Restitution for American Slavery

Restitution for American Slavery

A forensic economics approach

Sibylle Scholz,  Chrissi Jackson

 

Descendants of African American slaves have never been compensated for one of the worst crimes against humanity. The lost wages suffered by slaves, and the asset value of slaves to the slave holders are well over one trillion US dollars in today’s money. Equally important is the value of the promise of land to freed slaves, commonly know as 40 acres and a mule.

The word restitution is used deliberately meaning the recovery and return benefits obtained through improper means. Slavery in the United States was particularly abominable because it was chattel slavery, meaning that people were the property of owners and bought and sold as property.  

A common argument against reparations for American slavery is that it was legal then. But at the Nuremberg trials, where Nazis were brought to justice, the US prosecutor Robert H. Jackson said that common law recognizes rules of conduct and this is sufficient to establish guilt and judgments of wrong doings. In the case of slavery, Europe tacitly permitted slavery in the colonies, but slavery was prohibited in Europe and Africa, and for Natives in the Americas. It was widely recognized that chattel slavery and permanent slavery was morally wrong and this is sufficient to establish guilt and judgments of wrong-doings in the United States. 

In the United States slavery ended with the Confiscation Acts and Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the 13th Amendment made slavery illegal in 1865. The Civil War started in 1861 and ended in 1865 and many slaves fought in it. After Abolition, Special Field Order No. 15 of the US Army in 1865 confiscated 400,000 acres of land along the Atlantic coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and approximately 18,000 freedmen where settled there. They were each given 40 acres but on a temporary basis. They were to receive a mule, left over from the war. This coined the expression “40 acres and a mule.” At the end of Reconstruction in 1877 most of that land was given back to the original White owners. 

The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 was designed to make 40 acres available to Freedmen. This transition went along as well as it could while Federal troops oversaw this plan. But in 1877 troops retreated and these arrangements disintegrated. Census data does not separate White and Black farmers until 1900 but W.E.B. Du Bois estimated that Black farmers owned 3 million acres in 1875 and 8 million in 1890. The peak year, from census data, shows 12 million acres in 1910 fully owned by 175,290 non-whites and partially owned by 43,177 non-white farmers. Roughly this is 60 acres per farm. Because of the rising prices in cotton, many farmers did very well initially, but as Jim Crow laws set in, farm operating contracts became more difficult and this, together with a general collapse of all farming led, to widespread abandonment of Black owned farms. Today, there are 45,000 Black owned farms.

In the early 20th Century there was the Great Migration, when about 6 million Afrodescendants left the South. In 1863, over 90% lived in the South and this held true until about 1900. The majority of the population in South Carolina and Mississippi were African Americans, and more than 40 per cent in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, and this changed drastically with the migration to the North.

The 1910 agricultural census shows that there were over 3 million farms in the South farming 354 million acres. This is down by 7 million acres from the 1900 census, and today, the South farms 270 million acres. Maps of this census show that almost all farms in the South were less than 80 acres, except for areas around Savannah. 

The census of 1910 does not distinguish between sharecroppers and tenants, and lists 670,000 Black tenant farmers and 1,200 Black farm managers cultivating 27 million acres. This amounts to 40 acres per farm. Sharecropping existed well into the 1950s. Sharecroppers represent the potential of how much land Black farmers would have been able to cultivate if they had been able to own land. 

In 1910, there were a total of 890,000 Afrodescendants cultivating a total of 39 million acres. The total population of Afrodescendants was 10 million. After 1910 there was a steady decline of Afrodescendant farmers as they moved to the North during the Great Migration in the ensuing decades. Based on this data from 1910, when agriculture was the main economic activity and when the majority of the population in the South was Black and rural and applying a 2017 average value of Southern Agricultural land of 3,200 US dollars, the total value of that land is 125 billion US dollars in 2017 dollars. This dollar value represents damages suffered by those sharecroppers and are agricultural assets that were denied to the Black community. 

The lack of the opportunity to accumulate assets means that these families remain in poverty. Poverty programs only address income and thus asset poverty persists. This of course is true for Whites as well, but for Blacks, asset accumulations is much more difficult. For instance, in 2010, 1.25 billion US dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was paid to African American farmers through the settlement of the Pigford v Glickman case. The Pigford case is a 1999 class action discrimination suit that showed that the USDA was biased when making loans or farm assistance available at the county level between the years 1983 and 1997. African American farmers were either denied or had to wait longer for loan approvals. In agriculture especially, timely availability of credit is imperative to run a farm successfully. Receiving credit for seeds is meaningless if the time for planting has already passed.  About 2,000 farmers were in that first claim and two options were offered: Track A provided a settlement of $50,000 and relief from loans and tax liabilities. By showing evidence of greater damage, farmers could apply for Track B claims for larger amounts. But there were numerous problems implementing the payments, and only 31% of Track A and 169 eligible Track B claimants. Eventually there were a total of 15,645 farmers who received $1 billion US dollars in cash, debt relief and other credits under Track A. An additional 17,000 farmers, received $1.2 billion US dollars in 2010 under what is referred to as Pigford II. These two settlements are the largest settlements to date to African American farmers, but they are specifically for discrimination of access to farm credits and only cover the period between 1983 and 1997. 

In 1910, there were 6.7 per cent Afrodescendants who farmed. Using this percentage, an opportunity cost of assets can be calculated for the African American community today. The 2010 census recorded  43 million self-identified African Americans and the 2014 estimates by the Census Bureau is 47 million. Later projections are not available yet. Using the 2010 census and 6.7 per cent, yields 2.9 million, and 3.2 million for the 2014 projections. Estimating damages from these numbers yields 367 and 403 billion US dollars based on the value of agricultural land in the South in 2017.

