Reparations Education IS Education for Liberation!
Once you deny that a crime was committed against African Humanity.... once you begin equating the genocidal Western form of chattel slavery with all kinds of servitude... making it no better or worse than another form of oppression... once you throw in the myth of African collaboration from the start and it being THE form of how Africans were enslaved... once you ignore/erase the systemic betrayal of Reconstruction and the genocidal horrors that followed under Jim Crow laws thruout the US (not just the South)... once you deny the state sanctioned pogrom of Blackfolk during the early part of the 20th Century... once you deny or trivialize the systematic and institutionalized criminalization and experimentation upon Black people in the name of "science"... then Reparations becomes a joke thruout white America and a form of "embarrassment/nuisance" within the Black petty bourgeoisie.
The Obama candidacy makes this struggle for Reparations even more special. He does not want to alienate white voters by seemingly looking "too Black." And, more importantly, he does not want to lose his financial base of some of the biggest Fortune 500 corporations who got their fortunes thru the legacy of their ancestors enslaving Africans.
Like never before, we Blackfolk who know our history- which is the history of the US and the world -must accelerate the Reparations Education Campaign among our people. Even tho Obama is the Prez, we are facing the racist horrors of BUSH III.
Reparations Education IS Education for Liberation!
Jim Crow in the Fields-- Black
Farmers vs. the USDA
By Heather Gray
In the 1990s black farmers filed suit against the US Department of Agriculture because of egregious discrimination they experienced at USDA offices across the country, particularly in the South where most black farmers live. The tactics used by USDA staff in offices throughout the South to deny services to blacks are the stuff of legend. Further, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has been attempting to make changes in the USDA's historically racist culture (known by some as "The Last Plantation").
The original lawsuit, known as Pigford v Glickman, was settled in 1998 and claims had to be filed by October 13, 1999. The lawsuit has been ongoing since then, however, with the second phase being for "late filers". The final date for individuals to file their claim of discrimination in the second phase was May 11, 2012. Importantly, black employees at USDA also successfully filed suit against the department in the same time period.
If farmers prevail in the lawsuit on an act of discrimination regarding credit issues they will receive $50,000 (and a cap of $250,000 for those with considerable documentation of the discrimination they experienced).
Some have complained that the relief is not enough. The late black lawyer J.L. Chestnut, class counsel in the lawsuit, agreed with the sentiment, but he also said that no amount of money could compensate for the pain and suffering experienced by black farmers. The lawsuit, he argued, was just the start of a process and that it would not solve all the problems.
The lawsuit called for individuals to cite the discrimination they experienced at USDA between 1981 and 1996. These years were selected because President Ronald Reagan had abolished the Office of Civil Rights at the USDA in the 1980s and President Bill Clinton had reestablished the office in the 1990s. Because of this, had a farmer complained about treatment at USDA during those years, there was no official in place to address those complaints.
The black farmer lawsuit, in fact, is considered one of the largest ever filed against the United States government with already more than $1 billion distributed to blacks who were discriminated against by the department.
Many pockets of the rural South are still in a time warp of prevailing Jim Crow white supremacist mentality and distinct practices to deny opportunities to southern blacks. In fact, scholar George Fredrickson in his book Racism: a Short History (2003) states that in world history there have only been three of what he refers to as "overtly racist regimes" and they are the Jim Crow South, Nazi Germany, and apartheid South Africa.
There are five features of overt racism described by Fredrickson, and while there have been some changes in the mid-20th century toward a more just and equitable society, all of these features prevailed in the Jim Crow South and the vestiges of them all are a reality:
"First there is an official ideology that is explicitly racist... Second, this sense of radical difference and alienation is most clearly and dramatically expressed in laws forbidding interracial marriage... Third, social segregation is mandated by law and not merely the product of custom or private acts of discrimination that are tolerated by the state.... Fourth, to the extent that the policy is formally democratic, outgroup members are excluded from holding public office or even exercising franchise. Fifth, the access that they have to resources and economic opportunities is so limited that most of those in the stigmatized category are either kept in poverty or deliberately impoverished."
For our purposes here, the fifth criterion, of overt racism by denying access to resources and economic opportunity for blacks in the rural South, is still practiced and most relevant to the black farmer lawsuit. Below are some of tactics used by USDA staff, and others, to do precisely that.
