Discussion of reparations as history lesson

for three decades, members of Congress have introduced H.R.40

reparationsIn the current conversation about reparations, there is one thing I think we all can agree upon: we see race in America with very different lenses.

I have been skimming the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties’ hearing on H.R. 40 and the Path to Restorative Justice, which was held Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Both the bill number and the date were significant.

H.R. 40 refers to “forty acres and a mule,” a radical post-Civil war redistribution of land “set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.” After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. this, of course, never took place.

June 19, or Juneteenth, was the date in 1865 “when the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.” After a period of decline, the celebration “received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. [in 1968]. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.”

The specific ask in the legislation is to establish “the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans to examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.” In other words, have a bunch of meetings.

TESTIMONY

“Reparations is not a new idea—and for three decades, members of Congress have introduced H.R.40, a bill to establish a commission that would study reparations. But only once before, in 2007, has Congress even held a hearing on the bill.”

You may have heard the riveting testimony of prominent black author Ta-Nehisi Coates. “It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders. And the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs: coup d’etats and convict leasing, vagrancy laws and debt peonage, redlining and racist G.I. bills, poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.”

However, another author, Burgess Owens, whose great-great-grandfather was a slave, testified: “At the core of the reparation movement is a divisive and demeaning view of both races. It grants to the white race a wicked superiority, treating them as an oppressive people too powerful for black Americans to overcome. It brands blacks as hapless victims devoid of the ability, which every other culture possesses, to assimilate and progress. Neither label is earned.”

So you have some asking to cut the check and others who point out the statistical errors of “the reparations agenda.”

THE BIGGER PROBLEM

Like me, the Weekly Sift is “of two minds about this subject. On the one hand, enslaved Africans and their descendants built a large chunk of America’s wealth and wound up owning none of it. That long-ago injustice (plus Jim Crow plus ongoing racism) still has repercussions, and even those whites whose families never owned slaves have benefited in ways we don’t always appreciate…

“But in addition to the inadequacy of monetary settlement, there’s a bigger problem: For reparations to bring this chapter to a close, our society needs to reach some kind of consensus about what the payment is for and what it means. We’re nowhere close to that.

“If reparations for slavery were paid tomorrow, the white-nationalist types would believe blacks had used their political power to extort something, and they would want to get it back. A lot of other whites would feel like racism was a dead topic now: ‘Don’t ever talk to me about racism again. I paid my bill for that.'”

That appears to be an accurate assessment, based on the comments of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who suggested that electing Barack Obama as President made up for hundreds of years of racism. As if.

The rationale for the Supreme Court gutting the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the 5-4 Shelby County ruling of 2013 was more voter equality. Yet, even before that ruling, states have passed discriminatory laws making it HARDER for people to vote.

My inclination, in this current retrograde period, is to have the conversation about what “reparations” mean go forward. But I need to continue musing on this, with perhaps more personal observations next time. Meanwhile, listen to Let Your Voice Be Heard radio for the episode 40 Acres and Barack Obama.

Lydster: Toussaint Louverture

from the French word for ‘the one who opened the way’

Toussaint LouvertureVirtually all my friends say they never helped their children with homework. My parents certainly never helped me. But there was a disconnect last year between her algebra teacher and most of the class, so I did what I could.

This year, I didn’t help much until my daughter had two sick days in early May. Being ill in high school does not mean you don’t have to do the work. So during the last week of classes, I did assist her for three days in a row.

One of the assignments for AP World History was to talk about a notable historic figure. My daughter decided to draw, then paint, François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (or L’Ouverture). He could be considered the George Washington of Haiti, although he did not live long enough to see the end of that country’s revolution.

While she worked on English homework, I found some biographical information about Louverture. The early stuff was vague; he was born between 1739 and 1746, with many historians settling on 1743, in May, or maybe November.

He was a leader of the 1791 slave revolt. “His military and political acumen consolidated those gains, and eventually controlled the whole country. He worked to improve the economy and security of Saint-Domingue,” later called Haiti.

“Some time in 1792–93, he adopted the surname Louverture, from the French word for ‘opening’ or ‘the one who opened the way.’ Although some modern writers spell his adopted surname with an apostrophe, he did not.

“The most common explanation for the name is that it refers to his ability to create openings in battle. The name is sometimes attributed to French commissioner Polverel’s exclamation: ‘That man makes an opening everywhere.’ However, some writers think the name referred to a gap between his front teeth.

