Civil War massacre launched reparations debate – The Washington Post

Civil War massacre launched reparations debate

A group of “contrabands,” between 1861-1865. A stereograph showing a group of seven African American men, former slaves, dressed in old Union uniforms standing in front of a wagon and shack. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)By Gillian Brockell September 11, 2014On a rainy night in early 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton arrived in Savannah, Ga. — which the Union had captured weeks earlier — with a question: What should become of newly free black people? It was a question that many in power had been asking for some time. What was different this time was to whom the question was posed: the newly free black people themselves.It was a visit born of a massacre about a month before, and it launched a debate that continues to this day.The issue of where these people should go had dogged Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, too, as he marched through Georgia in the fall of 1864. Sherman had expected to pick up able-bodied black men to assist his troops (but not to join them; Sherman would not allow that). An unintended consequence of his scorched-earth policy was that all manner of freed slaves — including women, children and the elderly — abandoned the plantations and fell in behind him.More than 10,000 black refugees followed Sherman’s March to the Sea. That many mouths to feed would have proved challenging for a well-stocked force, but for an army that survived by foraging, it was nearly impossible. James Connolly, a 21-year-old major in the Illinois Volunteer Infantry (and future congressman), wrote that the refugee camps were so numerous that they often ringed the camps of the corps. The “contrabands,” as they were called, regularly wandered into Union camps to beg for food. And as Sherman’s force approached the sandy and less fertile Georgia coast, it became even more difficult to accommodate them.There was one corps, however, the refugees seemed to avoid: the 14th Corps, led by a brigadier general with a most unlikely name: Jefferson Davis. Davis — derisively called “General Reb” not only for having the same name as the Confederate president but also for his hatred of black people — had become notorious two years earlier when he shot dead a superior officer, Maj. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson, during an argument at a hotel. He escaped punishment only because the military couldn’t afford to lose an experienced field commander.Davis blamed the 600 or so black refugees following his unit for slowing down his 14,000 men in the closing weeks of the march. But from other accounts, it seems that the problem was the relentless winter rain. “At one time an officer counted 24 wagons sunk to their beds in mud,” writes Jim Miles in “To the Sea: A History and Tour Guide of Sherman’s March.” “He witnessed several mules sink out of sight.”Speed was vital. Davis knew that Lt. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry was hot on their heels.For several days in early December, Davis drove the 14th Corps nearly nonstop, resting for two or three hours a night. One soldier reported falling asleep in the middle of “a fearfully hard march” and found himself in lock step upon jerking awake. Little more than coffee sustained them.On the night of Dec. 8, the corps arrived at the western bank of Ebenezer Creek. The bridge had been destroyed, in anticipation of their arrival, and the frigid waters had swollen to 10 feet deep and 165 feet wide. Scouts from Wheeler’s cavalry harassed Union troops in the rear.A pontoon bridge was in place by midnight, and Davis ordered the corps to cross the creek in silence and under the cover of darkness. According to Miles, a single Confederate cannon could have destroyed the bridge and stopped the entire corps, then only 18 miles from Savannah.But in this tenuous artery, Davis saw an opportunity.“On the pretence that there was likely to be fighting in front, the negroes were told not to go upon the pontoon-bridge until all the troops and wagons were over: a guard was detailed to enforce the order,” recalled Col. Charles Kerr of the 16th Illinois Cavalry in a speech 20 years after the incident. “As soon as we were over the creek, orders were given to the engineers to take up the pontoons and not let a negro cross. . . . I sat upon my horse then and witnessed a scene the like of which I pray my eyes may never see again.”Just before sunrise, the refugees cried out as their escape route was pulled away from them. Moments later, Wheeler’s scouts rode up from behind and opened fire. Hundreds of refugees rushed forward into the icy current. Several Union soldiers on the eastern bank tried to help, pushing logs out to the few refugees still swimming.Some of the refugees were crushed under the weight of the stampede. Most slipped under the water and drowned. Those who remained onshore were either shot or captured and re-enslaved.And when Wheeler’s men began shooting across the creek, the Union soldiers helping the black people were ordered to rej

Source: Civil War massacre launched reparations debate – The Washington Post

Baby Bonds: A Plan for Black/White Wealth Equality Conservatives Could Love?

Baby Bonds: A Plan for Black/White Wealth Equality Conservatives Could Love?

Darrick Hamilton calls for spreading the benefits of asset-ownership to all Americans.