The total damages are estimated between 453 and 489 billion US dollars in lost asset accumulation opportunities suffered by Afrodescendants. These estimates represent the restitution. Other researcher have calculated restitution using wages, or the actual value of slaves. 

Several economists have looked at what the total value of slavery to the economy was before Abolition. On the one hand, slavery was unpaid labor. On the other hand, slaves were like capital that had a value in the market.  In addition to that, researchers looked at the value of the promise to have access to land after Abolition. 

Larry Neal and economist at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana looked at wages between 1620 and 1840 and compounded these at 3 per cent. His estimates for lost wages during that period are 1.4 trillion in 2016 US dollars. It shows how much white farmers benefited from slavery. Richard Vedder and economist at Ohio University estimated a similar number, 5 to 10 trillion US dollars as an accumulated gain in wealth for white Southerners.

Tim Worstall, a journalist, used the market value of an enslaved person, and then calculated a total wealth of having slaves, as an asset, at a compounded 1 per cent to be about 1.75 trillion US dollars, or about 40 thousand US dollars to each Afrodescendant today. But slaves had different prices depending on their skill levels as either artisans or domestics, or if they were known runaways or had physical impairments. Women commanded a higher price than men for obvious reasons. 

Samuel Williamson, economist at Miami University calculated an average price for slaves of between 300 US dollars in 1804 and 800 US dollars in 1860. He then calculated a labor income value of owning a slave, of about 140,000 US dollars in 2016 US dollars. Williamson uses the inflation rate calculator at a website called measuringworth.com. Here the average annual inflation rate is 2.2 per cent for the period between 1860 and 2016. Theoretically, using the value of a slave is more appropriate for calculating reparations than lost wages.  This approach uses slaves as an asset. But after Abolition this asset disappeared. Pikkety developed a graph reproduced below as Figure 11, which illustrates the changing nature of wealth.

Thomas Craemer a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, used Field Order No. 15 and the Reparations Bill that was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1866. Both decrees speak of 40 acres to each freedman. He then attached an average price of $3,020 per acre in 2015, and multiplied this by 3,953,760 slaves from the 1860 census. This yielded a number of 486 billion US dollars. Prices per acre vary hugely from State to State, so this might be overstated. Furthermore, Field Order No. 15 states that “three respectable Negroes, heads of families ….. shall have a plot of not more than forty acres of tillable ground.” In other words, the intention of Field Order No. 15 was not to give 40 acres to each slave, but rather to a portion of such individuals that would be able to conduct agricultural production on 40 acres. Also, Reparations Bill H.R. 29 which was introduced by Senator Thaddeus Stevens states that “each male who is the head of a family …. or each widow who is the head of a family…” shall receive 40 acres.  In other words, the promise was not 40 acres for all slaves, but rather land for a family unit of perhaps four or five, which would be necessary to successfully till 40 acres.

Agriculture is an inherently risky endeavor. If the harvest is poor, credit payments are difficult to make. If the harvest is more than usual, prices drop and the benefit of a large harvest are depressed. If credit is not given in a timely manner, planting cannot happen in a timely manner and production is compromised. This happens to all Black farmers even today. Farming was particularly hazardous for Blacks because of lynchings and the burning down of farms, which resulted in thousands of acres of farm losses. This practice was called “whitecapping.” Also, we know from anecdotal evidence collected by Raymond Winbush, that Black farmers were cautious to not be “too successful” for fear of having their farms taken away. The prevalence of this behavior makes comparing Black and White productivity of farms difficult and problematic. 

Brent Gloy showed that rates of return for farming can vary greatly. In 1973 it was 28 per cent, but on average, over the period of between 1960 and 2016 it was 7 per cent. The standard deviation he calculated was 6.4 per cent, demonstrating the riskiness of the business. Since the 1970s, agricultural land values increased three and four fold due to increased productivity and export subsidies for all kinds of agricultural products. Other subsidies, such as favorable credit, made farming less risky and a coordinated effort to store food and distribute the surplus to Africa and other areas with food shortages through the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, PL 480, meant farming in more marginal lands became profitable. 

Using “40 acres and a mule” as the basis for calculating restitution to descendants of American slaves, an amount of 453 to 489 billion dollars was estimated. This amount is similar to the asset gap between Blacks and Whites.  

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What Reparations for Slavery Might Look Like in 2019

The idea of economic amends for past injustices and persistent disparities is getting renewed attention. Here are some formulas for achieving the aim.

 

If you’re surprised that the issue of reparations for black Americans has taken so long to resolve, blame the president. President Andrew Johnson.

As the Civil War wound down in 1865, Gen. William T. Sherman made the promise that would come to be known as “40 acres and a mule” — redistributing a huge tract of Atlantic coastline to black Americans recently freed from bondage. President Abraham Lincoln and Congress gave their approval, and soon 40,000 freedmen in the South had started to plant and build.

Within months of Lincoln’s assassination, though, President Johnson rescinded the order and returned the land to its former owners. Congress made another attempt at compensation, but Johnson vetoed it.

Now, in the early phase of the 2020 presidential campaign, the question of compensating black Americans for suffering under slavery and other forms of racial injustice has resurfaced. The current effort focuses on a congressional bill that would commission a study on reparations, a version of legislation first introduced in 1989. Several Democratic presidential hopefuls have declared their support, including Senators Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

If this latest revival has excited supporters, it has worried some party moderates who fear that such an effort would alienate many voters. Polls have shown a big deficit in popular support. While a majority of black Americans in a 2016 Marist poll supported reparations, whites rejected it by an overwhelming margin.

