Pay me my inheritance.
On Saturday, New Haven blacks repeated this theme at “Slavery Reparations 101,” a forum put together by the Community Baptist Church and Black Thought for Justice and Change.
The Rev. Eric Smith DIV ’94 clarified the goal of reparations.
“Reparations, bottom line, is not about African-Americans playing the victim again,” Smith said. “Instead, it is about holding America accountable for enriching herself with the blood and the sweat of Africans.”
Smith denied the argument that reparations force white people to pay for a crime they did not commit.
“It’s not about holding a current generation of white people responsible for what their ancestors have done,” Smith said.
The reparations issue gained national attention last month when the conservative commentator David Horowitz attempted to place advertisements in dozens of college newspapers listing 10 reasons why he believed slave reparations were wrong. Controversy ensued when some newspapers refused to run the ad and others later apologized for having done so.
Smith said no other ethnic group in this country has had to fight for civil rights to the degree that blacks have had to. He then cited Native Americans, Chinese-Americans and Jews as groups that have already received forms of reparations, contrasting these achievements with the fact that blacks could not even hold on to affirmative action.
Alderman Jelani Lawson ’96 linked the argument for slave reparations to capitalism, saying everyone deserves to be compensated for their work.
“Individuals who were brought here from Africa and the Caribbean were not compensated for the labor that created this country,” Lawson said. “Black labor built America; there’s no doubt about it.”
There was no consensus at the forum about what exact form reparations should take.
“It’s 100 percent impossible to compensate anyone for the degradation and the inhumanity of slavery,” Lawson said.
Local Nation of Islam minister Kevin Muhammad said a monetary allocation of money is not enough to compensate for what blacks have suffered. He discussed the psychological and emotional abuse caused by slavery.
“We need mental and psychological repayment,” Muhammad said. “Some of us are now slaves mentally. So to give us a million or a billion dollars or $20 million with a slave mentality is dangerous.”
Muhammad said that not until the spiritual and mental condition of blacks is fixed would they be able to maximize the utility of monetary reparations. He therefore recommended that blacks be educated in order to spend reparations wisely.
“The scripture said a fool and his money will soon part,” Muhammad cited.
Community educator and schoolteacher Jimmy Lee Moore also believes in the importance of education to the issue of slave reparations.
“How do you subjugate a people?” Moore asked. “You keep them undereducated. We need to learn to spend the monetary reparations productively or else we’ll be broke the next week.”