 

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The Psalm of Howard Thurman

ABOUT ABOUT THE FILM

The Psalm of Howard Thurman is the first feature-length documentary film on the life and wisdom of one of the world’s greatest spiritual treasures, Howard Thurman (1899-1981).

The film introduces audiences to Thurman’s uplifting story, his transcendent  yet grounded presence, and his important voice for our times. The film aspires to be a psalm,a lyrical work of beauty and truth, and a creative utterance that moves, touches and inspires.

ABOUT HOWARD THURMAN

A JOURNEY OF HEART, MIND AND SOUL

Thurman attended high school in Jacksonville, Florida. He later completed studies at Morehouse College, Atlanta in 1923 and the Rochester Theological Seminary, New York in 1926. In 1929, after serving his first pastorship in Oberlin, Ohio, Thurman returned to Atlanta to serve as Professor of Religion and Philosophy and Director of Religious Life at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. Thurman felt that it was his immediate responsibility to inspire and encourage students in their individual quests for the truth.”

In 1935,  while a professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Thurman and his wife, Sue Bailey Thurman, led a pilgrimage of African Americans to Ceylon, Burma and India and met with Mahatma Gandhi. As a result of this trip, he formulated, a generation before Martin Luther King Jr., a non-violent approach to social change in America. This “love-ethic” informed one of Thurman’s best known works, Jesus and the Disinherited, a book which later influenced King and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

 At the close of the 1935 pilgrimage, looking down into Afghanistan at the Khyber Pass, Thurman experienced a vision of a church that would be open to “seekers of all colors and creeds.” He was compelled to see if “experiences of spiritual unity among peoples could be more compelling than the experiences which divide them.”

Hoard and Sue Bailey Thurman

India, 1935

Howard Thurman Birth Home, Daytona, Florida, USA

HOWARD THURMAN was born in Daytona, Florida in 1899. Early on, he developed a kinship with nature and a “hunger of the heart”–a curiosity into the meaning of life. He found refuge during times of loneliness and trepidation in an old oak tree in his back yard. It was while young Howard stood with his back placed firmly against the tree that he first felt the unity of all living things and engaged in what he would later call, “the religious experience.”

 As a young boy Thurman was raised by a strong and affirming grandmother. She was a former slave who had a profound influence on what would become an essential part of Thurman’s thought–that if theology is to have any validity, it must justly deal with one’s life situation and must affirm one’s worth as a child of God.

FILMMAKERS

MEET THE ARTISTS BEHIND THE FILM

“Arleigh Prelow is the right person to create a documentary about Dr. Thurman. She has the spiritual sensibility to understand his life and convey who he was in a truthful and meaningful way.”

 

– Sue Bailey Thurman (before her death in 1996)

ARLEIGH PRELOW, PRODUCER/ DIRECTOR

 Emmy winning composer Joel Goodman has scored over 100 films and television programs that have received 4 Oscar nominations, 15 Emmy awards and over 25 Emmy nominations.

JOEL GOODMAN

COMPOSER

BIO

BIO

GALLERY

INTERVIEWS WITH ARLEIGH PRELOW, PRODUCER/DIRECTOR

 THE SPIRIT AND WORK OF HOWARD THURMAN LIVES ON

PEDRO CESCA FALCI

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, HOWARD THURMAN CENTER BOSTON UNIVERSITY

THE HOWARD THURMAN CENTER FOR COMMON GROUND

BOSTON UNIVERSITY

KATHERINE KENNEDY

DIRECTOR, HOWARD THURMAN CENTER

BOSTON UNIVERSITY

 

Source: The Psalm of Howard Thurman

Activist Ruby Sales on Liberation and God’s Will

03-09 RubySales2

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I want to respond to a question that was posed: where we go from here when far too many Black people are in the theological and Christological grip of white right wing Christians. Chip Berlet, author and political, analyst calls this group the theocrats. He tells us, “Theocrats support a form of government where the actions of leaders are seen as sanctioned by God-where the leaders claim that they are carrying out God’s will.” This is a very dangerous claim that gives divine meaning and sanction to their actions no matter how racist, sexist, militaristic or homophobic. Moreover, this brand of Christofacism is designed to shut down critique by creating one legitimate Christian voice. Without a doubt for theocrats, the legitimate Christian voice is white, and more than likely a heterosexual male.

