Jackson to make reparations a priority

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Jackson to make reparations a priority


Published 9/7/01

The Rev. Jesse Jackson will make reparations for the past enslavement of blacks his No. 1 issue this fall, an aide to the civil rights leader promised yesterday.

The 59-year-old Mr. Jackson will hold a press conference at the Rainbow/PUSH headquarters in Chicago this morning to announce details of his new campaign. "It is something new, a new priority," said Nizam Arain, acting press secretary for Mr. Jackson, who is scheduled to return tonight from the U.N. World Conference Against Racism. "It was raised and discussed at our annual convention [in August].There are a variety of angles he intends to use, and I know that legislation is one, maybe even the top angle."

Mr. Jackson stepped up his rhetoric on reparations to American blacks for slavery at the conference this week, telling a news service that "we must make crooked ways straight." "We have fewer services and less education. We are disproportionately jailed and killed by the state. We have shorter life spans. We have less access to capital," Mr. Jackson told Reuters during the event, which ended yesterday.

Only one African nation, Nigeria, stated during the conference that reparations were not necessary. Mr. Jackson has had considerable success in his advocacy efforts over the years, from eliciting promises and money from corporate America to enhancing diversity programs, to getting out the black vote in record numbers.

Reparations has never been a top priority for Mr. Jackson, although he has broached the subject over the years. In 1997,he and other civil rights leaders met with President Clinton in the hopes of extracting an official apology for the existence of slavery in the United States. "An apology is in order," said Mr. Jackson. "But you must not only apologize with your lips. Repent, repair and remedy go together."

In 1993, Mr. Jackson called on Western nations to pay reparations to Africa. Yet he did not mention that the reparations scheme would apply to U.S. blacks. But emboldened by the acrimonious climate at the conference in South Africa this week, Mr. Jackson began making explicit references to the black community's growing push for reparations.

"In many ways, Africa subsidized America and Europe's development," he told BBC Radio 4's Today program. "If you don't feel apologetic for slavery, if you don't feel apologetic for colonialism, if you feel proud of it, then say that."

Mr. Jackson said that the limited U.S. involvement at the U.N. conference was due to the fear of addressing the issue of reparations. The United States withdrew its participation from the conference following numerous criticisms of Israel's role in the conflict in the Middle East.

"We used the Middle East controversy as an excuse [to avoid slavery]," he said Monday. Civil rights groups have for years advocated financial compensation for descendants of slaves. The manner of compensation has varied, from sending out sums of money to the country's 34 million blacks, to increased funding for predominantly black schools.

A powerful core of civil rights and class-action lawyers, which includes Johnnie Cochran Jr., is now preparing a lawsuit seeking reparations for American blacks descended from slaves -- the undisclosed amount being sought is said by some to be near a trillion dollars. A date for filing the action has not been confirmed.

Other movements demanding reparations have progressed slowly, gaining stature during the past decade. One of the most prominent has been the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, known as N'COBRA, which was formed in 1988. The following year, Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, introduced a bill calling for a committee to study the effects of slavery. The bill has foundered in committee each session since. Mr. Conyers did not return phone calls for comment.

N'COBRA treasurer Kalonji Olusegun said yesterday that Mr. Jackson's entry into the debate could give the movement important momentum and place the issue at the forefront of American politics. "His joining of this issue is an indication of the snowballing effect that has occurred in the past year and a half," Mr. Olusegun said. "It has been very difficult for this country to know that it is based on white supremacy."

Eleven cities have so far passed resolutions to study the impact of slavery; the wording of several of those resolutions was based on Mr. Conyers' bill. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has called for a study on reparations since 1991. The Washington office of the NAACP has also lobbied for progress on Mr. Conyers' bill. Mr. Jackson's entry into the fray could give all reparations efforts a boost, an official said.

"Jesse Jackson has always brought a constructive light to these issues," said NAACP legislative director Hilary Shelton. "He is masterful at articulating the issues and he comes to the table with great credibility." But when Clara Peoples, a reparations advocate from Portland, Ore., asked Mr. Jackson for help several years ago, he rejected her request. "He didn't pay us any mind," said Miss Peoples, who heads a movement called "Reparations -- Yes." "But we're happy to have him aboard now."

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), September 07, 2001


Jackson is an incomparable idiot. There FAR more pressing issues currently at stake.

-- Guy Daley (guydaley1@netzero.net), September 07, 2001.

Senegal's leader blasts idea of slave reparations

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER, Associated Press

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (August 29, 2001 08:20 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) -

A descendant of generations of slave-owning African kings himself, Senegal's president on Wednesday ridiculed demands for financial reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade as both impossible and insulting.

Almost every nation was once one of slave-owners, President Abdoulaye Wade said ahead of debate on reparations at the U.N. racism conference in Durban, South Africa. What they owe today, he said, is lasting recognition of the wrong done. "If one can claim reparations for slavery, the slaves of my ancestors, or their descendants, can also claim money from me," Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Because slavery has been practiced by all people in the world."

Advocates of reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular are asking the West "to give us money to forget our ancestors, and the suffering they went through," Wade said. "And I find that insulting."

The Senegalese leader, outspoken on both African involvement in the slave trade and the need for European and American acknowledgment of their role, spoke by telephone before Friday's opening of the conference.

A campaign driven by African activists is asking the conference to endorse proposals for an apology and financial compensation from nations that benefited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade. By the most widely accepted estimate, the trade saw 12 to 15 million Africans shipped across the ocean into slavery in the Americas and Europe.

Although many African countries have signed past statements of support for reparations and an apology, African leaders have largely been silent in the run-up to the conference. On Wednesday, Wade joined the Vatican and South African President Thabo Mbeki in urging acknowledgment of the slave trade as an injustice. Pope John Paul II already has asked divine forgiveness - a gesture made during the pontiff's visit to an old slave barracks on Goree Island off Senegal, and still much remembered by the people of that nation. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said Wednesday that a calculation of compensation for slavery could be difficult. It suggested an "apology or expression of regret to the victim state by the state responsible for the wrong.

In South Africa, Mbeki said Tuesday he hoped for "a measurable commitment within countries and among all nations that practical steps will be taken and resources allocated ... to eradicate the legacy of slavery, colonialism and racism." "A necessary first step in this regard is an unqualified acknowledgment of the fact that slavery, colonialism and racism represent chapters and practices in human history that cannot but be condemned unequivocally as unjust," Mbeki said.

Wade angered reparations activists in his own country by saying he would go to Durban to make the case against financial compensation. What Wade wanted, he said Wednesday, was declaration of the slave trade as a crime against humanity. "About reparations, ... it is not possible to evaluate the damage, the injury to Africa for 300 years," he said. "What I want is for Europe and the Americans to recognize that their ancestors, by practicing slavery, deeply injured Africa ... to make contrition, and also to teach the new generations, the boys, the girls, at schools, universities, the reality of slavery, the slave trade - in order to preserve the memory" of slaves. In Europe, they were sold as goods, and that's what's important, and that's what should be considered a crime against humanity," Wade said. He cited Catholic priests who once decreed Africans have no souls, "so you can sell them like beasts." "By teaching that in books, it doesn't mean that Africans want to take revenge against Europeans and Americans," the Senegalese leader said.

Wade's own family numbered thousands of slaves among its royal army, he said. His own family held slaves up to the mid-19th century, he said. "It's not the Europeans of today or the Americans of today who brought slavery," he said. "It's the ancestors. Me, personally, how can I be responsible for what my ancestors did, in the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th centuries?"

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-- Rich Marsh (marshr@airmail.net), September 08, 2001.

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