Black Violence, Slavery and Reparations
Most people don’t see a connection between Black violence and reparations but the two are inextricably linked. Reparations involves compensation for damages incurred from chattel slavery and its aftermath; only in the United States were human beings reduced to property. Slavery’s poisonous tentacles still affect the lives of Black Americans, is most evident in the inner cities, but applies to all income levels.
A recent article (October 26, 2009) by Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, “The Crisis of Youth Violence and the Demand for Reparations,” argues that the current surge of violence among Black youth should intensify the demand for reparations. He feels that one of the most neglected aspects of the reparations discussion is “intergenerational deficits and damage incurred by Africans in America resulting from slavery.” For him, such dehumanization involves calculated effort to destroy the identity, institutions, language music, religion and the historical memory of enslaved Africans-all of which is designed to engender subservience and facilitate control.
Understanding the relationship of Black violence (particularly Black-on-Black and violence among Black youth) and the demand for reparations begins with a clear definition of reparations: Succinctly, its purpose is to repair ongoing mental, cultural, spiritual and physical damages to a people.
Daniels asserts that the “dehumanization and de-Africanization processes did not succeed. And, that Blacks’ survival while steeped inprolonged oppression and discrimination is testimony to their resiliency and will as a people. But triumphs have not been without scars and serious damage.
Among the most egregious effects of slavery was the mangling of Blacks’ survival and development process, due in part to lapses in historical memory and lack of consistency in what Dr. Maulana Karenga calls “identity, purpose and direction.” This is of particular importance in understanding values and behavior of today’s Black youth.
Daniels notes that continuity of culture and identity serves as a foundation for social, economic and political advancement for other groups that migrated to this country but not for Blacks. He says, for African people the assault on culture resulted in disunity, disorientation and was a severe obstacle to group development.
He also maintains that Blacks’ arduous path of survival and development is the direct consequence of a “holocaust of enslavement,” the destructive experience under a system of chattel slavery. Daniels also rightly contends that the violence and fratricide affecting Black communities is, in part, attributable to historical amnesia of significant numbers of Black youth, their parents and adults generally.
The social movements of the civil rights era emphasized self-pride and community service; neither of which can be found on the Internet or in text messages; knowledge of Blacks’ centuries of struggle is even a more distant amenity.
The seminal challenge is to develop sustainable follow-up after the mass exhilaration over high-profile incidents subsides and the media is nowhere in sight. Prevention focusing on causal factors must become a higher priority than intervention or suppression, both have little sustainable value.
Dr. Daniels suggests what is needed is a “cultural offensive” focusing on African-centered educational processes which reaffirms Blacks’ identity as African people and individually and collectively challenges people to reconstruct Black communities. Those informed and concerned about the prevalence of Black-on-Black violence agree that traditional education, low-wage jobs, gang intervention and anti-violence programs have not, and will not, stem the violence and fratricide in Black communities.
The daunting challenge is to restore and instill the historical memory essential for a new sense of identity, purpose and direction among young people. Of course this will require sustainable structures and institutions that continually transmit appropriate history and culture.
The demand for reparations could be crucial-its principal purpose is to repair the continuing damages caused by chattel slavery. That , notwithstanding, Blacks themselves must re-order their priorities and work together to reduce violence and the array of other important issues like education and recession-level unemployment.
There’s a lot of talk these days among Black elected officials and other decision-makers about “smart” strategies and programs but most of these conversations are of little benefit to Black communities. Since the scars of slavery, in varying degrees, remain barriers to Blacks’ progress, prominent decision-makers, and their constituents-should reassess strategies and decisions because Black progress is dangerously lagging.
Factored into new thinking and decision-making reparations could prove to be highly beneficial. However, a major hurdle is the mindset of many Black high-level decision-makers themselves who still do not take reparations seriously. They mouth the need to think outside of the box but the box is actually their comfort zone- to Blacks’ collective detriment.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org