Berlet goes on to tell us that theocrats promote a brand of Christianity that proclaims, “People are basically sinful and must be restrained by harsh punitive laws. Social problems are caused by satanic conspiracies aided and abetted by liberals, homosexuals, feminists and secular humanists. These forces must be exposed and neutralized. “They see themselves in a holy war against the forces of evil and conspirators who are determined to destroy the divine destiny of the white American Empire. However, they do not see all white men as standard bearers for the Empire. Nor do they mean people of color when they use the term American Empire.
As we move forward in this reflection, it is critical that we make a distinction between Empire Christianity and Liberation Christianity. Empire Christianity beats in the veins and hearts of theocrats and their Reconstructionist allies. It is essential to realize that conservatism stands in direct opposition to the mission of Jesus which is a radical call to “turn the society upside down” and create a just society.

Liberation Christianity begins with the assertion that God is on the side of the oppressed rather than the side of the Empire. This is the good news of the radical Jew Jesus who challenged the Roman Empire. Jesus made clear the radical nature of his mission: (1) to bring sight to the blind, i.e. to bring a new consciousness that freed his community and others from the false consciousness of identifying with the goals of the Roman Empire; (2) to feed the hungry, i.e. a systemic redistribution of resources that is not charity, but systemic economic justice; and (3) to set the prisoners free, i.e., a recognition that the Empire uses law and order as tools of oppression and domination.

This message of liberation galvanized the Southern Freedom Movement in the United States, South African liberation movement, and liberation movements around the world. It is a dynamic message that changes the status quo and rearranges our relationship with God and others. It is a justice message of non violence. It is a message that reminds us that we are not entrapped by history. We have the collective power to free ourselves from the bonds of a tyrannical state. It reminds us that we have the power to make a new history and a new world. The view of our collective power challenges the notion that history begins and ends with the Empire.
For the Tea Party members and their allies God is the keeper of the status quo. Theirs is a cynical status quo view of God that allows them to be “on the wrong side of history and issues” without taking moral responsibility for their actions. Their God talk also obscures the nature of their radical wrongs by hiding behind liberation and freedom sounding language that they stole from the Southern Freedom Movement and other popular struggles for justice.

The Empire religion espoused by the Tea Party and their white Christian conservative allies and their misled colored allies is headed by a white supremacist patriarchal upper class God who stood on the side of enslavement and the genocide of native peoples throughout the globe, including North and South America. Their God issued a direct order to destroy the Iraqi people and their culture. In their eyes, Iraq is a pagan Babylonian culture that worships a false God. They root their religion in an over and against paradigm that tears down the world and relationships, gobble up resources and relationship. Although they claim to stand for law and order, they operate from a theology of chaos where God summons them that to tears down the world rather than build it up.
Like their forefathers, right wing and conservative militaristic, white supremacist, and homophobic Christians believe that God is on their side and gives them the theological authority to build an oppressive white supremacist patriarchal world. They misuse scripture to justify this, and they hide their intentions behind self-centered and pious God talk that under girds and propels exclusion and domination whether it is about the inferiority of women, black people or lesbians and gays.

Nor is their Jesus the Jesus who wept over the oppression and suffering of his people. Nor is there Jesus the Jesus who came from a colonized community where the Roman Empire used violent measures to stifle unrest and resistance. Or the Jesus who was executed by the Roman Empire for proclaiming that God and not the Empire owns the world or the people in it. This Jesus who acted in history for those people whom the Empire minimized moved generations of enslaved Black people to assert, in the face of an Empire that said they were property without any civil or spiritual rights, “I have a right to the tree of life.”
What Black Christian conservatives must understand is that the God of the Empire can never be our God. Nor can their Jesus be our Jesus. Nor can their Empire Theology or Christology be ours. The Empire Jesus is their emissary and the messenger of war and oppression. For them, Jesus is not as the Black old folk understood, a poor little shepherd boy, outcast and belonging to a people whose backs were “up against the wall.”
The next step is to unveil the lies of White Christian Conservatives so that Black folk understand that these lesbian and gay hating folk come out the same tradition of the people who broke and battered Emmett Till’s fourteen-year-old body and threw it into the Tallahatchie River. Their teachings birthed and fermented the hatred that poisoned the minds and spirits of the killers of Samuel Younge and Jonathan Daniels. Their God can never be our God. Nor can their theology or Christology be ours. They are inheritors of a Biblical tradition that believed that Black oppression was ordained by God because of a curse where God proclaims, “Canaan shall be the lowest of slaves to his brothers.”

