Thursday, July 31, 2008

Settle the Damages

House apologizes for slavery and Jim Crow. The House on Tuesday issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow segregation her laws.

I have more thoughts on this issue. The apology is a fine first step. I'm waiting for the action.

The United States has apologized for its wrongdoing to other ethnic groups. The native Hawaiians received reparations of sorts. The First Nation People (I am a descendant) receive reparations of sort with protected land and gaming rights. The Japanese were compensated for their internment during WWII. What about the African-Americans?

Is there a price to make up for over 400 years of enslavement? What price for the people raped (even my family's heritage as Creole people from New Orleans included le plasage - another form of imprisonment). What price for the educated women like my beautiful grandmother who were denied the right to teach in St. Louis? Or my beautiful and highly intelligent mother who was told in 1940 that it wasn't "expeditious" for her to enroll in St. Louis University despite her matriculation through high school at age 16. And what about my father's family who have to migrate from their home in Forest City, Arkansas to Benton Harbor, Michigan to pick cherries? What about the millions and millions who have been robbed of their family land? What price?

I do believe there is some value to be placed on the sufferings of our ancestors that built this country. The very buildings that this resolution was passed was built by slaves. Black people have contributed to this country, died for this country, and still experience the hate of this country. What price?

Some of my modern-day white friends may lament that their family never had slaves or that their ethnic white heritage included discrimination at the hands of the English Europeans. I'm sure some of the white women will blow the feminist trumpet about all they've suffered at the hands of white men by being denied equal access to corporate America. I don't deny this, however, there is nothing that can compare to the systemic, ritualistic, institutionalized torture, rape, and pillaging of an entire group of people throughout the country's history.

I applaud the effort of this truly genuine human being in bringing the issue to the House of Representatives. I would shake Congressman Steven Cohen's hand and thank him for his efforts to bring H.S. Resolution 194 to fruition. It is appropriate in 2008 that an apology be issued, but, what about the damages? In civil law suits, the cases are always settled with an eye on how to compensate the victims for the losses they suffered as a result of wrong. Black people have been the victims or horrendous crimes and the case is before the civil court. We are waiting on the check to settle the damages.

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Thoughtful dialogue is appreciated.