Why We Owe Them
By Carol Chehade
"Stop living in the past and move on after slavery!" This is what we often
tell African Americans. Well we certainly forced them to move on. We moved
on to Black Codes, Jim Crow, lynching, de facto segregation. We moved on to
White knights hiding behind ghosts of themselves while religiously lighting
crosses in praise of a Satan they were fooled into thinking was God. We
moved on to the cities of Tulsa, St. Louis and Rosewood, where we,
apparently, were unaffected by the burned and seared flesh of Black people.
We moved on to laws that upheld racial oppression over and over again. We
moved on to the many Black men placed on death row because they fit the
description. We moved on and made sure that Emmitt Till would not be the
last fourteen-year-old Black child whose unrecognizable corpse was the price
paid for supposedly whistling at a White woman. We moved on to exclude
African Americans from rights of democracy by blocking avenues to
employment, education, housing, and civil rights. In the final decade of the
last century the slow, consistent racial apocalypse started showing signs of
even more things to come when a Black man's head was seen rolling behind a
pick up truck in Jasper, Texas. By the time we racially profiled our way
from Texas to New York we find a city plagued with plungers and forty-one
bullets. Every time Black people have tried leaving the shackles of slavery
behind, we find that we were the ones that couldn't stop living in the past.
How dare our own racial arrogance say that reparations are too much of an
apology for the Black lives we've tormented. How dare we simultaneously
declare that the statue of limitations has expired for African Americans yet
is limitless for other people in the world whom are non-Black. Half of the
nations in this world are in the midst of fighting long and hard battles to
get justice for things that happened in the past. Some of these battles have
roots that go back further than the birth of the United States. African
Americans' quest for justice is looked down upon in comparison to ethnic
groups like Jews and Palestinians. Black people would be ridiculed as
unrealistic and outlandish if they were to ask for a piece of land like the
Jews and Palestinians have done and are doing. Unlike the Jews and
Palestinians, at least African Americans are asking rather than forcing us
through the barrel of a gun to take responsibility.
The international stage has taken issues of reparations much more seriously
than we have. The Jews received statehood as a form of reparations for their
brothers and sisters who were exterminated. Coincidentally, many Jews who
immigrated to Israel and benefitted from reparations were not even close to
the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. Although millions of those
whom the reparations were intended for died, that didn't mean that their
death equaled an expired statue of limitations for their descendants who
were left to deal with the psychological consequences and the nagging fear
of what it means to be hunted down and collectively violated because of
ethnicity. Jews even went on to win further reparations through lawsuits
against corporations such as banks.
Again, these demands for justice were instigated by a generation of Jews
that never even lived in Germany, let alone been there during the Holocaust.
The Jewish experience serves as a prime example as to why reparations for
African Americans are not unrealistic and outlandish.
About Me: An activist and writer, Chehade's new book is Big Little White
Lies: Our Attempt to White-Out America. Her essay 'Why We Owe Them' can be
read in its entirety at www.reparationsthecure.org/articles/chehade1.shtml.