SLaThe reparations issue raises profound moral, social and political considerations. Still, the economic nuts and bolts of such a program have gotten scant public attention: Who would be paid? How much? Where would the money come from?

Through the decades, a handful of scholars have taken a shot at creating a road map. Here’s what has to be reckoned with.

When James Forman, a civil rights pioneer who later served briefly as the Black Panther Party’s foreign minister, demanded $500 million in reparations in his 1969 Black Manifesto, he grounded his argument in an indisputable fact: Unpaid slave labor helped build the American economy, creating vast wealth that African-Americans were barred from sharing.

The manifesto called for white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues to pay for projects like a black university and a Southern land bank. “We have helped to build the most industrial country in the world,” it declared, at the same time that “racist white America has exploited our resources, our minds, our bodies, our labor.”

Another civil rights leader, Bayard Rustin, responded, “If my great-grandfather picked cotton for 50 years, then he may deserve some money, but he’s dead and gone and nobody owes me anything.”

The question of reparations, however, extends far beyond the roughly four million people who were enslaved when the Civil War started, as Ta-Nehisi Coates explained in an influential essay published in The Atlantic in 2014. Legalized discrimination and state-sanctioned brutality, murder, dispossession and disenfranchisement continued long after the war ended. That history profoundly handicapped black Americans’ ability to create and accumulate wealth as well as to gain access to jobs, housing, education and health care.

For every dollar a typical white household holds, a black one has 10 cents. It is this cumulative effect that justifies the payment of reparations to descendants of slaves long dead, supporters say.

“Equality is not likely to be obtained without some form of reparations,” David H. Swinton, an economist and former president of Benedict College, wrote in the 1990 collection “The Wealth of Races.”

 

Originally Posted by the NY Times

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The History of Black Women Championing Demands for Reparations

 

 

The American media has paid increasing attention to the legacies of slavery. The new National Museum of African American History and Culture features a huge exhibition on the history of slavery. Many US universities are studying their links with slavery and the slave trade. In several cases, schools decided to provide symbolic reparations by renaming buildings and/or creating memorials and monuments to honor enslaved men and women.

 

But these measures do not seem to suffice: several activists and ordinary citizens are calling for financial reparations. Students of Georgetown University recently voted to pay a fee to finance a reparations fund to benefit the descendants of the 1838 sale of enslaved people owned by the Society of Jesus. The Democratic presidential candidates are routinely asked if they would support studies to provide financial reparations for slavery to African Americans. What is often missed is that these calls started long ago. Writers and readers also forget that black women championed demands of reparations for slavery.

 

Belinda Sutton is among the first black women to demand reparations for slavery in North America. Her owner, Isaac Royall Junior, fled North America in 1775, during the American Revolutionary War. He left behind his assets but his will included provisions to pay Belinda a pension for three years.

 

After Royall Junior’s death, we assume Sutton received the pension determined in his will. When three years passed, the payments stopped. Belinda petitioned the Massachusetts legislature and requested her pension continue. Emphasizing she lived in poverty and had contributed to the wealth of the Royalls, Sutton successfully obtained an annual pension. Belinda’s story is memorialized at the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, Massachusetts.

 

Like today, the political context shaped these early demands for reparations and the responses petitioners received. Unlike other former slaves, Sutton’s odds to get restitutions were greater because her former owner was a British Loyalist. Moreover, he had already determined in his will to pay her a pension.

 

Freedwomen and their descendants continued fighting for reparations in later years. They knew more than anyone else the value of material resources because they lacked them. They were those providing hard work to maintain their households and to raise children and grandchildren.

 

Sojourner Truth also demanded reparations for slavery through land redistribution. Following the end of slavery, during Reconstruction, Truth argued that slaves helped to build the nation’s wealth and therefore should be compensated. In 1870, she circulated a petition requesting Congress to provide land to the “freed colored people in and about Washington” to allow them “to support themselves.” Yet, Truth’s efforts were not successful. US former slaves got no land or financial support after the end of slavery.

 

The context of the brutal end of Reconstruction that cut short the promises of equal access to education and voting rights for black Americans favored the rise of calls for reparations. And once again black women took the lead.

 

Ex-slave Callie House fought for reparations. A widow and a mother of five children, who worked as a washerwoman, she saw many former slaves old, sick, and unable to work to maintain themselves. House became one of the leaders of the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association that gathered dozens of thousands of former slaves to press the US Congress to pass legislation to award pensions to freedpeople.

 

Soon the federal government started accusing the association of using mail to lead a fraud scheme. Callie House responded that the association’s goal was to obtain redress for a historical wrong. She reminded federal authorities that former slaves were left with no resources and had the right to organize themselves to demand restitutions. She bravely denounced that government hostility against the pensions movement was motivated by racism.

 

In 1916, the Post Office Department charged Callie House for using the US mail to defraud. She spent one year in prison.

 

Black women had good reasons to fight for reparations. Until the 1920s, black women were deprived of voting rights. More than black men, they were socially and economically excluded. With less access to education, even in an old age they were those running the households. To most former enslaved women, expectations of social mobility were impracticable. In contrast, pensions and land were tangible resources that could supply them with autonomy and possible social mobility.

Audley Eloise Moore from Louisiana also became an important reparations’ activist. Influenced by Marcus Garvey she became a prominent, black nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and civil rights activist.

