclaim that support of the Democrat Party (and the denouncement of Trump) reflects a desire to remain on a plantation because he need never consider the alternative. If Trump and his party represented freedom, they wouldn’t work nearly as hard to suppress black votes. Shapiro, himself in his youth, has yet to have to face the reality that even he has not escaped the trappings of a world where Trump, Sessions, and his one-time friend and mentor Bannon set policy.

What seems to irk Shapiro, is that Coates had the love for Kanye, not unlike T.I., Childish Gambino, John Legend and other of West’s friends who have tugged on his shirttails, to remind him of the cost to others for his freedoms. Coates discussed the history and sacrifices of others that allowed Kanye, in combination with his brilliance and his work effort, to have the luxury to think so freely. Childish Gambino said, “Kanye’s not political like that,” meaning his thoughts had little to do with policy but an idea. Kanye’s endorsement brings with it the implication that it’s based on doing the work to understand who he supports, he owes us more than, “dragon energy.”

Not far behind Ben Shapiro, David French of the National Review, another conservative organ, piled on Coates saying, “Eloquent Hate is Still Hate.” When white people start telling black people what they can and can’t say to other black people… beware. If you have any doubts who they are speaking to, read the comments after the articles.

Matt7 hours ago

And you Coates are a leech on the back of that freedom. If you despise whiteness so much then why do you continue to be around it? Back to Africa was an option offered to your ancestors and it’s still available to you.

sferrin5 hours ago

Coates to Kayne: “Get back on the plantation boy!”

Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, And Other Haters In The Barrel

Like the crabs in a barrel that allowed none to escape by clawing at each other and bringing each other down. There is a group of intellectuals, real and otherwise whose existence seems based on attacks on others, some they once purported to admire.

Some of them like Cornel West, have legitimately carved out a place in history for themselves, contributing greatly to the understanding we have on matters of systemic racism and African-American culture. In 1992, Dr. West wrote what some refer to as the bible in terms of discussions on race, “Race Matters.” Later, in 1996, when he still played well with others, he co-authored a book with fellow Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, “The Future of Race.”

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Twenty years ago, West was in his prime. Some feel he may have coasted since then, living off his once deserved reputation and the title Gates once gave him, “the pre-eminent African American intellectual of our generation.” It’s apparently a title West is not willing to concede to any other, without attempting to drag them down and deny their accomplishments. There is only room for one on his pedestal.

Cornel West, along with sidekick Tavis Smiley. Spent eight years on their Attack Barack Obama Tour. Spurred on by the failure of Obama to obtain Inauguration tickets for West’s mother and brother (West himself got a ticket). West accused his “brother” Barack of betrayal, saying he had, “no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, sense of decency, just to say thank you.” He asked, “Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to?”

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Tavis Smiley, at that time a PBS radio host, said Obama was the first President during his professional career not to invite him to the White House. He didn’t appear on Smiley’s radio or television programs and felt dismissed and disrespected. Smiley and West went on a 15-city tour based on the perceived failings of Barack Obama. They were regulars on Fox News where their hatred found a welcome host. Smiley refused to accept Michelle Obama as a guest at a symposium he sponsored because the President declined while campaigning for re-election elsewhere. Smiley has problems of his own now, having lost his PBS job after multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Smiley has made the rounds of TV shows to proclaim his innocence, that is a subject for another time.

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I do not make the case that there are no legitimate criticisms of the Presidency of Barack Obama. There are many things I would have had him do differently, yet I can simultaneously recognize his many accomplishments. We never realized how many until Donald Trump made it his mission to try taking them away. What I fault is that these two men literally made their living for a period of years based on the criticism and deconstruction of another black man. They attempted to tarnish his legacy and blame him for not eradicating the nation’s ills, while the stood by sniping.

Unfortunately, West and Smiley are not alone. There are a group of haters out there who seem to have met no living black persons worthy of their respect. They’re good with Malcolm, Martin sometimes and recognize a few others whom they credit for having contributed to the cause. They are the sole arbiters of who has put in sufficient amounts of the kind of work they find admirable before they died of course which no longer made them competition.

Since President Obama completed his two terms, West perhaps became tired of writing articles about Barack’s tarnished legacy and moved on to attacking Ta-Nehisi Coates whose books, essays and articles have gained him recognition as one of America’s premier thinkers on matters of race. It is a title West may have thought was stepping on the one he was given over twenty years ago. West was facing degrees of backlash for his Obama persecution and was now losing his place in academia. Ta-Nehisi Coates once looked up to West who influenced many of his own ideas about race. Rather than engage in a Nicki Minaj/Remy Ma like beef in public. Coates shut down his Twitter account with over a million followers, writing, “Peace, Y’all, I’m out.” We all lose a little when the supposed best of us try to bring down the rest to support their own egos or bank accounts.

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Let us not forget we’re all in this barrel together. More akin to fish in a barrel as Trump, Sessions, et al., are eradicating our rights, sometimes literally shooting at us and they attack those who would give it a name. If you are supporting bloggers, authors, speakers and others whose body of work is a compilation of diss tracks. Please consider giving your support elsewhere. Peace, Y’all, I’m out!


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