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7 Reasons Black Reparations Are Due That Have Nothing To Do With Slavery

Black Reparations have been part of the African-American dialogue from the very beginning. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, reparations are the redress of an injury ; amends for a wrong inflicted.

The wrong in question usually refers to slavery, but there are 9 specific reasons why Black reparations are due today that have nothing to do with slavery. But before we explore the case for Black reparations, we must understand the nature and precedents associated with redressing injuries done to Africans in America.

How Black Reparations Were Awarded In The Past

At the dawn of the United States, Black reparations were actively considered and often awarded.

Abolitionist Quakers in New York, New England, and Baltimore went so far as to make “membership contingent upon compensating one’s former slaves.” In 1782, the Quaker Robert Pleasants emancipated his 78 slaves, granted them 350 acres, and later built a school on their property and provided for their education. “The doing of this justice to the injured Africans,” wrote Pleasants, “would be an acceptable offering to him who ‘Rules in the kingdom of men.’ ” (Source)

Some white abolitionists wanted to do away with slavery, but did not want to integrate Blacks into white society. The solution they derived was the ‘Back To Africa’ movement and thus the Republic of Liberia was established in 1822 with a promise of 25 acres of free land for each immigrant family and 10 acres for a single adult who came to the Black Republic.

And according to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, “Before the Civil War ended, General William Tecumseh Sherman issued an order in South Carolina. He wanted 40 acres and the loan of an Army mule set aside for each former slave family.”

The Case For Black Reparations Today

Many Africans in America use General Sherman’s nullified argument to assert that slavery reparations are due. Unfortunately, since his wartime declaration was overturned the argument for our ’40 acres and a mule’ is invalid.

A Black reparations protest

Others use the Geneva Convention to argue for Black reparations. Specifically, Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions contains minimum humanitarian standards that are to be respected ‘at any time and in any place whatsoever’. Specifically, Common Article 3 confirms the following prohibitions: a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment; b) taking of hostages; c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; and d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

But the Geneva Convention only applies to military personnel or civilians in a theater of war. And so arguments in support of reparations that cite the Geneva Convention are also generally misplaced (although it could be argued that slaves were subjected to the above conditions during the American Civil War).

Although we are not entitled ’40 acres and a mule’ and the Geneva Convention only applies to military personnel or civilians in a theater of war, there are still international guidelines that warrant Black reparations today.

According to the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law entail legal consequences.

“[I]t is understood that the present Principles and Guidelines are without prejudice to the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of all violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law”.

What Constitutes A Victim and ‘Gross Violations of International Human Rights’?

Any group of people who are subjected to systematic and gross human rights abuses are considered victims eligible for reparations. Specifically, a United Nations study concluded that: while under international law the violation of any human right gives rise to a right to reparation for the victim, particular attention is paid to gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms which include at least the following: genocide; slavery and slavery-like practices; summary or arbitrary executions; torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; enforced disappearance; arbitrary and prolonged detention; deportation or forcible transfer of population; and systematic discrimination, in particular based on race or gender. (Source)

While Africans in America remain eligible for slavery reparations (there is no statute of limitations on the crime of slavery), based on the above interpretation, here are 7 reasons why Black reparations are due that have nothing to do with slavery.

1. Medical Experimentation

An image of Vertus Hartiman from the documentary "A Hole In The Head". Medical experimentation presents a strong case for Black reparations.
Vertus Hartiman – A Victim of medical experimentation in the United States.

Many Black Americans are now aware of the crimes of J. Marion Simms, the so-called Father of Modern Gynecology. Sims routinely experimented on his female slaves without anesthesia. Back then, researchers believed Blacks were sub-human creatures who didn’t feel pain. In a chilling account:

“Each naked anaesthetized slave woman had to be forcibly restrained by the other physicians through her shrieks of agony as Sims determinedly sliced, then sutured her genitalia. The other doctors fled when they could bear the scene no longer.”

The resulting breakthroughs he uncovered secured his seat as president of the American Medical Association, and have generated trillions of dollars since.

If you believe that medical experimentation on Black bodies ended with the Civil War, you would be wrong.

If you have ever suffered with acne, chances are you were prescribed Retin-A – a synthetic form of Vitamin A. The wildly popular drug was created by Dr. Albert M. Kligman, with sales approximately $290 million for the year ending November 2015.

Dr. Kligman may have never developed the drug where it not for the help of more than 30 pharmaceutical companies that funded his research and Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia.

