Nearly half a century later, Great Britain has finally taken the steps to admit their part in the brutality endured by Kenyans while under British colonial rule. And it’s time for the United States to do the same for its citizens.
But it seems that every time anyone broaches the subject of reparations for slavery, there’s never any kind of consensus, on either side, as more questions arise than solutions to the problem. Whether or not such payments are justified is always the main issue. Those against see Affirmative Action policies as a system of reparations already in place that look to correct those lingering wrongs of our past Jim Crow period. Some of those in favor of payments seek, in no short order, to acquire their promised “forty acres and a mule”, or the equivalent commercial value of such on today’s market. Others look for less tangible awards that could bring real, social change to our inner cities; things like public education reform, more jobs and higher wages.
Both sides bicker back and forth and agreement becomes that forgotten pot on a back burner while the families who have truly lost have no recourse for justice. But the UK has handed the US a blueprint to follow, if she is so inclined. In 2001, the Associated Press produced a series of articles entitled, Torn from the Land, that revealed case histories of land grabbing, more times than not through the use of violence, intimidation, outright theft or appropriation and murder.
“The Associated Press documented 57 violent land takings-more than half of the 107 land takings found in an 18-month investigation of black land loss in America. The other cases involved trickery and legal manipulations.”
The Authentic Voice – Torn from the Land; AP, December 3, 2001
If it wanted to, the United States could seek out those individuals or families whose descendants were robbed or killed for their property in the same way that Great Britaininvestigated and identified 5,228 Kenyans who were tortured at the hands of British colonial soldiers.
“If you’re looking for stolen black land, just follow the lynching trail”.
Ray Winbush – Director, Fisk University Race Relations Institute
Incidents where murder was committed and the estates of individuals stolen would be a proper place to begin the repair. On the one hand, you have documented proof of the theft or fraud, information that should allow you to seek damages. On the other hand, there is no statute of limitations for murder. And even if the crime can’t be criminally adjudicated, you should still be able to seek monetary damages in civil court. Besides, the idea of compensation for wrongs, past or present, is not lost on the government.
In 1980, the United States officially apologized for the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. President Jimmy Carter appointed a commission to investigate the camps and whether their creation was legitimately justified. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians recommended that surviving internees or their descendants receive payments of $20,000 each.
During the Iraq war, condolence payments-money distributed to Iraqi families whose victims were harmed or killed by US military action-rose from $5 million in 2004 to over $20 million in 2005, according to Pentagon financial data. (Boston.com-World News) The United States was also paying the families of Afghan war victims $2,000 for each death and $1,000 for each person wounded. This amount increased to $50,000 for each villager killed in the rogue attack by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on March 11, 2012. In that case, each villager wounded received $11,000.
So, why is it a problem when it comes to reparations, specific reparations for instances of land grabbing and murder that occurred right here in the United States? It’s not as if to do so is unprecedented. And of course, it’s understandable that the federal government would be reluctant in revisiting crimes perpetrated by white Americans during a rather ugly time in our history when the country was finding itself and grappling with the seeds of white supremacy. It would be painful for all citizens to have to relive that period but doing so would allow us, like the UK, to finally begin to come full circle and start the serious healing.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think that America was alright with paying everybody, and anybody, but its own African-American citizens. I’m just saying…
Associated Press – Torn from the Land