Historically, everything has been stacked against black farmers. For one, when the USDA's Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) was created in 1942 it was known as the lending institution of last resort to help farmers stay on the land due to the devastating effects of the depression in the mid-century. Yet, black farmers have not been able to obtain access to USDA credit from that time up to the present.
In addition to lack of government credit, black farmers have been discriminated against at commercial lending institutions where they are often either denied outright or offered onerously high interest rates.
Further, within the USDA infrastructure there have been local county committees that have in the past wielded significant power in deciding who gets money and for what purpose. Local farmers elect the county committee members and it's been difficult to elect "voting" minority representation to these committees.
The problem has also been that even when Congress passes provisions in Farm Bills that might benefit minority farmers, the information about the programs or opportunities is often not promoted or offered to the farmers. It's often said, "the closer you get to the farmer the harder it is for programs to be implemented" and this being the case because of prevailing cultural norms, patterns of racial discrimination and often lack of knowledge on the part of county employees about the new programs.
How the USDA Discriminates
It is crucial to note also that there are government regulations in place that require certain behavior of staff toward their clients, most of which is never adhered to by the USDA officials with their black farmers.
For example, during the time period of the lawsuit, the program regulations state that the USDA county office should have offered assistance to the applicant to determine what programs would best meet his or her needs.
Also, written applications should have been encouraged and then accepted. In fact, the program rules state that any person who wished to submit a farm loan application should have been permitted to do so. Further, the USDA should have encouraged applications, even if funding was not available at the time, since once funding did become available, applications were considered in the order received.
In regard to getting credit from the USDA, if the farmer was fortunate to even receive an application, there should normally have been a two-part decision making process. The USDA would decide if the applicant was eligible and, if eligible, the USDA would evaluate if the loan should be approved. Also, the applicant needed to show that the loan could be repaid and that there was adequate collateral.
The USDA staff often managed to circumvent all of these directives when it came to serving black farmers. In violation of the regulations, USDA county office managers and other staff often denied blacks an opportunity to apply, and routiinely discouraged blacks from applying by saying there were no applications or money available.
If, per chance, black farmers were able to receive a loan, the USDA should, as mentioned, offer loan services to them if they were finding it difficult to make their payments, but more often this never happened. The results were often devastating with foreclosures and loss of land generally.
The loans were supposed to have been provided in a timely fashion. Often for the black farmers, the loan money came too late to plant their crops leaving them in a dilemma as to whether or not they should accept the loan. Further, often the loan amount was less then the farmer had requested for his or her farm operation.
The USDA staff has also been renowned for their stalling tactics. They would delay a decision on a loan application thus making irrelevant the economic calculations or cash flow in the farm and home plan submitted by the farmer and requiring the farmer to develop a new plan...sometimes again and again.
Perhaps one of the demeaning practices by USDA has been its "supervised accounts". Often, if black farmers went through all the process of submitting their loan application to USDA and being approved, the USDA would insist that the loan be "supervised". This means that the farmer would not receive the money to administer his or her loan but, instead, the USDA kept the money. For any credit needs (as in buying seeds or fertilizer, etc.), the farmer was required to go to the USDA county office to request a check for even these small payments, all the while taking time away from his or her farm practice, plus travel expenses. It could be described as the ultimate in the southern plantation culture of impoverishment and control.
These are just a few examples, but the accounts from farmers about their dealings with USDA represent a sad tale of lost opportunities, lost land and homesteads, lost marriages and families destroyed because of lack of opportunities to pursue careers in agriculture.
Since the 1990s, I have assisted farmers with their claim forms and in appealing the decisions on their claims by the lawsuit administrators. One farmer in South Carolina described how he had gone to enormous lengths to prepare his loan application, which included assistance from an agriculture economist at Clemson University. When he submitted the application to the USDA county office, the manager threw it in the garbage can. As the farmer described this to me he choked up and had to leave the room. I was told by one of my colleagues that a farmer in Kentucky she was assisting had been approved for a $50,000 loan. When he went to the office for the check, the USDA county official tore up the check up in front of him saying, "a nigger doesn't need this much money." This farmer is a claimant in the suit.
I've had farmers tell me that to complain about racist behavior by USDA staff was a dangerous practice. Your livelihood and sometimes your life could be at risk by doing so. On the whole, for blacks to complain to whites is simply not something you could do safely in these closed rural Southern societies.