We must unveil their hypocrisy and slight of theological hands by remembering that these right wing conservatives barred Martin Luther King, Jr. and other southern freedom workers from the doors of white churches even as they proclaimed their connection with God. They stand today in the doorways of Christian academies and universities like Bob Jones University. In these spaces Christian conservatives still see Blacks as inferior and the bearers of a theological taint that places us on the lowest rung of humanity.

Our job is to have these conversations that help Black Christian conservatives remember so that we as a community do not fall prey to demagoguery. For those of us who remember, we are called upon to stir within Black Christian conservatives the reminder we serve a God that brought us out of the tyranny of enslavement and southern apartheid. This same God enabled Black southern sharecroppers and their allies during the Southern Freedom Movement to bring down southern apartheid, one of the most powerful governments in history, without firing a shot.
There is a great spiritual and social danger of not remembering this God and what God has been with us and for us. When we forget we allow other people to reconstruct God in their own image and to make us believe that their God of hate and injustice is our God. When we bow down to their God, we bow down at the altar of the Empire and men who believe that they are God and the overseers of creation.
Finally, it is important to remember that our ancestors, these magnificent and ordinary people had a vision of God that broke with the enslavers’ view of God. Their view of God moved them to a theology of agape that enabled them to say in the midst of enslavement: “I love everybody, I love everybody, and you can’t make me hate you in my heart; you can’t make me hate you in my heart.”

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2014, The Meaning of July Fourth for the African American l Dr. Wilmer Leon

2014, The Meaning of July Fourth for the African American

 July 3, 2014

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III

LTCWashington-hi-fireworks_1“I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” Frederick Douglas – The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro – 1852

As America celebrates July Fourth, as the grills smoke, the salads are tossed, pools filled, and fireworks displayed take a moment to reflect.  Reflect upon how far we have come as a nation and yet how far we have to go.

I implore African Americans to read the entire text of Frederick Douglas’ famous speech, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.  Are we as a people able to enjoy the blessings, the justice, and the liberty that are celebrated on this day?

We have become all too familiar with the data.  According to Bread for the World, one in four African-Americans lives below the federal poverty line and more than a third (35.7 percent) of all African-American children live in poverty.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that for 2013, the underemployment rate for African-American workers was 13.4 percent compared 6.7 percent for white workers. That does not account for those who have lost faith in the process and dropped out of the system.  The Pew Research Center reports that the Median Net Worth of Households for Whites is $113,149 and for African Americans is $5,677.  The NAACP reports that African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million of the incarcerated population. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of Whites.

These are just a few examples of the frightening realities with which we are faced.

Douglas asked, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”  Yes, slavery ended in 1865 but that two hundred- fifty years of slavery was followed by ninety years of Jim Crow; sixty years of separate but equal and thirty-five years of racist housing policy.

Yes, legislative and judicial progress have been made.   The Civil Rights Act of 1866 provided for the equality of citizens of the United States in the enjoyment of “civil rights and immunities.”  That Act was undermined by the Tilden/Hayes compromise of 1877. We have recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and will soon celebrate the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.   One problem is that too many have confused the legislative successes with the ultimate victory, changing the racist core and premise upon which this country was founded as memorialized in the U.S. Constitution.

I take this moment to focus on the past because as Douglas said, “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.”

Douglas continued, “At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

As we enjoy the Fourth, eating ribs and hot dogs, we must ask ourselves, are we as a people able to enjoy the blessings, the justice, and the liberty that are celebrated on this day?  If not, what must we do to bring about substantive and permanent change?

Our plight, our success, and our future have always been in our hands.  Dr. King once said, “…nobody else can do this for us; ?no document can do this for us?; no lincolnian emancipation proclamation can do this for us;?no kennesonian or johnsonian civil rights bill can do this for us; ?if the negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-asserted manhood his own emancipation proclamation.”

Here is one, just one very simple yet challenging thing to consider.

The former President and CEO of the NAACP, Ben Jealous has just released a report entitled, “True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer.” According to the report, “The first and most important lesson is that massive voter registration can overcome massive voter suppression. Our analysis shows that registering just 30 percent of eligible unregistered black voters or other voters of color could shift the political calculus in a number of Black Belt states, helping blacks elect candidates who share their concerns or alternatively, forcing all candidates to pay attention to the community’s concerns. Registering 60 percent or 90 percent would change the political calculus in an even greater number of states.”

