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By Glen Ford--Black Agenda Report.com
Mar 6, 2008, 21:17
Besides being the workhorses of a growing young nation, African slaves brought with them their music, art, culture, and food. All modern music can be traced back to roots in slavery and Africa: country, rock, jazz, and especially hip hop. The influences of African artistic expression and shared culture can easily be seen, but what is often looked over are the not so easily recognizable economic influences of African slaves.
We will be forever enslaved by the deeds of the past. There is no way that we can separate ourselves from the historic wrong-doings of our ancestors. I like to think that there is only the present and that everything hinges on the present course and action. That idea is true I feel, but we cannot forget the past and we cannot discredit working towards the future. Last month there was a rememberance of slavery at the Elmina Castle in Ghana. Hundreds of locals gathered, the British Council and UK representatives were present and the crimes committed and journeys of slaves were remembered. In the BBC article Baroness Amos, who expressed pride at being a member of the African Diaspora, said transatlantic slave trade had been "responsible for some of the most appalling crimes perpetrated by humankind against its own citizens."
Let me begin by saying that I may be misreading this altogether. Perhaps I've become too sensitive. Maybe I've dipped into the egg nog a few times too many. But I swear, one of the Jeep bobble-head ads promotes human trafficking.
The ad portrays a bobble-head couple out for a day of shopping in their jeep. They stop at a music store and eye a Fender amplifier and one quick time jump later, the amplifier is in the back of the jeep. The woman then eyes an older black bobble-head man, decked out as a blues player, and one quick time jump later the old man and his bobble-head dog are in the back with the amplifier. Now, the ad doesn't explicitly show the white bobbleheads paying for the black bobblehead, but he does end up in the back with the amp and not on a seat where one would expect a passenger to go; the implication seems to be there. And take note of the fact that while they're showing the old man in the back, there's a note at the bottom stating "Please remember to secure all cargo." Come on!
Am I reading too much into this? Check over the fold to watch the ad and answer a poll weighing in on my sanity.
In 2001, at the UN-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, African nations demanded a clear apology for slavery from the former slave-trading countries and colonialist countries, with no success. Unfortunately, I am not surprised that judges in the USA are also saying that descendants of slavery can't seek reparations, especially from banks who hid their slave trading and slave-owner supporting past.
Yesterday, an appeals court in Chicago rejected a bid to a slave reparations suit. Judges said slave descendants cannot seek reparations from some of America's largest banks, insurers, and transportation companies who profited from slavery. Companies like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Aetna transported slaves and issued loans to slaveholders so they could buy other human beings.
All people who have been historically marginalized and victimized in this country deserve a level playing field. Reparations are not the only step toward leveling an incredibly unfair playing field, however they could help to start healing over 200 year old wounds.
Reparations can come in many forms: land, social services, government payments, and private payments. I understand the argument that the US relies on self-reported racial categories, and for this reason, I argue that instead of private payments, public payments should be made to improve communities, create programs, and promote diversity and access to services.
Japanese Americans who were placed in internment camps received reparations. As a result of this precedent, it is unjustifiable that other historically oppressed and exploited people aren't given the same rights and access to resources to build strength in their communities. Even though some Native American tribal groups have received some compensation for land taken from them in treaties, they have not been adequately compensated.
In spite of the fact that African Americans who live today didn't directly suffer under slavery, we carry the burden of this peculiar institution with us in every aspect of our lives.
How can you be expected to "pull yourself up by your own boot straps" when you still have inadequate access to health insurance and good schools?
Affirmative Action and programs of this kind are like reparations because they give us a chance to access education and careers that our ancestors who died before us dreamed about. In order to move on from a painful past, we need resources to empower us. Without this, a select portion of the population will continue to control the majority of the nation's wealth and power.