In honor of the murder of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, and the beginning of The Black Lives Matter Movement after the murder of Trayvon Martin February 26, 2012.
Reparations means, the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged. That’s the literal meaning of the word. However, when one contemplates the legacy of white supremacy, racial injustice, unearned land, property and privileges that are inextricably bound to the founding of the United States of America, the definition made by the Webster’s dictionary is incapable of creating an adequate understanding or defining the word in such a way that addresses the enormity of where we find ourselves at this moment in history. Instead, the definition of reparations remains much too simplistic and mundane to address the enormity of this historic moment of racial reckoning in America. The dictionary definition seems to be unable to extricate the “one” who has done the wrong from the debt that is owed to the “one” who has been wronged. In the case of the United States of America v. the Black People of African descent and the stolen lives and labor that literally built this nation for FREE, that debt continues to accumulate with interest. That debt has yet to be acknowledged or addressed, and that debt cannot be made whole until white America recognizes its responsibility and acknowledges its signature on the bill, marked long overdue.
After two hundred and fifty years of slavery, ninety-years of Jim Crow, sixty years of separate but equal segregation, forty years of racist housing policy and the exponential mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of black and brown bodies within the prison industrial complex for, primarily, low-level drug crimes, the debt continues to rise. In a country that has monetized marijuana as a legitimate industry with hundreds of growers and sellers, even a former Leader of the United States Senate who was once a loud and vociferous proponent of the “War on Drugs” and three-strikes-you’re-out legislation; there’s a tremendous debt to be paid by the benefactors of white supremacy and institutional racism in the United States of America. And for the record, it must be noted that this phenomenon is not unique to the US it has a global and systemic reach. However, to clarify, so there need not be any confusion whatsoever, these benefactors of white supremacy and institutional racism are white people, the descendants of white people, and their heirs.
Legitimate financial institutions would never continue to send out “alerts” or reminders for this long past overdue indebtedness. The sheer magnitude of it would not allow for debt forgiveness or forbearance. For a debt this large and for the hundreds of years that it has gone past due, the interest alone could finance more than several countries. The bottom line is that America has cashed a check on borrowed funds, capitalized on the interest, and made itself wealthy without repayment or investment in the original capital and property that created its wealth in the first place. For over 400 years this country has been carrying a debt with no intention, or plan for repayment. The benefactors and their heirs have systematically hoarded these proceeds and capital gains over hundreds and hundreds of years. They’ve continued to accumulate land, goods, property, and wealth for themselves – sharing amongst themselves, their heirs, and other white-skinned citizenry while allowing only a small “trickle-down effect” to the “colored peoples” of other ancestry. Those are the ones who get the scraps from the master’s table. They are last to the “table” and at the very end of that leftover train, are America’s Black citizens who finally got equal access to the ballot box (only theoretically) in 1965. That was literally only 55 years ago. There is a debt to paid.
The stolen lives and stolen labor that built the wealth of America and fueled the “American Dream” must be paid back. The land, the promise of land, and the stolen and destroyed property must be restored to the heirs of America’s formerly enslaved African people. Because Black people in America have a righteous claim to FULL and Equal Citizenship that cannot be denied and must be recognized. THAT is where reparations begins. African descended peoples in America whose ancestors were stolen and enslaved for generations have a debt owed to them and to their descendants and it is long past time for America to pay up. We need to look at the institutions upon which wealth is built in this country and the systems, policies, practices, and procedures that have increased access and opportunity to gain wealth and to build wealth for white people in America and start to formulate The National Plan for Reparations right there.
The following are the things we need to address immediately as foundational to the process of Reparations: the Housing System, the Education System, the Legislative process, the Criminal Justice System, and the Mass Media Enterprise.
Home & Property Ownership: All Black People (regardless of economic station or class) MUST be given an opportunity for homeownership and/or affordable housing. Since homeownership is the way that most Americans build generational wealth, it is imperative that Black people have access to this opportunity through no-interest mortgages and/or low-interest long-term mortgages up to 60 years in length. Each municipality must make available a set number or percentage of these loans and available properties (perhaps correlating to the number of Black citizens in that particular region of the country) to this National Reparations Plan.
Education: ALL Black people MUST be given a FREE education from kindergarten through graduate school and/or professional school of any kind. This applies no matter what economic station or class. It applies to whatever school, college, or university students want to attend. All HBCUs will receive endowments and grants in order to continue to provide quality education and programming for generations. HBCUs will be included in the National Reparations Plan.