President Barack Obama's USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has attempted to change the racist culture at USDA. It's true there have been ebbs and flows with this, not to mention his renowned error of firing USDA staff member Shirley Sherrod for unwarranted racial bias accusations. (It's rather interesting that the only person ever fired at USDA for racial discrimination issues was Sherrod who has worked most her life to address and challenge racism in the rural South. And she was fired for supposed discrimination against whites.)
Still, Vilsack has been helpful in implementing the black farmer lawsuit and in recommending policy changes in the USDA infrastructure. One of his first actions at USDA in 2009 was to address civil rights problems in the department by issuing 14 points of changes.
Vilsack said in the release about this, "These are just the first actions in a continuing effort to ensure that the civil rights of USDA constituents and employees are respected and protected. This memorandum reflects my deep commitment to changing the direction of civil rights and program delivery in USDA by creating a comprehensive approach to guarantee fair treatment of all employees and applicants."
After more than two years of reviewing and addressing racism within the USDA culture, Vilsack made a remarkable admission. In a meeting in his USDA office in 2011 about the black farmer lawsuit, which included a majority of representatives from black farm groups and a handful of whites (including me), Vilsack sat in his chair at the end of the oval table. He began by stating boldly, "When I became the secretary I thought I knew something about racism, but I don't. I'm learning every day."
This was an amazing admission to this group of blacks and I admired his honesty. Vilsack is not unique, of course. I realized when he said this that he's from Iowa. What does anyone from Iowa know about the depths of white supremacist behavior in the rural South? I can assure you, not much!
What is unique is admitting this when you begin to deliberately witness and consider racism in action. Many whites refuse to acknowledge the stark reality of it all. Also, many of my white friends and family, and even some black friends in Atlanta, Georgia, don't have a clue about how white supremacy is still expressed in the rural South. Vilsack, however, was getting the data and said he was learning.
Vilsack started his USDA secretarial position by conducting a major disparity study of problems and unfair treatment of minorities within the USDA's infrastructure. It was, in fact, an update and known as the USDA's "Independent Assessment of the Delivery of Technical and Financial Assistance Civil Rights Assessment" (March 31, 2011). This effort follows other major disparity studies such as the Miller Report during the Clinton years that found similar problems followed by the Civil Rights Action Team (CRAT) report in the 1990s.
Vilsack has, subsequently, attempted to address many of the problems highlighted in this recent research, such as, for one, more direct participation and voting power of blacks in the county committee structure.
By filing the lawsuit in the first place, however, black farmers have led the way for these attempted changes for justice at USDA and by virtue of filing their lawsuit they also encouraged women, Latinos and Native Americans to successfully file lawsuits against the USDA.
The struggle continues. CP
Heather Gray produces Just Peace on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She is also director of communications with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund that works with black farmers across the South. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Reparations Education & Mobilization Campaign Launched By …The Reparations National Congress
The Reparations National Congress is Working Hard to Build a Massive Black Reparations Campaign. We are working to help build a National Reparations Campaign with other pro-reparations organizations and individuals which will culminate in a mobilization of several million Black people not only demanding reparations but actively engaged in the various efforts for its realization. We understand that a comprehensive Reparations campaign embraces ALL of our sites of struggle and areas of concern.
There are many reasons why we have a campaign for Reparations, not the least of which is the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism's announcement to the US, Europe, and the rest of the world, that people of African descent are determined not to begin a new millennium with this UNRESOLVED issue of compensation for past and present crimes against African Humanity.
The following are some of the reasons for a National Campaign and Congress for Reparations for people of African descent.
• A Reparations Campaign enjoys major support within our communities. It has the capacity to revitalize the Black Liberation Movement and reassert the leading role of the Black progressive forces.
• A Reparations Campaign is primarily directed at the U.S. (Federal and State governments) but is also directed at other Western Imperialist Capitalist powers, corporations and individual families that have benefited from slavery as well. Foreign states who participated in the slave trade and slavery including the structures of the United Nations can still be used as part of an international Reparations strategy.
• A Reparations Campaign is fundamentally anti racist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. It attacks the very heart of these oppressive systems. We have never been compensated for the millions and millions of hours of unpaid labor conservatively estimated to be $97 trillion for enslaved African labor in the US alone. Our ancestors were the backbone to the development of capitalism here in the US and throughout the rest of the world!
