Thursday, February 22, 2024

For reparations, revolutionary change will require revolutionary thinking

August 24, 2023 by  
Filed under Feature

By Darryl L. Fortson, M.D. 

Revolutionary change requires revolutionary thinking. And make no mistake — obtaining reparations for slavery in the United States would be true revolutionary change. 

Blacks in America have struggled mightily to effect this revolutionary change for the descendants of slaves — by repeatedly petitioning the United States government, to no avail, for a redress of this longstanding and outrageous grievance. 

Our organization, AASRT, Inc. (the African American Slave Reparations Team), has calculated the per capita racial net worth gap at slightly over $327,000 per Black American — or $13.166 trillion total, based on U.S. Census and Federal Reserve Bank data. Our stated goal is to eliminate this gap through a reparations paradigm. 

In order for the federal government alone to pay this debt — even over the 100-year period that we have projected to get it paid — it would require a mobilization of $131 billion per year in payments to Black America. We can have no expectation that our hyper-partisan, white (“wealth”) supremacist-infiltrated government will commit to that amount of money, and even fiscally minded Blacks might balk at such a number. 

For many members of Congress from either party, support for any reparations plan would be an act of political suicide. Besides, any political solution to the reparations dilemma would largely involve compromise; compromises that would lessen the amount of funds in Black people’s hands or in the organizations tapped to rebuild our communities. Black America cannot and should not receive cents on the dollar for our losses and deprivations. We need what we need, and we deserve what we deserve — not one penny less. But we can expect the federal government to give us trillions of dollars less, if it gives us anything at all. 

But what if we changed our thinking? What if we stopped asking a government that has declined for 157 years to act justly on our behalf, and started asking people and organizations who are ready and willing to pay — not exclusively based on their real or perceived duty to pay reparations, but based on their desire to see justice done in this matter? What if we stopped asking “white people” to pay reparations and started asking the “right people” — the just, the willing, the spiritually compelled, and the enlightened — to pay what the ignorant, the racist, the blind, and the unjust will not? What if we focused on government building just infrastructure for Blacks in America, and pursued just reparations compensation outside the restraints of government? 

This is the central tenet of AASRT, Inc. — that those who will never seemingly do what is right should no longer be asked to. We should not beg from the unjust to obtain less than what the just will provide when asked and inspired. 

AASRT Inc. looks beyond the social and political challenges of reparations, seeing the challenge in a revolutionary way. We embrace reparations as a “financial engineering” challenge. Just as the voyage to the moon required new and innovative modes of propulsion, computing, communication, and unique applications of physics in a novel environment, so too will “the voyage to racial net worth equality” require innovation in fund acquisition, financial vehicles, our understanding and knowledge of our shared history and international law, and a new enlightenment on what is required in the treatment of all of our citizens in order for the American democratic experiment to continue. 

Government does have a role to play in reparations. First of all, it can enact legislation to make reparations exempt from federal taxation — and in fact, our organization has proposed legislation to that effect, which mirrors legislation making Holocaust reparations paid to American citizens tax exempt. It can protect and expand key civil rights laws protecting voting, access to housing, and non-discriminatory employment and pay. It can enforce and strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act. It can forgive student loan debt for all Americans, not just Black ones, and return lands unlawfully or unethically seized or commandeered from Black people in the past, and restore it to the rightful owners or their kin. 

But we need to stop begging a government — one that enslaved us, abandoned us in freedom, stood idly by while Jim Crow had its way, bombed us in Tulsa, brutalized us with the police, and decimated our social fabric with the de facto zoning of Black communities for the retail sale and distribution of illegal narcotics, with all of the violence and social mayhem attendant to it — to pay us what they do not believe they owe. 

Black America shall be satisfied. We will receive our reparations due. We will end the racial net worth gap. But this will not be accomplished by cajoling the unwilling; rather, it will be done by the convening of the good, the true, the blessed, and the willing of every hue and nation to do what should have been done long ago: what is right. 

Darryl L. Fortson is a practicing Las Vegas physician and the Executive Director of AASRT, Inc. (www.theaasrt.org), a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to ending the racial net worth gap through a reparations paradigm. 

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