On 29 August 1793 he made his famous declaration of Camp Turel to the blacks of St Domingue.

In 1800, he created a de facto autonomous colony, and named himself governor for life in the constitution, against Napoleon Bonaparte’s wishes. “In 1802 he was forced to resign by forces sent by Napoleon to restore French authority. He was deported to France, where he died in 1803.

“The French, suffering the loss of two-thirds of their forces from yellow fever, withdrew from Saint-Domingue that year. The Haitian Revolution continued under Louverture’s lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared independence on 1 January 1804. It was the only slave revolt in the modern era that led to the founding of a state.”

The airport in Haiti is Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Tabarre, near Port-Au-Prince. The number of cultural references to Louverture is enormous, including a 1971 track by Santana from the group’s third album.

Not helping my daughter with the homework would give me more time. (And I DO love summer vacation!) But in helping, I learn stuff, so that’s the trade off.

Lydster: telling me stuff I didn’t know

I never bothered reviewing Love Yourself in Seoul here because it would be like reviewing Beatlemania

Lydia CaseyMy daughter was having a particularly good day. She had seen Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary 13th (2016), about the loophole in the 13th Amendment (1865) banning slavery.

“Did you know,” she asked me, “that there weren’t cross burnings by the Ku Klux Klan until the movie Birth Of A Nation (1915) came out?” Why, no, I didn’t” – and if I did, I had forgotten that detail. It’s true.

“I told you something you didn’t know!” She LOVES doing that. And she realizes that for it to have an impact, it has to be something I care about.

While she knows a LOT about K-pop music, and can name songs and artists ad nauseum, she knows nothing (yet) about Hendrix or the Pretenders. I play the “yeah, but” card. “Name a song by XO”, and I can’t. “Name a song by Twice.” “Yes or Yes.” (I read Dustbury.) “Name a song by Talking Heads,” I say, and she can’t. Which is a bit my failure, I suppose, but whatever.

Then she shows me her geometry homework and shows me how to draw equilateral triangles with just a line segment and a compass. I was good at math in high school, but I never learned this trick. “I taught you TWO things today!”

She somehow got the number up to five, with other geometric magic. It’s not that she’s actually TAUGHT me these things, but she did show me them, which is good enough for her.

Her mother and I are not beyond bribing her to get her AP World History done on time, as opposed to staying up all Sunday night. In February, I told her she could see a BTS concert movie, one of those Fathom events, if she finished her homework by 6 pm Sunday EASTERN Time. (Her lawyerly definitions required the time zone inclusion.)

I never bothered reviewing Love Yourself in Seoul here because it would be like reviewing Beatlemania, including from my daughter. Closeup shots of the band, great dancing and decent singing, solo segments for each of them.

The photo was posted seven years ago by the little boy’s father, and is probably a year or more older than that.

Y is for the Year 2016

Aug 29 , 1966– The Beatles end their US tour with a concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

I realize I did a similar thing last year around this time. And why not? But this time, I got a tad carried away. Of course, no one knows all that will happen in 2016, besides a leap day on February 29.

Super Bowl 50 (no Roman numerals) will be held February 7, 2016 at Levi’s Stadium, in Santa Clara, California, broadcast in the US on CBS-TV. The 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. August 5–21, followed by the Paralympics, September 7–18. And of course, the 45th President of the United States will be voted on November 8.
londons-burning-pos-467101
These anniversaries will also be noted.

950th (1066)
Oct 14 – Battle of Hastings – The Norman forces of William the Conqueror defeat the English army and kill King Harold II of England.

400th (1616)
Mar – Work of Copernicus banned by the Congregation of the Index.
Apr 23- William Shakespeare, English writer and actor, died.

350th (1666)
Sept 2-4 – The Great Fire of London breaks out and burns for three days, destroying 10,000 buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral.
Continue reading “Y is for the Year 2016”

November rambling 2: Walmart returnables, and Blotto musicology

A Writer Gets Grilled By His 18-Year-Old Self

Dan said: “Perhaps someone absquatulated with an important part.”
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Meanwhile, in America…, the succinctly brilliant viral meme from Andy McClure.

Trying to follow what is going on in Syria and why? This comic will get you there in 5 minutes.

9 questions about Daesh you were too embarrassed to ask.

Jeff Sharlet: The Darkness Show: On Jokes and Terror in Paris.

Gate A-4.
Continue reading “November rambling 2: Walmart returnables, and Blotto musicology”