 

In 1962, Moore saw the approach of the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as an occasion to discuss the legacies of slavery. To this end, she created the Reparations Committee for the Descendants of American Slaves (RCDAS) that filed a claim demanding reparations for slavery in a court of the state of California. She also authored a booklet underscoring that slaves provided dozens of years of unpaid work to slave owners. She emphasized the horrors of lynching, segregation, disfranchisement, raping, and police brutality. Yet, the litigation was not successful.

 

Moore defended payment of financial reparations to all African Americans and their descendants and that each individual and group should decide what to do with the funds. She contended that the unpaid work provided by enslaved Africans and their descendants led to the wealth accumulation that made the United States the richest “the richest country in the world.”

 

 

In later years, Moore continued participating in organizations defending reparations for slavery. In 1968, she joined the Republic of New Africa and later supported the efforts of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA). She made her last public appearance at her late nineties during the Million Man March held in Washington DC in October 1995, when she still called for reparations.

 

In 2002, Edward Fagan filled a class-action lawsuit in the name of Deadria Farmer-Paellmann and other persons in similar situations. An African American activist and lawyer, Farmer-Paellmann founded the Reparations Study Group. Fagan’s lawsuit requested a formal apology and financial reparations from three US companies that profited from slavery. Among these corporations was Aetna Insurance Company that held an insurance policy in the name of Abel Hines, Farmer-Paellman’s enslaved great-grandfather. Although the case was dismissed in 2004, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit later allowed the plaintiffs to engage in consumer protection claims exposing the companies named in the lawsuit for misleading their customers about their role in slavery.

 

Years marking commemorative dates associated with slavery favor the rise of demands of reparations. This year marks the fourth hundredth anniversary of the landing of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia. In addition, it’s also the kick off of the 2020 presidential campaign.

 

For black groups and organizations that now fully engage in social media it’s time to renew calls for reparations that have been around for several decades. For potential presidential candidates, the debate on reparations is an opportunity to gain the black vote.

 

But for black women, no matter the commemorative and elections calendars, the fight for reparations is not a new opportunity, it is rather a long-lasting battle for social justice.

 

Ana Lucia Araujo is a historian and professor at Howard University. Her latest book Reparations for Slavery and the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative Historywas published in 2017.

 

Original Post by History News Network

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The Yarn Mission

The Yarn Mission is a knitting collective that is purposefully Pro-Black, Pro-Rebellion, and Pro-Community for the achievement of Black Liberation. Our three principles guide the work that we do and how we do it as artists. First, in being pro-Black, The Yarn Mission centers the lives and livelihood of Black Women. We seek to support Black folks wherever they are with whatever they are doing (whether that is knitting related or not). It is a fact that once Black folks are free, all people will be free. This is necessary true due to an inclusive understanding of freedom and the real intersections that exist between Blackness and all other identities. Second, on pro-rebellion, we encourage and support rebellious, anti-oppressive, and liberatory work. For instance, we have a strong relationship with the Million Artist Movement (www.millionartist.movement.com). In our own organizing, we are growing to reject capitalism in favor of cooperative economics. Moreover, we proclaim people over everything (systems, money, buildings, etc) and refuse to condemn responses to oppression that do not involve oppression. Third, pro-community means that we respond to the desires and guidance of chosen and/or geographically defined communities. In particular, we show up when community organizes and intentionally meet in community. When we meet in community to teach knitting, we stress accessibility by having supplies available for free and choosing accessible spaces (in terms of navigability and transportation access).

 

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The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

The Macolm X Grassroots Movement is an organization of Afrikans in America/ New Afrikans whose mission is to defeat the human rights of our people and promote self-determination in our community.

We understand that the collective institutions of white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism have been at the root of our people’s oppression.

We understand that without community control and without the power to determine our own lives, we will continue to fall victim to genocide.

Therefore, we seek to heighten our consciousness about self-determination as a human right and a solution to our colonialization. While organizing around our principles of unity, we are building a network of black/ new African activists and organizers committed to the protracted struggle for the liberation of the New African Nation – By Any Mean Necessary!

 

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Voices Of The Experienced

VOTE is a grassroots organization founded and run by formerly incarcerated people (FIP), our families and our allies. We are dedicated to restoring the full human and civil rights of those most impacted by the criminal (in)justice system. Together we have the experiences, expertise and power to improve public safety in Louisiana and beyond without relying on mass incarceration.

 

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The Sophia Project

The Sophia Project Inc.’s mission is to engage, educate and empower young women to make sound decisions, embrace personal awareness, and build healthy relationships. The Sophia Project envisions young women who are individually secure and socially engaged, globally conscious and community focused. Participants of The Sophia Project, Inc. are BOLD, CREATIVE, DARING, and CONFIDENT. These young women are effective leaders among their peers, ready to dispatch their gifts in the community. Graduates of The Sophia Project, Inc. are aware of how her relationship with self and others necessarily impacts her decisions and ability to be a successful and valuable member of her community.

 

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The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement

Founded in 1991 by the African People’s Socialist Party, InPDUM is the leading organization in the struggle for Bread, Peace and Black Power in the 21st Century.

Now located in three continents around the world, INPDUM has always demanded reparations, state power and self government for African people worldwide!  InPDUM knows that the politicians in city hall and the white house will never fight for Black Power to the African community. InPDUM knows that it takes revolutionary organization to protect and defend our own, wherever we may be, whoever we may be.

 

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Potbangerz

PotBangerz is a St. Louis based 501c3 family of community leaders who fight injustice by uplifting the community, meeting nutritional needs, helping our unhoused families navigate their way to permanent housing, and advocating for them when they need it the most. When we have rebuilt and transformed the lives of our unhoused families we can say mission accomplished.