According to Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison, from 1951 to 1974, inmates were used as lab rats for his experiments. Black prisoners were exposed to radioactive, hallucinogenic and toxic materials on behalf of more than 30 pharmaceutical companies and several government agencies. In some experiments, prisoners were deliberately exposed to pathogens responsible for skin infections, including the herpes virus, staphylococcus bacteria and the athlete’s foot fungus.

The must-read book Medical Apartheid further illustrates the extent of modern medical experimentation on Blacks with The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.

The study was conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Macon County, Alabama, and it tracked 399 poor and mostly illiterate Black sharecroppers who were diagnosed with syphilis. The study subjects were deceived into believing that they were being treated, when in fact the documented intentions of those leading the study was to allow the disease to run its course, which often meant a very painful death.

By 1947 penicillin was recognized as a cure for syphilis, but study clinicians denied the antibiotic to subjects and instead gave them a fake. As the author notes, the racism that made something like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study possible was systemic and started at the top of the medical hierarchy with then U.S. Surgeon General, Thomas Parran, Jr. Even when presented with the penicillin cure, Parran opted to continue experimentation with the Black men of Macon County. By his assessment, their lives were less valuable than knowledge about syphilis.

These are just three of thousands of examples of cases of medical experimentation on Black bodies. Remember that the torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment described above is considered a gross violation of human rights. And while we cant be sure how many of our people have been subjected to medical experimentation, its prevalence presents a strong argument for Black reparations.

2. The New Jim Crow

“Those who run our prisons and jails seem determined to keep those who are locked up and locked out as ignorant as possible about the racial, social, and political forces that have turned this country into the most punitive nation on Earth” — Michelle Alexander

The New Jersey Department of Corrections recently came under fire after ACLU attorneys exposed their unconstitutional ban on The New Jim Crow — an award winning book that blew the lid off of America’s prison-industrial complex.

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When one understands the nature of the banned book, it becomes clear why a state with the worst racial disparity in incarceration rates in the entire nation would want the book suppressed.

The New Jim Crow exposes a caste-like system in the United States that is maintained by the prison industry that has resulted in millions of African Americans being prosecuted, incarcerated, and locked into a permanent second-class status.

Here are some facts presented in the book that threaten the unchecked exploitation of people of color:

  • More African American adults are under correctional control today, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
  • As of 2004, more Black men were disenfranchised than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
  • A Black child born today has less than a chance of being raised by both parents than a Black child born during slavery. This is due in large part to the mass incarceration of Black men.
  • Eighty percent of all African American children can now expect to spend at least a significant part of their childhood years living apart from their fathers due in large part to the mass incarceration.

Fundamentally, The New Jim Crow speaks to the use of prosecution as a weapon of white supremacy and a solution to ‘the Negro problem’ presented in the face of the abolition of slavery.

White abolitionists and slave owners alike raised the question of what was to be done with the hundreds of thousands of Black men, women, and children if and when they were set free.

Some white abolitionists advocated full naturalization as American citizens, or sending the former slaves back to Africa. To the effect of the latter, the Republic of Liberia was established in 1822 with a promise of 25 acres of free land for each immigrant family and 10 acres for a single adult who came to the Black Republic.

But other whites had no desire to emancipate the Negro -  let alone grant Black reparations – fearing it would disrupt the economic and social order they had grown accustomed to. Any economic and political gains made by Blacks were met with resentment and violence. Lynchings were most common in small and middle-sized towns where blacks often were economic competitors to the local whites.

The Southern Strategy

When Jim Crow laws were officially wiped off the books with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, white supremacist tactics adapted. While it was no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for social contempt, discrimination on the basis of criminal background in the name of public safety would give white supremacists the back door needed to maintain the Black-White caste system.

Using ‘public safety’ and ‘law and order’ as a campaign platform, Blacks were painted as criminal elements within society setting them up as political targets. This gave birth to the infamous ‘Southern Strategy’ — a political tactic designed by American Republicans to increase political support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African Americans.

Using racist code words, Richard Nixon ran his 1968 campaign on “law and order”. His strategy would remain standard operating procedures for Republicans through the election of Ronald Reagan who would advance the Southern Strategy by field testing more venomous coded language.

‘Dog-whistles’ like ‘welfare queens’,’states rights’, and ‘affirmative action’ would sound race neutral to Blacks and others, but would speak to the bigotry and fears of white supremacists.

Though Reagan did not overtly mention the race of the welfare recipient, the unstated impression in whites’ minds were black people and Reagan’s rhetoric resonated with Southern white perceptions of black people.