• A Reparations Campaign will include the demand for compensation of the tens of thousands of Black men and women who were used as prison labor to work without pay on farms, factories and mines throughout the South from the time of Reconstruction to the present.
• A Reparations Campaign will include the demand to cancel the usury rates imposed upon us through killer mortgages and loan shark credit card interest rates.
• A Reparations Campaign will demand that African Americans pay no federal, state or municipal taxes until there is economic parity between white America and Black America.
• A Reparations Campaign will demand that African Americans have access to free education up to an including graduate work wherever one is accepted to study until there is education parity between white America and Black America.
• A Reparations Campaign will demand that African Americans have access to free healthcare for ones entire life. This would include our choice of Western or nonWestern medical care as well as free medicine and homecare.
• A Reparations Campaign will demand the creation of a Reparations Cooperative Development Bank to help develop, employ and advance the Black communities of the US. It will operate independent of the federal government and the monopolistic banking system. It will operate under the auspices of the UN's international development banking system... monitored by an international team of peoples development specialists (such as from the Indian state of Kerala, Cuba and Vietnam).
• A Reparations Campaign will include a debt cancellation demand resonating throughout Africa and the Diaspora. It will also support the demand for reparations presently unfolding for African nations and the Diaspora for the crimes of genocide, colonialism and present-day neocolonialism.
• A Reparations Campaign is a powerful tool to educate the people of the U.S. and world societies about a brutal and savage system that is the basis for institutional racism and white supremacist oppression today. A system which inflicted on African people the most horrific form of cultural genocide (virtually complete destruction of historical memory, religion, language, traditions, ancestry) which continues to be the basis for the racist dehumanization and demonization of African peoples and other oppressed peoples of color.
• A Reparations Campaign will demand the return of all stolen African/African Descendent art to their respectful homeland. The Reparations Campaign will seek out stolen African art in museums, corporations and private hands. It will leave no stone unturned in the search for the thousands of sacred items of our African cultural and spiritual heritage.
• A Reparations Campaign will educate our people to the fact that our ancestral mothers have never been compensated for the reproduction of Human Capital (giving birth to an African child during slavery which meant that this child automatically had a "price value") through rape and/or forced breeding. The Black Woman has not only never been compensated for her brutal field work (and the tortuous work in the Master's house), but also her domestic chores within the slave quarters. This most beastly form of slavery tried to humiliate and strip our ancestral mothers and fathers of their womanhood and manhood.
• A Reparations Campaign will educate our people to the fact that our ancestral fathers had to face systemic humiliating attempts to strip them of their manhood and dignity of which its horrific legacy resonates throughout US cultural, governmental, and corporate institutions today.
• A Reparations Campaign will demand just compensation for the millions of Black children forced into horrific death inducing child labor from as early 3 years old.
• A Reparations Campaign will expose the additional injuries inflicted during slavery: the never ending war against free Blacks. This war was in an anticipation of what would become of us during the post-slavery oppression period: rapes, lynchings, pogroms (state sanctioned and initiated murder) and anti-migration laws. For instance, this included 19th century anti-migration laws- often written into state constitutions- that were passed to stop African Americans from settling in Illinois, Indiana, and Oregon. This pattern of conscious legal exclusion denied our ancestors the possibility of benefiting from land grants made available for old and new members of these states. These are legal injuries that must be calculated into the reparations demands. We cannot look at the oppression and repression of our enslaved and "free" ancestors as two distinct realities. They were just two sides of the same racist and capitalist coins that fed the banks and wallets of the ruling classes of Europe and the Americas.
• A Reparations Campaign is a self-reliant movement; it is a nation building campaign that allows Black people to address some of the fundamental issues confronting our survival today. It gives us the ability to create our very own self-determining institutions in developing jobs with a living wage, quality affordable housing, healthcare and anti- racist education.
• A Reparations Campaign will include the fight to free all US political prisoners and prisoners of war as well as the battle to dismantle the racist prison industrial complex. They are the direct political descendants of our warrior-ancestors who gave their lives organizing for and fighting for our liberation and dignity from the 15th Century onwards. Today's US political prisoners and prisoners of war are also the direct victims of US capitalism's systematic anti-freedom and unprincipled campaign called the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).
