The reparations scam is back, and Democratic presidential candidates are falling for it

QHMQR5JL7NHKNCURB4K7ZKCSQUThe Reverend Al Sharpton greets 2020 Presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke at the 28th Annual National Action Network Conference in Manhattan NY on April 3, 2019. (Andrew Schwartz/for New York Daily News)

 

I have lived long enough to be embarrassed for politicians and others who don’t know history. Such ignorance is especially galling when presidential hopefuls go to kiss the ring of the ignominious Al Sharpton to seek either his blessing or neutrality as they pursue their party’s nomination at the top of its 2020 ticket.

So my civil rights bones rattled when major figures — such as Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker — went to Sharpton’s “House of Justice” and expressed their support for or signaled interest in federal legislation that would consider reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves.

Where have these dolts been for the past several decades? As recently as 1992, Sharpton backed a “Million Youth March” in Harlem that revived the idea of reparations. That March was scantily attended — it having been convened by a “black leader” even more wretched and discredited than Sharpton, Khalid Muhammad, an unrepentant anti-Semite and black separatist. The march fizzled, as did the demand for slavery reparations.

Indeed, historically all the sound and fury about reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves has been just that — noise and racial rhetoric.

But now, against the backdrop of a 2020 presidential race, mainstream Democrats are giving lip service to considering — er, “studying” the ways of providing “reparations” that, if serious and honestly pursued, would run in the trillions, go into the pockets of people many generations removed from slavery and make a mockery of actual attempts to repair moral damage done.

27DNDLULFRCYFGPAPIKQS3BCFE2020 Presidential candidate, Julian Castro speaks at the 28th Annual National Action Network Conference in Manhattan NY on April 3,2019. (Andrew Schwartz/for New York Daily News)

Inflationary times have already overtaken the meager $500 million cost of reparations that black activist James Forman demanded of white churches and synagogues in the form of his Black Manifesto, delivered at Riverside Church circa 1969. That helped birth a bill offered by Rep. John Conyers to have Congress spend millions to form a “study commission” on methods and means to “remedy” the scourge of slavery on the African-American population. It languished in Congress for decades — only to be recently revived by black Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

But the more one thinks about the idea, the less sense it makes.

Who would get them and why? Would someone with two slaves in his or her family three get half of what someone with four slaves in his or her family tree receives? Would middle-class and poor blacks get the same? Would reparations be in lieu of affirmative-action programs, which also purport to right historic injustices, or in addition to them?

Those are just the start of the questions, but unlike in past decades, many if not most “civil rights” and black nationalist groups have joined forces to make “reparations” a legitimate item on the racial progress agenda. Gone are the luminaries among black intellectuals and leaders who voiced their disgust and distrust of “fake reparations” as either an “apology” for slavery or as a sop to black charities and “rights” organizations that thirst for bounty from a reparations pot.

Dead and buried are such big black voices as Bayard Rustin’s — who in the 1960s and 1970s lashed out at reparations for slavery as a scam, an insult, and a “handout.” The NAACP’s leader, Roy Wilkins, had done likewise. The entire NAACP in those heady years rejected reparations as a “preposterous idea.”

Sorely missing in this current national conversation is the sagacious guidance of black newspaper columnist and public citizen Carl Rowan who as recently as 1997 had dismissed reparations as “a profitless diversion.” “Just give today’s black man genuine hope,” he said, “then a fair chance at learning and training, and then a proud way to make an honest dollar to sustain a loving family, and he will not dwell on slavery or any other of yesteryear’s injustices.”

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U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says U.N. panel

imrs.phpSlave shackles on display at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans, argues a recent report by a U.N.-affiliated group based in Geneva.

This conclusion was part of a study by the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, a body that reports to the international organization’s High Commissioner on Human Rights. The group of experts, which includes leading human rights lawyers from around the world, presented its findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, pointing to the continuing link between present injustices and the dark chapters of American history.

“In particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the report stated. “Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching.”

Citing the past year’s spate of police officers killing unarmed African American men, the panel warned against “impunity for state violence,” which has created, in its words, a “human rights crisis” that “must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

The panel drew its recommendations, which are nonbinding and unlikely to influence Washington, after a fact-finding mission in the United States in January. At the time, it hailed the strides taken to make the American criminal justice system more equitable but pointed to the corrosive legacy of the past.

“Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another, continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today,” it said in a statement. “The dangerous ideology of white supremacy inhibits social cohesion amongst the US population.”

United Nations working group says U.S. owes reparations for slavery, mass incarceration

In its report, it specifically dwells on the extrajudicial murders that were a product of an era of white supremacy:

Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality that the United States must address. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.

The reparations could come in a variety of forms, according to the panel, including “a formal apology, health initiatives, educational opportunities … psychological rehabilitation, technology transfer and financial support, and debt cancellation.”

To be sure, such initiatives are nowhere in the cards, even after the question of reparations arose again two years ago when surfaced by the groundbreaking work of American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Separately, a coalition of Caribbean nations is calling for reparations from their former European imperial powers for the impact of slavery, colonial genocide and the toxic racial laws that shaped life for the past two centuries in these countries. Their efforts are fitful, and so far not so fruitful.

When asked by reporters to comment on the tone of the American presidential election campaign on Monday, the working group’s chairman, Ricardo A. Sunga of the Philippines, expressed concern about “hate speech … xenophobia [and] Afrophobia” that he felt was prevalent in the campaign, although he didn’t specifically call out Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“We are very troubled that these are on the rise,” said Sunga.

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