Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Student Loans and Slavery Reparations?


Decrying a refusal by banks implicated in the US slave trade to pay reparations to the descendents of enslaved blacks, a collection of religious, community, student and political groups yesterday called for a boycott of student loans backed by finance companies with historical ties to slavery.

The banks named are JP Morgan Chase, Wachovia and Bank of America, all of whom are accused of having accepted slaves as collateral on loans; JP Morgan apologized and put up $5 million in scholarship $, Wachovia apologized, Bank of America denied it.

Complicated. I was on a panel about slavery reparations this fall at Medgar Evars College. The African-American individuals in attendance expressed the view that reparations are an explosive issue representing their hope for an end to their continuing economic and social disadvantages and a powerful and successful future for their community--perhaps even a revolutionary ideal. This was totally news to me because for the white people I know, the issue of reparations is a nonissue--considered only in the abstract, easily dismissed. A serious disconnect, to say the least.


Chris Laurel said...

"Low brow, high stakes, crack smoke, black folks...."

I was always against Slavery Reparations. The mere execution of paying them out boggles contemplation. Do I think African-Americans as a class deserve them, though? Yes. Without doubt. We have continually beat that community down. They know we know this. We laugh at Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle because we know they are right. "It's funny, because it's true." But once we turn off the TV or leave the theater, we go back to the status quo, the Prozac, the lifetime of unending therapy sessions we need to help us deal with the fact our society is rotting from the inside out. It's not just our leaders; it's the people who elect them.

It's not just our leaders who barely debate the merits of destroying and rebuilding an entire country, but almost immediately debate the merits of rebuilding one of our own [black] cities? One of the most unique and culturally relevant places we have in this country? It shocks me. I question if this is the kind of society that listens to our forefathers anymore, or if we just listen to their words spun into lies. What has become of us? Do people ask themselves questions like this anymore? $1 billion dollars a day, and most of those fighting and dying are minorities, too. Go figure the white guys running the war never served themselves yet can question everyone else's patriotism. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. And we impeached Clinton over personal indiscretions, ones many of us in our own society are guilty? Remember the conservatives decrying "Travelgate?" That was cronyism and a scandal, and now look at those same individuals. Go figure - Republicans have the same human failings as Democrats. The difference is in the hypocrites who brandish their morality like a weapon at anyone who disagrees with them, or points out their unprincipled actions. It wouldn't frustrate so much if it didn't work. But the American public, in its decay, has suckled up to the hypocrites' teat, hearing what they want to hear, never caring the words rarely translate into principled action.

"Oh, but that's because Things Are Different." No they're not. They never are. I only see history repeating itself.

And we do nothing. We have turned our backs on blacks' problems and we have never kept our word to them. When we finally, reluctantly, started to accept them we said, "Go out there, be equal and good luck." Although we do not want to give them affirmative action or special consideration, or anything more than what everyone else gets in our Darwinian society. Then we wonder why one of their deepest poets was a drug dealer and gangster.

It's because they remember slavery. They remember hundreds of their children and men beaten or hung in the streets of New York City as the Civil War broke out, blamed for wanting their freedom. Isn't that heartbreaking? Even in this city. They remember "40 acres and a mule" which, had we fulfilled that promise, maybe their community would not be in the dire straits it finds itself in today. Instead we freed them, gave them Black Codes, Jim Crow, segregation and ghettoization. Holy Robert Moses! Because of one lousy Supreme Court interpretation, the Bill of Rights was not applied to blacks nationally until the middle of the 20th Century. Barron v. Baltimore. And now the kinds of guys who voted against applying the Bill of Rights nationally will be handing down decisions on our Supreme Court. And I'm not supposed to be frightened? I'm not supposed to yell out about this stuff in class when I hear it?!? Bullshit! A breach of decorum in defense of liberty is no vice, my friends. It's not even a partisan issue. We need to start looking and reading the roots of our country's founding, because it is obvious to me we've forgotten them.


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