 

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Georgetown Students Agree to Create Reparations Fund

Students at Georgetown University voted on Thursday to increase their tuition to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved Africans that the Jesuits who ran the school sold nearly two centuries ago to secure its financial future.

The fund they voted to create would represent the first instance of reparations for slavery by a prominent American organization.

The proposal passed with two-thirds of the vote, but the student-led referendum was nonbinding, and the university’s board of directors must approve the measure before it can take effect.

“We value the engagement of our students and appreciate that they are making their voices heard and contributing to an important national conversation,” Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, said in a statement on Thursday.

The undergraduate student body voted to add a new fee of $27.20 per student per semester to their tuition bill, with the proceeds devoted to supporting education and health care programs in Louisiana and Maryland, where many of 4,000 known living descendants of the 272 enslaved people now reside.

A 2016 article in The New York Times described the 1838 sale by what was then Georgetown College, the premier Catholic institution of higher learning in America at the time.

The college relied on Jesuit-owned plantations in Maryland that were no longer producing a reliable income to support it, so the Jesuit priests who founded and ran Georgetown decided to raise cash by selling virtually all its slaves, receiving the equivalent of about $3.3 million in today’s money.

“The school wouldn’t be here without them,” said Shepard Thomas, a junior from New Orleans who is part of the campus group, Students for the GU272, that worked to hold the referendum. Mr. Thomas, a psychology major, is descended from slaves who were part of the 1838 sale.

“Students here always talk about changing the world after they graduate,” he said. “Why not change the world when you’re here?”

Mr. Thomas said the amount of the fee, $27.20, was chosen to evoke the number of people sold but not be too onerous for students. Tuition and fees for a full-time student per semester is $27,720.00.

Georgetown University agreed in 2016 to give admissions preference to descendants of the 272 slaves; Mr. Thomas was one of the first to be admitted under the policy. The school also formally apologized for its role in slavery, and has renamed two buildings on its campus to acknowledge the lives of slaves; one is now named for Isaac Hawkins, the first person listed in the 1838 sale.

The university has about 7,000 undergraduates, so the fee would raise about $380,000 a year for the fund.

“It makes me feel happy that we, as students, decided to set a precedent for the betterment of people’s lives,” Mr. Thomas said.

 

Originally posted by Adeel Hassan at The New York Times

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Privileged

When the police break your teammate’s leg, you’d think it would wake you up a little.

When they arrest him on a New York street, throw him in jail for the night, and leave him with a season-ending injury, you’d think it would sink in. You’d think you’d know there was more to the story.

You’d think.

But nope.

I still remember my reaction when I first heard what happened to Thabo. It was 2015, late in the season. Thabo and I were teammates on the Hawks, and we’d flown into New York late after a game in Atlanta. When I woke up the next morning, our team group text was going nuts. Details were still hazy, but guys were saying, Thabo hurt his leg? During an arrest? Wait — he spent the night in jail?! Everyone was pretty upset and confused.

Well, almost everyone. My response was….. different. I’m embarrassed to admit it.

Which is why I want to share it today.

Before I tell the rest of this story, let me just say real quick — Thabo wasn’t some random teammate of mine, or some guy in the league who I knew a little bit. We’d become legitimate friends that year in our downtime. He was my go-to teammate to talk with about stuff beyond the basketball world. Politics, religion, culture, you name it — Thabo brought a perspective that wasn’t typical of an NBA player. And it’s easy to see why: Before we were teammates in Atlanta, the guy had played professional ball in France, Turkey and Italy. He spoke three languages! Thabo’s mother was from Switzerland, and his father was from South Africa. They lived together in South Africa before Thabo was born, then left because of apartheid.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Thabo was one of the most interesting people I’d ever been around. We respected each other. We were cool, you know? We had each other’s backs.

Anyway — on the morning I found out that Thabo had been arrested, want to know what my first thought was? About my friend and teammate? My first thought was: What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back??

Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? Not, Something seems off with this story. Nothing like that. Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo….. I sort of blamed Thabo.

I thought, Well, if I’d been in Thabo’s shoes, out at a club late at night, the police wouldn’t have arrested me. Not unless I was doing something wrong.

Cringe.

It’s not like it was a conscious thought. It was pure reflex — the first thing to pop into my head.

And I was worried about him, no doubt.

But still. Cringe.

A few months later, a jury found Thabo not guilty on all charges. He settled with the city over the NYPD’s use of force against him. And then the story just sort of….. disappeared. It fell away from the news. Thabo had surgery and went through rehab. Pretty soon, another NBA season began — and we were back on the court again.

Life went on.

But I still couldn’t shake my discomfort.

I mean, I hadn’t been involved in the incident. I hadn’t even been there. So why did I feel like I’d let my friend down?

Why did I feel like I’d let myself down?


A few weeks ago, something happened at a Jazz home game that brought back many of those old questions.

Maybe you saw it: We were playing against the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook and a fan in the crowd exchanged words during the game. I didn’t actually see or hear what happened, and if you were following on TV or on Twitter, maybe you had a similar initial viewing of it. Then, after the game, one of our reporters asked me for my response to what had gone down between Russ and the fan. I told him I hadn’t seen it — and added something like, But you know Russ. He gets into it with the crowd a lot.

Of course, the full story came out later that night. What actually happened was that a fan had said some really ugly things at close range to Russ. Russ had then responded. After the game, he’d said he felt the comments were racially charged.

The incident struck a nerve with our team.

