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Reparations: not ready to jump on the bandwagon
Subj:      [Mpls] Reparations: not ready to jump on the bandwagon
Date:     12/8/2001 11:22:28 AM Central Standard Time

In a message dated 12/7/2001 8:26:23 PM Central Standard Time,
[eva] writes:

> The last couple issues of Insight News covered the issue of reparations.
>  The issue two weeks ago talked about how the reparations committee was
>  working on convincing the African American community of the need for
>  reparations.  Last week's issue covered the Lucille's Kitchen forum with
>  special guests Gary Schiff, Robert Lilligren, Natalie Johnson Lee and Dean
>  Zimmerman.

It wasn't so long ago that leading black politicians were saying that black
people should stop looking to the government to solve their problems and pull
themselves up by their boot straps.  By putting reparations on the agenda,
one is acknowledging that the government should be a part of the solution.  
That is a step forward, in my opinion.

However, I do have a few concerns about putting forward a demand for
reparations.  I am not convinced it is an effective tactic.  It seems to me
that the demand for reparations could be used as a wedge to divide blacks
from poor whites and isolate the black community. Here I will pose a number
of the questions that I think ought to be addressed:

If you bring the case for reparations before a court, upon what theory would
you base your claim? Who is assessed for the payments? Is the concept of
collective guilt applied to white people? Why not call for remedies such as
the enforcement of fair employment and housing laws?

What is the nature of the problem?  Why were African People enslaved and
brought across the Atlantic ocean in the first place?  Why has the oppression
of black people been perpetuated?  Whose interests does it serve?  Is it in
the interests of the capitalist class to end racism, or to perpetuate it?  
Are the fundamental class interests of workers, including white workers,
served by the oppression and super-exploitation of blacks?  

-Doug Mann, Kingfield

Doug Mann for School Board
Subj:      Re: [Mpls] Reparations: not ready to jump on the bandwagon
Date:     12/9/2001 4:02:25 PM Central Standard Time

In a message dated 12/8/2001 10:40:39 PM Central Standard Time,
Pamela Taylor writes:

> Doug,
>  Pardon me, but there is a readily identifiable
>  difference which exists now between African-Americans
>  and poor whites.  Skin color.  No matter how color
>  blind people would like to pretend they are, that fact
>  will always remain.  And in this country, the white
>  people, no matter how poor they are, will always have
>  a leg up.  I don't believe for a minute that my people
>  are looking to drive any wedges, and I can't believe
>  you really think so either.

I did not say that 'your people' are looking to drive any wedges between poor
whites and blacks.  I said that raising the demand for reparations is a
tactic that could be used as a wedge to divide poor whites and blacks and
isolate the black community.

In my last posting to this list, I posed the question: Are the fundamental
class interests of workers, including white workers, served by the oppression
and super-exploitation of blacks?  My answer: No, because workers, including
most white workers can be more effectively and thoroughly exploited by
perpetuating a racist system.  

I do not claim to be a colorblind person, nor do I propose "colorblind"
solutions for racism.  I support the struggles of African-American people
against a racist system because I believe it is in my interests to do so.  If
I believed that it was in my interests to support the status quo, I would
support the status quo.  

It is also my view that the problem isn't people with white skin as such.  
The problem is a color-based caste system that confers privileges on whites
and influences the way that people feel, and think, and act.  This
color-based caste system is also part of a political and social system based
on economic exploitation and nourished by racism, sexism, elitism and so
forth: the capitalist system.  

>  I agree, African-Americans should not look to
>  government to solve all their problems, because not
>  all of their problems stem from that.  But reparations
>  are a different matter entirely.

Of course, not every problem can be solved by the government.  However,
African-American people cannot solve some of their biggest problems without
making demands on the government.  That's a point I made in my last writing
on this subject. The demand for reparations is a demand on the government, is
it not?  

>  Calling for remedies in regard to fair employment laws
>  and housing should be on the agenda for everyone.
>  Yes, African-Americans are affected by those things,
>  but they are not only our issue, and again, don't
>  negate the call for reparations.

I didn't say that the only issues affecting African-Americans are unfair
practices in the employment and housing markets.  You are putting words in my
>  As for collective guilt, America has always loved to
>  share, spreading the guilt and financial burden of
>  Vietnam and other unnecessary wars.  Why not pay the
>  price of reparations?  Attacking African-Americans in
>  their own country; dragging us kicking and screaming
>  on a boat ride we had not intended to take; killing us
>  because we dared voice our discontent and fought back;
>  and making us build the "good old USA" using our
>  blood, sweat and tears.  

I see some huge problems with the application of the concept of collective
guilt and punishment. For one, there's no need to establish that the people
who are being punished are guilty of the crime.  This issue came up in
relation to punishing people in the German government for systematically
exterminating the Jews.  Should everyone in a position to carry out "the
final solution" to the Jewish question be executed without a trial?  Should
the entire population receive some sort of punishment, including opponents of
Hitler's regime and non-Jewish victims (Gypsies, Trade Unionists, Communists,
etc.)?  Does it matter who made the decisions, who carried them out, who
supported the policy, who opposed it, and who passively accepted it?  

>  Truth of the matter, simply put, is this: Without us,
>  where would America be?  It owes us BIG time.  Life
>  and funeral insurance for the lynchings and cultural
>  genocide it maliciously committed.  The slave labor it
>  relegated us to, never giving us a living wage, to me
>  equals back pay.  Jim Crow, the bus boycott, the
>  riots, etc.  Is there really a need to continue?
>  Consider it a class action suit.  
>  Pamela Taylor

I think we agree that a massive transfer of income and assets to the
African-American population is called for.  However, I am not convinced that
raising the demand for reparations is an effective tactic.  Why?

There is the matter of whose income and assets you are going to go after.  
Who has enough money to pay the debt?  Who is going to help you accomplish
the transfer of income and assets?

Can you rely on rich people, who happen to get the most benefit from the
ongoing oppression and super-exploitation of African American workers?  
What's in it for them?  Will moral arguments and guilt-baiting tactics work
on rich white people?

Can poor white people (and others not of African descent) be convinced that
it is in their interests to support you?  How could you convince them?  Are
there more effective ways to enlist their support than raising the
reparations demand?

- Doug Mann, Kingfield

Doug Mann for School Board