Millennials: Continue the Fight for Reparations

U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) has introduced H.R. 40, a bill to establish a Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act, every year since 1989. (Flickr Creative Commons)
U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) has introduced H.R. 40, a bill to establish a Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act, every year since 1989. (Flickr Creative Commons)

A recent Associated Press poll showed that 62 percent of those polled ages 18-35 opposed the U.S. government providing reparations to African-Americans for slavery while 32 percent support the measure. However, the poll is much different among racial lines. Sixty-two percent of Black Americans and 40 percent of Latinos want reparations while 21 percent of White Americans are in favor.

There have been recent efforts to diminish and whitewash slavery and its effects on the descendants of African slaves. American slavery cannot be rectified or reconciled without proper restitution, remuneration and rehabilitation of African Americans. Presidential Green Party Candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka formally favor reparations and reconciliation with African-Americans while our frontrunners Donald Trump (R) and Hillary Clinton (D), thoroughly oppose reparations to African Americans.

As millennials, we are taught to “not see color,” but when numbers come into play, the disparities against Blacks aren’t colorblind, and quite discouraging, starting from the moment the first Africans stepped foot onto The New World up until today.

For 246 years, Africans were kidnapped and brought to America for servitude. That equates to about 10 generations of Africans subjected to deplorable, inhumane, dehumanizing, degrading conditions and treatment. During this time of free labor in the South and unlimited funding of industrialization in the North, the American economy began the form of capitalism and became an economic powerhouse. After the abolishment of slavery and start of Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws were enacted and Black Americans were terrorized, lynched, and marginalized for almost a century. They were denied voting rights, access to quality schools, and also left out of government programs to assist Americans in achieving “The American Dream.”

Federal programs under the original Homestead Act of 1862 and The Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850 granted millions of acres of free land in the East and the West to white Americans. The opportunity to obtain wealth in this country through homeownership overwhelmingly favored whites in America during Jim Crow. Government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration and the Homeowners Loan Corporation, with the help of “Separate but Equal” laws, encouraged segregation. Between 1934 to 1962, the federal government backed $120 billion of home loans, more than 90 percent of which went to white Americans.

The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act deemed Jim Crow laws unconstitutional. This bill was a pivotal stepping stone for Black liberation in America. But even the late great Martin Luther King Jr. knew this wouldn’t be enough. He told actor-activist Harry Belafonte days before his death that “I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.” In the year leading up to his death, King organized and mobilized “The Poor People’s Campaign” in which he planned to lead another march on Washington for economic justice. He said “This time, we are coming to get our check.”

Reparations are not just a check. It’s not meant to only rectify the effects slavery, but also Black Codes, Jim Crow, discrimination, marginalization, domestic terrorism, police brutality, mass incarceration – all of which have affected the descendants of slaves and only Black Americans over the longest period of time in this country. Last year, the Obama administration earmarked $12 million to assist the Holocaust survivors in this country. What about the African Holocaust Mr. President?

For too long we’ve accepted the “at least” mentality that keeps us at the bottom in all facets of human development. In education, economics, social and political status, African Americans are the least. At the end of slavery, newly freed slaves owned less than a percent of America’s wealth, as of 2014, African Americans hold 2.6 percent. “At least” we progressed by 2 percent in 150 years right? True equity and equality in America require reparations, restitution, and reinvestment to African Americans.

The root word of reparations is “repair”. Blacks have not had an opportunity to repair themselves after slavery and for simply being Black in America. We have technically been “free” for about 50 years. Reparations would allow us to repair ourselves, our communities, and gain wealth, social, political, educational, and health equality. It’s not a “handout,” After 246 years of building this country and 100 more of being marginalized, terrorized and discriminated against, I stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and say I believe we as people have earned it.

I encourage all millennials to research the congressional bill HR40 which has been introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives every year since 1989. HR40 is a bill to establish a Commission to Study Reparations proposals for African Americans Act. It’s time for our generation to complete what those before us started. Equality, Equity, and justice has been on the forefront every Black liberation agenda. If America truly wants to live up to the “Justice & equality for all” mantra, it first has to make amends for its racist and unjust past. Only then can radical progress be accomplished.