In a closed-door meeting with the president of the Jazz the next day, my teammates shared stories of similar experiences they’d had — of feeling degraded in ways that went beyond acceptable heckling. One teammate talked about how his mom had called him right after the game, concerned for his safety in SLC. One teammate said the night felt like being “in a zoo.” One of the guys in the meeting was Thabo — he’s my teammate in Utah now. I looked over at him, and remembered his night in NYC.

Everyone was upset. I was upset — and embarrassed, too. But there was another emotion in the room that day, one that was harder to put a finger on. It was almost like….. disappointment, mixed with exhaustion. Guys were just sick and tired of it all.

This wasn’t the first time they’d taken part in conversations about race in their NBA careers, and it wasn’t the first time they’d had to address the hateful actions of others. And one big thing that got brought up a lot in the meeting was how incidents like this — they weren’t only about the people directly involved. This wasn’t only about Russ and some heckler. It was about more than that.

It was about what it means just to exist right now — as a person of color in a mostly white space.

It was about racism in America.

Before the meeting ended, I joined the team’s demand for a swift response and a promise from the Jazz organization that it would address the concerns we had. I think my teammates and I all felt it was a step in the right direction.

But I don’t think anyone felt satisfied.


There’s an elephant in the room that I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few weeks. It’s the fact that, demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court.

And after the events in Salt Lake City last month, and as we’ve been discussing them since, I’ve really started to recognize the role those demographics play in my privilege. It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% stand with them.

But I look like the other guy.

And whether I like it or not? I’m beginning to understand how that means something.

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.

In other words, I can say every right thing in the world: I can voice my solidarity with Russ after what happened in Utah. I can evolve my position on what happened to Thabo in New York. I can be that weird dude in Get Out bragging about how he’d have voted for Obama a third term. I can condemn every racist heckler I’ve ever known.

But I can also fade into the crowd, and my face can blend in with the faces of those hecklers, any time I want.

I realize that now. And maybe in years past, just realizing something would’ve felt like progress. But it’s NOT years past — it’s today. And I know I have to do better. So I’m trying to push myself further.

I’m trying to ask myself what I should actually do.

How can I — as a white man, part of this systemic problem — become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?

These are the questions that I’ve been asking myself lately.

And I don’t think I have all the answers yet — but here are the ones that are starting to ring the most true:

I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America.

I have to listen. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. I have to listen.

I have to support leaders who see racial justice as fundamental — as something that’s at the heart of nearly every major issue in our country today. And I have to support policies that do the same.

I have to do my best to recognize when to get out of the way — in order to amplify the voices of marginalized groups that so often get lost.

But maybe more than anything?

I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable.

We all have to hold each other accountable.

And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior.

And I think the standard that we have to hold ourselves to, in this crucial moment….. it’s higher than it’s ever been. We have to be active. We have to be actively supporting the causes of those who’ve been marginalized — precisely because they’ve been marginalized.


Two concepts that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately are guilt and responsibility.

When it comes to racism in America, I think that guilt and responsibility tend to be seen as more or less the same thing. But I’m beginning to understand how there’s a real difference.

As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.

But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.

And I guess I’ve come to realize that when we talk about solutions to systemic racism — police reform, workplace diversity, affirmative action, better access to healthcare, even reparations? It’s not about guilt. It’s not about pointing fingers, or passing blame.

It’s about responsibility. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “equality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is equality for a certain group of people. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “inequality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is slavery, and its aftermath — which is still being felt to this day. It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history….. not some random divide.

And it’s about understanding that Black Lives Matter, and movements like it, matter, because — well, let’s face it: I probably would’ve been safe on the street that one night in New York. And Thabo wasn’t. And I was safe on the court that one night in Utah. And Russell wasn’t.


But as disgraceful as it is that we have to deal with racist hecklers in NBA arenas in 2019? The truth is, you could argue that that kind of racism is “easier” to deal with.

Because at least in those cases, the racism is loud and clear. There’s no ambiguity — not in the act itself, and thankfully not in the response: we throw the guy out of the building, and then we ban him for life.

But in many ways the more dangerous form of racism isn’t that loud and stupid kind. It isn’t the kind that announces itself when it walks into the arena. It’s the quiet and subtle kind. The kind that almost hides itself in plain view. It’s the person who does and says all the “right” things in public: They’re perfectly friendly when they meet a person of color. They’re very polite. But in private? Well….. they sort of wish that everyone would stop making everything “about race” all the time.

It’s the kind of racism that can seem almost invisible — which is one of the main reasons why it’s allowed to persist.

And so, again, banning a guy like Russ’s heckler? To me, that’s the “easy” part. But if we’re really going to make a difference as a league, as a community, and as a country on this issue….. it’s like I said — I just think we need to push ourselves another step further.

First, by identifying that less visible, less obvious behavior as what it is: racism.

And then second, by denouncing that racism — actively, and at every level.

That’s the bare minimum of where we have to get to, I think, if we’re going to consider the NBA — or any workplace — as anything close to part of the solution in 2019.


I’ll wrap this up in a minute — but first I have one last thought.

The NBA is over 75% players of color.

Seventy-five percent.

People of color, they built this league. They’ve grown this league. People of color have made this league into what it is today. And I guess I just wanted to say that if you can’t find it in your heart to support them — now? And I mean actively support them?

If the best that you can do for their cause is to passively “tolerate” it? If that’s the standard we’re going to hold ourselves to — to blend in, and opt out?

Well, that’s not good enough. It’s not even close.

I know I’m in a strange position, as one of the more recognized white players in the NBA. It’s a position that comes with a lot of….. interesting undertones. And it’s a position that makes me a symbol for a lot of things, for a lot of people — often people who don’t know anything about me. Usually, I just ignore them. But this doesn’t feel like a “usually” moment.