Active and ongoing efforts will be made to recruit, train, and support teachers and educators from the Black community with enhanced pay, free education, and other incentives.
ALL Educational Loans will be FORGIVEN and/or Repaid (regardless of class or economic standing)
Federal and State Financial Systems and Institutions: All Black People of African descent will not be required to pay federal or state income taxes for the next 100 years. Due to not being a part of the United States as FULL citizens, and NOT being supported as taxpayers by the services and institutions afforded tax-paying citizens such as EQUALITY AND EQUAL PROTECTION under the law after Emancipation, and having been required to pay taxes without representation and without full access to the SAME legal rights and privileges afforded white American citizens; ALL moneys earned, gifted, inherited or otherwise procured will be exempt from taxation; Black citizens WILL NOT be required to pay either State or Federal Income TAX for not less than the next 100 years. Additionally, ALL tax indebtedness for any person of African American ancestry will be forgiven and considered null and void.
Health Systems: ALL Black people of African descent will be provided universal healthcare to include complete and total healthcare. This includes psychological and trauma healing, dental, optical, and recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. (If anyone wants to have a private insurer rather than the one provided by the government, that policy will be subsidized at 40%. (In deference to the 40 Acres and a Mule NONE of US ever Got!)
Criminal Justice: ALL Black people of African descent will be released immediately for ANY low-level drug conviction, non-payment issues (of any kind), petty crimes and/or misdemeanors, and their record immediately expunged with ALL rights and privileges of Full citizenship restored. ALL cases within the criminal justice system vs. any Black person will be re-opened and re-litigated. If any impropriety of process or protocol is found to be present in the case as litigated, the case shall be dismissed out-of-hand.
Immediately examine All Legislation that needs to be fast-tracked in order to Reform the Criminal Justice System including the Abolition Movement.
National Criminal Justice Commission Act 2019
Repeal the Crime Bill
George Floyd Justice in Policing Act 2020
Creation of a NATIONAL Commission for Criminal Justice Reform that has representatives from a diverse and deeply informed group of citizens in the following areas; academia, science, sociology, education, criminal justice, restorative justice activists, the formerly incarcerated, and representatives from communities of color.
RESTORE THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT IMMEDIATELY and continue to work towards equitable and broad-based voter registration in a national initiative, Including automatic registration not unlike the Selective Service System and a national policy for voting by mail.
This is only an initial proposal to begin the urgently needed examination of what Reparations for the Black citizens of this country actually means. Reparations for the descendants of the enslaved African people who built the wealth of this nation without EVER being recognized or duly compensated. This is only a beginning effort to clarify what it means to make Reparations for the hundreds of years of Chattel Slavery that built the wealth of America. This takes into account the unqualified and intentional failure of America, its government, and its white citizens to live up to the promises made and never realized. The promises of Life, Liberty, and Equal Justice under the law that have never included America’s Black citizens. For it is indisputable that the United States of America has NEVER paid its debt after hundreds and hundreds of years of prosperity and generational wealth and legacy building amongst America’s white citizens, who have claimed the benefits, the advantages, and the access for themselves for generations upon generations.
Even after Emancipation, Black people have had to live in America as second, and third-class citizens socially, politically, and economically while being terrorized, targeted, and killed with impunity. Black Americans have been terrorized for generations by state-sanctioned social, political, economic, and environmental terrorism from the beginning of America as a nation to this present day. After “Freedom,” when Black people made any acquisition of property or wealth, it was often taken from them, or destroyed by violent and overwhelming force, making it impossible to build an inheritance for our children and their children and the generations to come.
To be clear, there is NO amount of money or remuneration that can replace what has been lost, taken, and stolen from Black people of African descent in this country. We have never even been given the National apology or acknowledgement that our people most certainly deserve. The people of the United States MUST rectify this historic atrocity. We will NEVER be the nation that we claim to be or even hope to be unless these historic wrongs are redressed with intentionality and a sincere and concerted sustained effort. Personal giving to organizations, causes or communities is just that a personal effort. It is good and not unappreciated. However, it cannot pay the debt that is owed by a NATION whose original sin has been festering beneath the surface for generations upon generations. Unless it is addressed it will be the end of this nation. We will ALL rise or we will ALL sink into the depths forever but make no mistake that OUR HISTORIC LEGACY has made us inextricably bound one to another. We HAVE A COLLECTIVE HISTORY and it Will NOT be Forgotten.