With the image of the Black criminal and miscreant permanently embedded in America’s subconscious, the environment was ripe for blood letting and mass incarceration. Thus, the War on Drugs was expanded with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997.

Under the war on drugs police were given license to use murder and blanket policies like ‘stop-and-frisk’ to herd Black faces into jails. Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates was applauded for making the statement that “casual drug users should be taken out and shot”.

In courthouses, most African-Americans were denied justice with unequal or excessive sentences. Some were railroaded into plea deals that would make them lifetime felons.

But under both circumstances, the result was the same: and individual who was unemployable, unable to participate in the political process, and denied their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus, the New Jim Crow was born.

According to every statistic that we have available, Black American men are the most incarcerated group of people in the world. With the loss of a second stream of income, Black women are forced to both spend more on necessities like childcare while having less available for savings and wealth accumulation.

Mass incarceration and the case for reparations for African-Americans.

The staggering loss of the earnings capacity of Black men at the height of their lifetime earning potential presents a strong argument for Black reparations from the government that engineered the dynamic that led to that loss in the first place.

3. Sacrifice Zones

A 29-acre site in the middle of Louisville’s predominantly Black Park Hill Community was the home of several companies over the past century. One of them was the Black Leaf pesticide company. When problems with toxic soil at the site surfaced in the 1980s, the residents were told nothing. During a 2009 site visit, inspectors with the Kentucky Division of Waste Management found drums containing hazardous waste. Some were leaking.

According to NPR, the human health risks posed by area facilities like the Black Leaf Plant and others are more than 10,000 times higher than the industry average, according to EPA data.

As of this article, the site remains contaminated while the city drags its feet on cleanup efforts.

The practice of clustering landfills, hazardous waste dumps, and heavy industrial polluters in poverty ­stricken Black neighborhoods is not limited to Kentucky. Sacrifice zones – areas that have been permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment – are found near Black communities across the United States.

To illustrate, a 1979 class­ action discrimination lawsuit against a Houston ­area solid waste company revealed that African ­American communities hosted six of the city’s eight solid waste landfills, even though African Americans only comprised 28 percent of the city’s population at the time.

Story after story after story paints the same picture. Black communities are consistently victimized by environmental injustice.

Remember that the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment described above is considered a gross violation of human rights. By failing to notify Black residents of life-threatening conditions, forcing them to saddle the burden of their medical care, and creating lax regulatory environments for perpetrators against vulnerable Black communities, sacrifice zones present yet another strong argument for Black reparations.

4. Fraud

Fraud has been used against the Black community as a form fo deception with the intent of financial gain for generations. Black Americans pay more for the homes they rent, for the mortgages they pay, for insurance, and for financial services.

Wells Fargo has been a standout bad actor among banks, both during the subprime lending boom and the recession it spawned. Watchdogs have shown that Wells Fargo fails to maintain foreclosed properties in Black communities with the same care that it does in white neighborhoods, leading to further depression of home values and more blight.

Its mortgage servicing arm has been at the center of complaints about banks’ refusal to work with underwater borrowers, despite massive federal incentives. And it is an industry leader among banks that are launching their own versions of payday loans, which are such significant debt traps that the Defense Department has identified them as a national security threat and Congress has barred lenders from making them to service members. – Source

In cities with large Black populations, African American drivers pay 41% more for car insurance than whites – even if they are good drivers with good credit. – Source

When it comes to car financing, research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) determined that car buyers who financed vehicles at the dealership in 2009 paid $25.8 billion in interest rate mark-ups. That same study also found that more than half of Black car purchasers (54 percent) were also charged loan kickbacks, compared to only 31 percent of Whites. – Source

Black Americans are also more frequently and aggressively targeted by law enforcement for fines and restitution. To illustrate, after examining data on 9,000 American cities, those with more Black residents consistently collected unusually high amounts of fines and fees—even after controlling for differences in income, education and crime levels. Cities with the largest shares (98%) of Black residents collected an average of $12-$19 more per person than those with the smallest. – Source

This fact was a key instigator of the Ferguson Uprising. Federal Investigations concluded that just about every branch of Ferguson government — police, municipal court, city hall — participated in “unlawful” targeting of African-American residents … for tickets and fines.

To make matters worse, racism makes it far more difficult for Blacks to find employment than whites. Even when Black job candidates have better academic credentials than white applicants, disparities persist. As you can see from the chart below, while a college education results in higher wages—both for whites and Blacks—it does not eliminate the Black-white wage gap. African Americans are still earning less than whites at every level of educational attainment.

