Monday, July 30, 2007

A comment on reparations

The other day i was watching part of the Youtube CNN debate for the democrats, where some guy asked whether the candidates believed in reparations. Of course, due to time constraints not all teh candidates could answer the question. And of course the self-selected 'token' Obama (who i love as a candidate) answered in a sly way saying that reparations can be applied to better schooling. I think that he said 'yes' in the only way palatable for white people, but failed miserably in opening up the debate about whether, when and how. . . but then again, it isn't his job to do that.

So, i'm going to put in my half-pence of thinking on the topic.

The fundamental question about reparations is whether White people will assume the moral responsibility, not for slavery, but for the four score years between the end of Reconstruction and the passing and enforcement of civil rights legislation. (side note - with the heavy influx of non-white immigrants, that will be a hard sell, and with the heavy influx of migrants in the 1910's and after WWI there is very little broad white 'responsibility' for what happened).

That's a big problem. And the other side of the problem, is that many of the people who deserve reparations don't know who they would actually be responsible for compensating them.

To understand the other point i'm making about reparations, you'd have to come with me on a little paradigm shift. Normally, with the civil rights movement, the aim was integration, being able to live, breathe, eat, drink, shit and work in the same buildings and in the same rooms as whites. For those brave souls who lost their lives and gained their freedom (alive and dead) i am and will be forever grateful. I have no bone to pick with you/them. For you/they addressed what seemed to be the most pressing problem at hand, dignity.

Having said that, and hopefully you get that what i said is way more than lip service, i'd like to add a different dimension to the debate about reparations, or even just black community development.

The problem with the aforementioned strategy of integration was that it focused on the day-to-day immediate concerns of life, safety and health of black folk. What i think really needs to be addressed is the disparity between who owns the businesses versus who works in them. The greatest generator of wealth in this country and any other is the starting and growing of businesses. Many people know this, even before Kiyosaki became famous. So, what i think needs to be addressed in any 'reparations' discussion is not how to integrate inside the businesses, but how to integrate the 'ownership class' (to steal a republican phrase).
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