• A Reparations Campaign is the most powerful weapon that can be used against racism and the right-wing onslaught on affirmative action and political disenfranchisement (voting-while-Black).
• A Reparations Campaign will create a strategic bridge between Africa and the Diaspora. Blacks from Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, Honduras, and throughout the Caribbean are currently joining the International Reparations Campaign by the thousands.
• A Reparations Campaign is ultimately a political offensive. Issues such as homelessness, struggles for jobs, universal health care, decent affordable housing organizing against attacks on welfare, cutbacks on education, attacks on affirmative action, anti-gay violence, discrimination based on sexual orientation, sexual harassment in the workplace, domestic violence, police brutality, racist and fascist attacks on the Black community, amnesty for political prisoners, the genocidal incarceration of Black youth, and the prison industrial complex, etc. all can be connected to and enhanced by a United Campaign for Reparations.
The Reparations National Congress
451 West Street –First Floor
William Reed: Demand Reparations for Slavery Now!
Written by William Reed
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
"You get your freedom by letting your enemy know that you'll do anything to get it." — Malcolm X
So, where were all Malcolm's fans on Thursday, May 19when the faithful celebrated the 86th anniversary of his birth? Each year the people dedicated to the principles Malcolm X preached gather at his Ferncliff Cemetery gravesite. Although many acclaim themselves in Malcolm's image, the number of actual practitioners is few.
It's sad so few Black Americans define "freedom" as did Malcolm. Victims of the pall that institutional racism casts across America, African Americans acquiesce to it. In America, and every country that grew wealthy off the backs of slaves, descendants of slaves continue to allow themselves to be held at bay regarding reparations.
Ask yourself: "If Malcolm were living today, would he be for or against" reparations? Or, if you are a "Mainstreamer" ask yourself if "the freedom" Malcolm spoke of was the freedom we've employed "to associate and assimilate with whites?" There needs to be an awakening among Blacks with mainstream mindsets about the importance of reasoning and rallying for just reparations compensation. To now, Blacks have allowed themselves to be bamboozled by an illusion of inclusion in American society. Mainstream forces keep most Blacks' minds off the daily doses of racism they experience and cause us to focus such energy on keeping Obama in the White House.
Instead of striving toward the freedoms Malcolm sought, mainstream Blacks are happy to entrust traditional institutions to look out for our interests. Given the frightening state of affairs in the white world, mainstream-oriented Blacks have to admit that nothing is improving for Blacks. Just when Black mainstreamers thought it was safe to sneak out of the struggle, a movement called Exodus Two is advocating for a "New Awakening" among Blacks, and us "to rise up and act in our own behalf.
Our current level of "empowerment" is not working for us, so instead of continuing to allow white people's interest to set our agenda, Blacks need to take a time out from the mainstream and make time to make a difference in and among our own race. If we keep just blending in, our race of people will literally rot in the ghettoes of America. Whether you live on Malcolm X Boulevard, or a gated community, it's time to represent descendants of the heinous slave trade and against the injustices that destroyed Blacks and their forbears' lives, legacies. Given the frightening state of affairs of the U.S. and Western world and the circumstances of the economic downturn, isn't it time to admit that nothing is improving for Blacks under this system?
It's time we each demonstrated for the interests of descendants of slaves and against the U.S. government for its involvement in the slave trade and the impoverishment, misery, distress, and bigotry that ensue to this day. Isn't it time to make the American and European governments accountable for stealing human beings out of Africa and making slaves of them for 400 years? The debt from that period is simple: Plaintiffs — over 100 million Black lives lost; defendants — white-run nations that became wealthy and powerful, generation after generation, as slaves and their descendants regressed into lives of wretched chattel squalor. Sadly, most Blacks seem quite satisfied with this status quo.
Blacks of the "New Awakening" will be a force during the next months — scheduling local lectures and study groups on reparations. The Exodus Two Movement's goal is passage of a Bill for Reparations. Toward that end, Exodus Two is mounting two public rallies: 1) June 15, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. — New York City — Dag Hammarskjold Plaza — front of The United Nations, 48th Street and First Avenue; 2); and June 20, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m in Washington, D.C., the Capitol steps at 1 Constitution Ave. Northwest. In the name of Malcolm, isn't it time to call and get on the list?
Yehudah ben Yaacov — MilzAhead@aol.com;
Tziona Yisrael — Afraqueen@aol.com.
William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.