I opened with Douglas and I will close with Douglas, “…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope.”

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 110 program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice.

 Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.comwww.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com  © 2014 InfoWave Communications, LLC

– See more at: http://blackpoliticsontheweb.com/2014/07/03/2014-the-meaning-of-july-fourth-for-the-african-american/#sthash.b9W4uagX.dpuf

 

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Dr. Tommy J. Curry φ Concepts of Racism and Black Men φ PBS Conference October 26, 2013 Tommy Curry

 

 

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Dr. William “Sandy” Darity on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” φ from Demos

 

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Dr. William Darity, a professor at Duke University and Stanford University has studied reparations in black America for over twenty years is interviewed for this piece.  Dr. Darity is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice.

His new book along with co-author Kristen Mullen, From Here to Equality is  coming out this Fall and directly addresses how Coates’ prose can become a Congressional reality.

Reniqua Allen of Demos talked with him, as an advocate for reparations to discuss Ta-Nehisi Coates’, “The Case for Reparations“, an article published on May 21, 2014 in The Atlantic

 

 

An Expert Responds to Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reparations

No matter how any conversations we have about America’s past, there’s always some sort of obligatory outrage whenever America’s dark history is synthesized, criticized and laid out before mainstream audiences without any filters. For some of us, the stories of America’s past are nothing new, but for others that history 101 failed (or maybe black history 101?), articles like Ta-Nehisi’s must-read cover story The Case for Reparations is a total eye opener. Coates eloquent essay into America’s past makes the important connection of how the wealth, privilege and white supremacy of the past connect directly to wealth and privilege today. Coates doesn’t directly call for a monetary sum or specific governmental policy to enact reparations, but rather wants to start a national conversation on the topic and it seems, at the very least recognition of the ills that America has wrought far far beyond slavery.

Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans.

Won’t reparations divide us? Not any more than we are already divided. The wealth gap merely puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution. What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt.

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.

Coates piece, as he hoped, is sparking a debate about whether African Americans are entitled to reparations and how we can turn his idea into a reality. William Darity, a professor at Duke University has studied reparations in black America for over twenty years (If you’re looking for a primer on the subject check his previous work here). His new book along with co-author Kristen Mullen, From Here to Equality, coming out this fall directly addresses how Coates’ prose can become a Congressional reality. I spoke with the professor, who is an advocate for reparations a day after Coates’ article was published.

What was your initial reaction to Coates’ essay? 

I think it’s terrific that Ta-Nehisi was able to use his platform as a prominent journalist to bring the conversation back to this issue because we have ignored it or silenced it for so many years. The last time there was any significant attention drawn to this issue was the beginning of the 2000s, prior to 9-1-1 when there was this set of advertisements that were circulating in colleges attacking reparations. I think this is the first time we got a significant wave of attention that’s being drawn back to reparations. That’s crucial. The other thing I like about the article is its emphasis on the injustices that are associated with the period after slavery, from what I like to call “the deconstruction of Reconstruction” to the Jim Crow period to ongoing discrimination.

Why has the idea of reparations been so anathema to the American public? 

That’s a great question particularly since people are not particularly opposed to reparations for injustices that have been perpetrated against other folks aside from black Americans. We ultimately did have a reparations program for the Japanese Americans that were incarcerated during World War II. We could argue over whether or not the amounts of the compensation were adequate, but there was at least a piece of legislation that was passed and signed by the President at the time.

It is interesting that the question of compensation for African Americans tends to draw so much more heat than the compensation for other groups. We can even think about this on an international scale and other instances of injustices. The only answer that I can come up with is that it’s deeply routed in the American psyche about black inferiority and that in some sense blacks must be responsible for their own problems.

There have been a lot of positive responses to this piece. Does that mean we’re ready to have this conversation that Coates wants? 

We’re just recovering from the effects of deluding ourselves into thinking this society has become post-racial as the consequence of a black president. In some respects I think that that has contributed to maintaining a veil over the issues surrounding racial injustice and racial depravation.  Now we finally have the political security to talk about these issues, despite the fact that we have a black president, and so maybe partly there’s relatively propitious timing for the article. We’re coming to the end of the Obama presidency. Now is the time to look beyond the Obama era and try to address what needs to be done.