A recent EPI report, Black-white wage gaps expand with rising wage inequality, shows that this gap persists even after controlling for years of experience, region of the country, and whether one lives in an urban or rural area. In fact, since 1979, the gaps between black and white workers have grown the most among workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher—the most educated workers. More school will certainly increase wages, but education alone is not enough to overcome the effects of racial discrimination – Source

Remember that the systematic discrimination, in particular based on race or gender described above is considered a gross violation of human rights. By defrauding Black Americans of trillions of dollars of wealth, yet another strong argument for Black reparations can be made.

5. Eugenics

Eugenics is defined as the destruction of the means of reproduction and the subsequent murder of children deemed unfit to live.

In the 1970’s, several activists and women’s rights groups discovered several physicians to be performing coerced sterilizations of specific ethnic groups of society. All were abuses of poor, nonwhite, or mentally retarded women, while no abuses against white or middle-class women were recorded.

In 1972, United States Senate committee testimony brought to light that at least 2,000 involuntary sterilizations had been performed on poor Black women without their consent or knowledge. An investigation revealed that the surgeries were all performed in the South, and were all performed on Black welfare mothers with multiple children. Testimony revealed that many of these women were threatened with an end to their welfare benefits until they consented to sterilization.

These surgeries were instances of sterilization abuse, a term applied to any sterilization performed without the consent or knowledge of the recipient, or in which the recipient is pressured into accepting the surgery. Because the funds used to carry out the surgeries came from the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, the sterilization abuse raised older suspicions, especially amongst the black community, that “federal programs were underwriting eugenicists who wanted to impose their views about population quality on minorities and poor women.”

Forced sterilization isn’t the only means of population control used by racist eugenicists. Early and late term abortions are often pushed on Black mothers as a form of birth control.

The following national statistics indicate the epidemic proportions at which Black babies are being killed:

  • More than 19 million Black babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in our country.

  • Non-Hispanic Black women have a significantly higher abortion rate (25.1 per 1000 women of reproductive age) than that of Non-Hispanic Whites (6.8) and Hispanics (11.2)

  • 36.0% of all abortions in the U.S. in 2014 were performed on Black women, however, only about 13.3% of the total population is Black

  • African-Americans are no longer the nation’s largest minority group. Today, Hispanics have outpaced Blacks in population growth.

  • For every 1,000 live births, non-Hispanic Black women had 390 abortions. Non-Hispanic White women had 111 abortions/1,000 live births

If the definition of genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation, then America’s eugenics programs present a gross violation of human rights and yet another strong argument for Black reparations.

6. The Destruction of Black Communities

From Tulsa, Oklahoma to Overtown in Miami Florida, States have condoned or spearheaded the destruction of Black communities. As a result, members of those neighborhoods have been forcibly displaced and in many cases rendered permanently homeless.

Remember that the deportation or forcible transfer of a population is considered a gross violation of human rights. By intentionally – whether actively or passively – forcing Black residents from their communities, yet another strong argument for Black reparations can be made.

7. Dark Alliances and the War on Drugs

In Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion it was revealed that the United States government began the War on Drugs after intentionally trafficking crack cocaine into predominantly Black neighborhoods.

In order to help raise funds for efforts against the Nicaraguan Sandinista Government, the CIA allowed top members of Nicaraguan Contra Rebel organization to sell narcotics in Black communities. As a result, the United States was able to take a moral stance against the Black community, support the overthrow of a foreign sovereign state, and fuel the rising prison industrial complex. In the process, the Black community became a warzone.

Since 1971, the war on drugs has cost the United States an estimated $1 trillion. Ironically, these funds came directly from the same Black taxpayers that are the targets of that war. And according to Forbes, more than 25.4 million Americans have been arrested on drug charges since 1980; about one-third of them were Black.

Remember that the systematic discrimination, in particular based on race or gender described above is considered a gross violation of human rights. By defrauding Black Americans of trillions of dollars of wealth, yet another strong argument for Black reparations can be made.

Since slavery officially ended in 1865, Africans in America have been subjected to gross violations of human rights, including genocide; slavery and slavery-like practices; summary or arbitrary executions; torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; enforced disappearance; arbitrary and prolonged detention; deportation or forcible transfer of population; and systematic discrimination, in particular based on race or gender – all violations that warrant Black reparations.

With the issue of Black reparations finally making its way into the mainstream, we encourage readers to support legitimate organizations such as NCOBRA to finally right centuries of wrongs.

The time for talk has long since passed.

What do you think?

Neter

Written by Asad Malik

Asad is the Executive Officer of The Pan-African Alliance, and the Founder of United Black America.

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