This feels like a moment to draw a line in the sand.

I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong.

The fact that black Americans are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black unemployment rates nationally are double that of overall unemployment rates is wrong. The fact that black imprisonment rates for drug charges are almost six times higher nationally than white imprisonment rates for drug charges is wrong. The fact that black Americans own approximately one-tenth of the wealth that white Americans own is wrong.

The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong.

And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.

So if you don’t want to know anything about me, outside of basketball, then listen — I get it. But if you do want to know something? Know I believe that.

Know that about me.

If you’re wearing my jersey at a game? Know that about me. If you’re planning to buy my jersey for someone else…… know that about me. If you’re following me on social media….. know that about me. If you’re coming to Jazz games and rooting for me….. know that about me.

And if you’re claiming my name, or likeness, for your own cause, in any way….. know that about me. Know that I believe this matters.

Thanks for reading.

Time for me to shut up and listen.

 

Originally posted by Kyle Korver on theplayerstribune.com

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Reparations: A Conversation Worth Having

The debate on when it is relevant to apologize and pay reparations for misdeeds and human rights violations tells us that the past is never dead.

 

Supporters of American slavery reparations in Washington in 2002.CreditCreditManny Ceneta/Getty Images

MEXICO CITY — Three weeks ago and 500 years after the arrival of Hernán Cortés in Veracruz, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico sent a letter to the king of Spain. In it, he demanded an apology for the abuses inflicted on the indigenous peoples of Mexico by Spain, in view of what the Spaniards now consider “human rights violations.”

And last week the prime minister of Belgium apologized in Parliament for the kidnapping, deportation and forced adoption of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples in its former African colonies.

National apologies for misdeeds, crimes and odious behavior are not new. The West German government of Konrad Adenauer paid billionsin reparations to the state of Israel and Jewish people for Nazi crimes. Former President Jacques Chirac of France apologized for deporting thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps.

The reparations debate in the United States continues. A bill known as H.R. 40 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative John Conyers every year from 1989 until his resignation in 2017. It called for a formal study of the impact of slavery on African-Americans living today and the development of a proposal for reparations, among other things. The bill was reintroduced this year by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. Most recently, several contenders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, most notably Elizabeth Warren, have expressed some level of support for reparations for the descendants of enslaved men and women.

The past five centuries of world history have featured conquests, plunder, torture, genocide, slavery, occupation and worse. The trend toward asking forgiveness and making reparations is overall a good thing. It acknowledges history while pointing a way forward, whether it be consolidating a national identity in Mexico, apologizing for atrocious colonial misdeeds in Africa or addressing inequality between blacks and whites in America.

The debate over the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of what is now called Latin America took on a new meaning after 1992, when the former colonial powers and former colonies met to revisit and discuss Columbus’s arrival in the New World.

The Mexican case is especially complicated. Several polls showed Mexicans disagreed on Mr. López Obrador’s call for an apology as well as the issue’s relevance. Historians also made several points against his stance.

First, the historians stated that Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, was captured thanks as much to Cortés’s allies among the other indigenous peoples of the time as to the Spaniards themselves. Then they recalled that the Aztecs were no choir children: They resorted to cannibalism, human sacrifice, local wars to subjugate other peoples and violent repression of their enemies. Finally, and most important, they noted that Mexicans have always held an ambivalent position on their own national identity.

During the past decades, children’s textbooks have implied that today’s inhabitants of Mexico are descended from indigenous people and not from the Spanish. The official narrative for more than a century now in Mexico is that it is the mestizo country par excellence. As the nameplate at the National Anthropology Museum and Tlatelolco Square, where the final defeat of the Aztecs occurred, proclaims, “Neither a victory nor a defeat, here took place the painful birth of the mestizo people that today is Mexico.”

There can be no “mestizaje” without both civilizations — the Spanish and the original peoples — taking part in it. However violent their encounter may have been, and acknowledging the brutal nature of the conquest, Mexicans seem to prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. While racism against indigenous minorities in Mexico is undeniable, and the country’s European-origin tiny minority frequently resorts to racist attitudes toward mestizos, an overwhelming majority of the people of Mexico are mestizos today. There are myriad things to fix in Mexico, but discrimination by mestizos against mestizos is not one of them.

Mr. López Obrador said in his letter to King Philip VI that he was not requesting reparations; the conquest cannot be repaired. The apology he demanded was immediately rejected by the government in Madrid, and in all likelihood, the entire affair will fade away. The Mexican president’s ploy was almost certainly demagogic in intent and motivation, invoking an anti-Spanish sentiment that he believes exists in Mexico, though polls suggest otherwise.

Mexico does not need an apology, because it has no conflict with Spain today. But beyond the Mexican populist gesture, and the debates in the United States, Europe and Canada, however, lies a conversation waiting to be held. There are challenges for other peoples and groups that require atonement or forgiveness in order to be addressed. In some cases, it can make an enormous difference, as with African-Americans, race and slavery in the United States. In others, it can disentangle complicated questions of national identity and victimization, as in Mexico. Reparations may be ultimately relevant only in some cases. But history is always relevant.

Originally post by Jorge G. Castañeda at the New York Times

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FORBES – Only Large Policy Interventions Such As Reparations Can Shrink The Racial Wealth Gap

As this presidential campaign season gets under way, the racial wealth gap is getting a fair amount of attention. African-Americans typically have about one-tenth the wealth of whites. Several presidential hopefuls such as former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro as well as Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have supported the idea of reparations for the descendants of slaves to rectify this massive inequality born out of an unspeakable historic injustice.