What are the next steps? 

I would hope that as Ta-Nehisi proposes in his article that Conyers or a Conyers type of bill for the formation of a congressional commission to explore the history of racial injustice in the United States [would be created]. I would think that would be the critical next step. The prelude to Japanese reparations was the formation of a commission that studied the history of the unjust incarceration that took place in World War II.

Who is the one to make this a legitimate conversation? Who is the onus on? Is it the civil rights community? Journalists? Congress? Public intellectuals? 

I’m not sure I can answer that. There’s part of me that says all of the above. I’m not sure that any particular group has a monopoly or any obligation to make this a legitimate topic of conversation. But, I think that it is important that people don’t dismiss this as fantasy or as something absurd.

Kirsten Mullen and I are doing a book From Here to Equality it’s about reparations case for black Americans. One of the things we hope to do in the book is to describe in a reasonably detailed way, ways in which you might execute a reparations program and this includes making some judgment about what the magnitude of payments should be, or the magnitude of the total bill, it need not all take the form of payments per say.

Without giving away all the solutions in your new book, can you tell me what you think the path is to reparations? 

I’ve said in my own work that I thought that the legislative path is the correct one. The judicial path hasn’t been particularly fruitful thus far. Even if the judicial path results in a system that supports reparations, a court system has no way of implementing it, so you have to go the legislative route ultimately. The positive thing about the legislative route is it would require a sufficient change in public sentiment, so that there would be adequate support for reparations and people who make the charge that reparations would injure race relations would be wrong, because you wouldn’t have reparations unless there was a sufficient amount of support for it from the white community.

Is there any evidence that there is support for this? 

The absence of support may be lack of information and lack of understanding of how race plays out in our society. Having a congressional commission, that may open up a clear conversation about these issues that might have a very positive effect on peoples attitudes in the rightness of doing this. I think to the extent that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article reawakens, let me call it “wise conversations,” then that’s the greatest accomplishment that this article could affect.

Do you think that support for reparations will be different in the black community than the American public at large? 

Yes on average, but I’m also aware that there’s a significant portion of the black community that rejects reparations, including the President. It’s about 70 percent of African Americans that are in favor, about 30 percent are opposed.

There seemed to be some tension in academic circles that Coates’ article didn’t address or uncover anything new. Why?

As academics we place a tremendous premium on who was first to say something and we expect others to indicate who said something earlier. So, I think there may be some frustration on the part of some folks who have done a lot of work on the subject that there’s no mention of their ideas or work in Coates’ article. To be frank, there’s no mention of my work, but I’m so pleased he’s rejuvenated this conversation that I don’t want to invest a lot of time in sour grapes.

Final thoughts? 

The article is heavily invested in the experience of Mr. Ross and the North Lawndale community of Chicago. I think that it’s vital to provide a story that people can join with rather than a series of statistics, but I think Mr. Ross’ experience is so deeply rooted in the experiences of thousands of black Americans that you would need to multiply his story many times over to get a full sense of the scope of the injustices.

Thanks to Demos for seeking expert review of this most controversial piece and critical issue.

Special thanks to Dr. Darity for his persistence and scholastic excellence on the issue.

You might be interested in these additional articles regarding Reparations

William A. (“Sandy”) Darity Jr. is Arts & Sciences Professor of Public Policy Studies and Economics, Chair of African and African American Studies and director of 087411_darity_william042the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke University. He earned the Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978. He chairs the prestigious National Association of Economist. 



He is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Stanford University, and served as chair of the Department of African and African American Studies and is the founding director of the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke. He served as co-director of the Institute of African American Research, director of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, director of the Undergraduate Honors Program in economics, and director of Graduate Studies at the University of North Carolina.

Darity’s research focuses on inequality by race, class and ethnicity, stratification economics, schooling and the racial achievement gap, North-South theories of trade and development, skin shade and labor market outcomes, the economics of reparations, the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution, the history of economics, and the social psychological effects of exposure to unemployment.

Previously he served as director of the Institute of African American Research, director of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, director of the Undergraduate Honors Program in economics, and director of Graduate Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



Darity’s research focuses on stratification economics, inequality by race, class and ethnicity, schooling and the racial achievement gap, North-South theories of trade and development, skin shade and labor market outcomes, the economics of reparations, the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution, doctrinal history and the social psychological effects of unemployment exposure.



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