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Practical Politics

As far as a plan to achieve reparations that can be agreed to by many, if not all reparationists, the following is submitted. Without such a plan (even if not this particular one), there will not be a reparations victory for Blacks in the U.S.

I.  The first organized attempt to secure reparations for ex-slaves in the U.S.A., as reviewed excellently by Dr. Mary Frances Berry in the book, “My Face is Black Is True,” was the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association (MRB PA), organized in 1896 by housewife and 5-time mother, Callie House, and Mr. Isaiah Dickerson, an African American teacher and minister. The movement sought to establish a yearly pension for all ex-slaves, similar to the military pensions then being paid to Union ex-soldiers. The costs of the ex-slave pensions were to come from the taxes the U.S. government was annually collecting on cotton manufacture.  The idea was to compensate ex-slaves annually for the primary economic gains they brought to the U.S. The modern reparations activity can again utilize that idea of broadly providing pensions to African Americans.  Minimally, the organized beginnings of the U.S. Reparations Movement with Callie House and the Ex-Slave Movement must be recognized and acknowledged. The Reparations Movement did not begin with Field Order 15, nor Juneteenth.

II.  There must be agreement among most of the reparations community on the “harms” to be emphasized. “Everything is everything” here will not work. The 12 issues identified in the preliminary report of the California Reparations Commission seem the most reasonable currently. They are: Enslavement and Unjust Enrichment, Racial Terrorism, Political Disfranchisement, Housing Discrimination and Segregation (including Red-Lining), Separate and Unequal Education, Environmental Racism, Medical Racism, Racism in Creative and Cultural Arts, Stolen Labor and Racial Practices in Labor, Policing and the Unjust Legal System, Continuing Mental and Physical Harm to Black People, the Continuation of the Wealth Gap, etc.

III.  What is the target population? All current Black Americans in this country are not descendants of former slaves in the U.S. The “free” Black population remained substantial. What is the best method to determine the target population for reparations?

IV.  Any Reparations Solutions must begin with a national apology. In 2009, the U.S. Senate proffered such an apology (passed unanimously). In 2019, the U.S. House passed its own version of the same apology. That document should be re-looked at and refreshed.

In summary, that apology said:  This resolution “Acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws. This resolution apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws. It expresses Congress's recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and calls on all people of the United States to work toward eliminating racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our society.”

We also declare that nothing in this resolution authorizes, supports, or serves as a settlement of any claim  against the United States.

This last statement was soundly rejected by a chorus of reparations activist groups, and the whole apology was rejected. This issue should be revisited as part of an overall reparations plan and given a thorough, non-hasty, review.

V.  Should the U.S., state and municipal governments be responsible for all “harms” addressed by the reparations movement, or should railroad companies, banks, universities, insurance companies and the like, also be “taxed” to pay for reparations?

VI.  There must be an agreement in the plan that monetary compensation alone will not adequately address the reparations “harms.”

VII.  The reparations groups must agree among themselves on what African Americans will do for themselves regarding resolving the reparations issue in the United States.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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