A new paper from researchers at the Cleveland Federal Reserve now argues that almost all of the wealth gap between African-Americans and whites is driven by the racial income gap – African-Americans earning about half of what whites earn. One of the main findings of the paper rests on hypothetical scenario that sets African-Americans’ earnings equal to that of whites from 1962 to the present and finds that African-Americans would have had 90% of the wealth of white by 2007. The paper concludes by arguing that addressing the racial wealth gap would require focusing on fixing the racial income gap.

The single focus on income as the driver of racial wealth inequality rests on a model that strips away all of the systematic biases that result in lower incomes for African-Americans. Many of these directly relate to the racial wealth gap and the policy biases that favor whites. After all, income builds wealth, but wealth also generates future incomes and systematic obstacles in building enough wealth hold back African-Americans from getting a fair shot at equal pay. Focusing then only on income ignores the real importance of enacting policies that can quickly close the racial wealth gap, such as reparations.

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The racial wealth gap is the result of decades, even centuries of systematic economic barriers to African-Americans’ economic progress . Starting with slavery to the Jim Crow era to today’s mass incarceration, U.S. policy has held back African-Americans and denied them an equal opportunity for centuries. The factors contributing to the racial wealth gap are multitude and their interplay is complex and differs from community to community, from time period to time period. It is virtually impossible to identify one single leading cause for the massive racial wealth gap.

Earning the same money as whites then requires African-Americans to have more wealth to begin with than is currently the case, so that they can actually catch up to whites. After all, current earnings in no small part depend on people’s past opportunities, afforded to them by their families’ wealth. These include, but are not limited to the quality of neighborhoods, schools and colleges. More wealth will allow people to move to better schools, to send their children to better schools, and to support their college education. Many African-Americans do not have these choices because of a lack of wealth. They then cannot gain the income that would give them and their children the same opportunities as whites have.

 

Additional policy interventions need to occur to make sure that when African-Americans have the same amount of income, they can also build the same amount of wealth as whites. The evidence shows that at comparable income and education levels, for instance, African-Americans have systematically much less wealth than whites. Their incomes often don’t translate into the same amount of wealth because they face additional obstacles such as housing and mortgage market discrimination, resulting in residential segregation and fewer economic educational and labor market opportunities.

The link between higher earnings and more wealth needs to be the same for African-Americans as for whites and that means eliminating systematic biases in housing, mortgage, credit, labor markets and education to begin with. For instance, even when African-Americans enjoy the same opportunities at an education, they often face systematic obstacles in the labor market, which means lower earnings and fewer benefits. A college education for African-Americans still goes along with lower earnings, more unemployment and less wealth than is the case for whites. Systematic obstacles such as outright discrimination, mass incarceration, occupational steering and residential segregation cost African-Americans income right now. Several of these obstacles can be overcome with more wealth that would allow people to move to safer, more diverse neighborhoods, to access similar education opportunities, among other changes.

Policymakers need to consider the challenges of shrinking the racial wealth gap comprehensively. There is no single driver of this gap, but a system that is still heavily stacked against African-Americans . Without massive policy changes it would take African-Americans 260 years to get 90% of the wealth of whites. This just underscores that the massive systematic historic and current hurdles for African-Americans to get ahead will not go away by themselves. Because there are many factors at play here and because this injustice has gone for far too long, addressing wealth inequality will require a large and expeditious approach to fix it. Such a comprehensive approach will likely have to include large-scale reparations for past injustices in some form as an approach to shrink the wealth gap in a meaningful way. The alternative is the continuation of piece meal, gradual approaches that have not made a dent in the racial wealth gap.

 

Original Post on Forbes.com by Christian Weller

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The Selma Center for Nonviolence Truth & Reconciliation

The mission of the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, & Reconciliation (Selma CTNR) is to partner with institutions to promote love, the establishment of justice and build the Beloved Community. The Selma CNTR is committed to transforming and healing the root causes of physical, political, psychological, environmental, economic and racial violence at personal, family, community and systemic levels.

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Learn More at the SelmaCenterForNonviolence.org

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Restorative Justice For Oakland Youth (RJOY)

Punitive school discipline and juvenile justice policies activate tragic cycles of violence, incarceration, and wasted lives for youth of color. Founded in 2005, RJOY works to interrupt these cycles by promoting institutional shifts toward restorative approaches that actively engage families, communities, and systems to repair harm and prevent re-offending. RJOY focuses on reducing racial disparities and public costs associated with high rates of incarceration, suspension, and expulsion. We provide education, training, and technical assistance and collaboratively launch demonstration programs with our school, community, juvenile justice, and research partners.

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Learn More at RJOY.org

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Break The Prison Pipeline

Metropolitan Congregations United is an interdenominational, multi-racial community organization of religious congregations in the St. Louis Metropolitan Region that are working for a common purpose: to create a better life for all residents. We believe every citizen has the right, and the responsibility, to take part in the democratic process, to become aware of the issues that affect him/her, to identify solutions, and to develop relationships with the policymakers who can bring about change.

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Learn More at facebook.com/MCUStLouis

 

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Black Alliance For Just Immigration

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) believes that a thriving multiracial democracy requires racial, social and economic justice for all. African Americans and black immigrants are stronger together and we can win by becoming leaders in the fight against structural racism and systemic discrimination. BAJI was formed to bring Black voices together to advocate for equality and justice in our laws and our communities.

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Contact locations in NYC, LA, Oakland, AtL, and Miami

 

Learn More at Baji.org

 

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