From the Occasional Papers of the Conservative
Issue Number Five: Karl Marx's American Triumph
(2003) Pages 30-35.
Reparations for Slavery: Strategies and Tactics
extremist - some wearing ties, some carrying placards - are following an old
by Peter B. Gemma
revolutionary civil rights movement of the 1960's with today's fight for
reparations makes for a Good public policy battlefield assessment: The
battleground is expanding, the maneuvers are more complex, and there's
certainly more firepower.
The reparations for
Slavery proposal has roots going back to the last days of the War Between the
States. However, for much of the 20th Century the issue was nearly dormant
There was a call to
arms from the charlatan Martin Luther King in 1964: "...no amount of gold
could provide adequate compensation for the exploration of the Negro in America
down through the centuries, [however] a price could be placed on unpaid
wages..." (Why we Can't Wait, Harper & Row, New York,
1964). King provided a spark that helped to revive the modern reparations
movements. In recent years King's followers have taken the "high
road" to socio-economic change - "mainstream" white liberals and
"respectable" black civil rights leaders are implanting the idea into
the conscience of the average American that paying reparations to blacks is not
such a radical notion.
If the high road
was inspired by Martin Luther King, than the "low road" strategy was
ignited via the incendiary rhetoric of Malcolm X: "Ten years ago," he
said in a 1965 speech, "the NAACP was looked upon as a radical leftist
almost subversive movement and then when the Black Muslim movement came along,
the [white] power structure said 'Thank the Lord for Roy Williams and the
NAACP'" (Two Speeches, Malcolm X, New York, Pioneer
Malcolm X points
out the logic of this posturing: When [whites] looked around one day and found
someone talking about 'all of them [whites] are devils,' they were [up] all
night looking for Roy Wilkins ... and the Right Reverend Dr. King to soothe
them and keep them thinking that all [black] people didn't think like
that" (Two Speeches, op. cit.).
Of course what
Malcolm X was describing is an old (and successful) Marxist political maneuver:
the art of applying just enough political pressure from the top (via mainstream
organizations, politicians, wealthy and powerful individuals, the media) while
simultaneously applying the right amount of pressure from below (from radicals
making demands way beyond the original premise of the issue; extremist tactics
such as boycotts and even riots, etc).
In the high
road/low road strategy, different payout amounts are cropping up: For example,
the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Andrew Brimmer, estimates
that racial discrimination costs blacks $10 billion annually because of a
black-white "wage-gap," the denial of capital access, inadequate
public services, and reduced Social Security.
On the other hand,
the Washington Post reports (August 16, 2002) that reparations
"... estimates reach as high as $10 trillion."
The Black American
Forum (a Jesse Jackson Front group), is suing the U.S. Government for $250
billion - $8,000 for every African-American descendant of the slave trade. His
formula for who qualifies and who doesn't has yet to be seen.
groups utilize different tactics to influence Congress and the White House,
state and regional governments, and the various courts. At the same time, they
see public opinion as a combination of diverse constituencies. Successful
political movements influence and organize the right combination of
constituencies to become a winning coalition. Each group of supporters or
potential supporters (i.e., seniors, veterans, teachers, etc.) are approached
differently so their interest in a particular aspect of the issue can be
The civil rights
movement of four decades ago found that to influence public policy, coalitions
of diverse constituencies must work together. Labor leaders, the Jewish
community, the far left including the usual Hollywood crowd, as well as
communist activist supported.- and sometimes led - Martin Luther King every
step of the Way.
movement is customizing King's battleplans and is basically building a
coalition of greedy blacks and guilty whites. And potential allies are lining
up: for example, at its July, 2001 convention the National Education
Association (NEA) passed a resolution in favor of reparations for slavery. The
NEA is the nation's largest union, with 2.6 million members. Today, thanks to
the NEA's influence and inspiration, the reparations battlefield now extends
all the way into grade school classrooms.
The fight for the
minds of children is real, not just a pro-forma resolution from the NEA.
According to a Cybercast News Service story, ("Proposed K-12 History
Curriculum Endorses Slavery Reparations," CNS news.com February 12, 2003
), a radical African-American history Curriculum is being produced and "may
be incorporated into the Curriculum of public schools across the nation as
early as September 2003." Some two dozen black teachers are
"...finalizing lesson plans that focus on events such as ... slavery
reparations that typically are not addressed by kids' textbook."
With federal grant
money from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support their special
interest educational initiative, the group will be developing and promoting the
"best teaching methods and practices" in teaching African-American
culture and history to public school children in grades K-12.
From the classroom
to Sunday morning talk shows, the reparations movement has organized itself
into a machine of many moving parts, each working differently and each
affecting some part of the battlefield. Following the strategy Malcolm X
outlined, they are building diverse coalitions, fighting in count and in
Congress, as well as encouraging zealots who are applying pressure from the
bottom and who can make the reparations radicals at the top seem moderate in
their demands and tactics.
What follows is an
overview of five separate fronts the reparations extremist have opened in
search of a payoff.
1. Federal Legislation
In Washington, it
appears at first glance that the reparations idea has yet to instigate interest
or attention. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced legislation (H.R. 40) in
every session of Congress since 1989. The Conyers bill would
"...acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and
inhumanity of slavery in the United States," and it would create a
commission to study the impact of "slavery and post-Civil War
discrimination and recommend remedies."
With such an
impartial mandate, would the commission issue a report with anything other than
expensive "relief" recommendations?
No matter: the
legislation apparently poses no threat. It has never ever been considered by
any House committee in all these years. What H.R. 40 does accomplish, however,
is a cloak of credibility. That is an important weapon when building a base of
support from the ground up. Widespread and diverse grassroots action, from
Congress to the classrooms, makes it appear - to the press and politicians that
reparations (or any issue for that matter) is a public policy initiative that
is worth study and support.
2. Political Posturing
Political precedents are being put in place
and in a pattern is developing that will buttress the case for reparations. In
1997, President Bill Clinton publicly apologized - and Congress paid $10
million - to the survivors and relatives of a group of black men who were
unwittingly, apparently, made part of a 1930's government experiment dealing
Local and state
examples of successfully negotiated reparations issues are mounting quickly.
* Florida's legislature approved payments to
the survivors and relatives of those who died when a white mob, enraged by the
rape of a white woman by a Negro, destroyed the black town of Rosewood in 1923.
* An official Oklahoma commission has
recommended indemnities be paid to survivors and their descendants of the 1921
Tulsa race riots.
3. Local Legislative Initiatives
battleplans of the recent class-action lawsuits against the tobacco and the
firearms industries, local politicians are being lobbied - and intimidated -
for support. Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, and other cities and
local government bodies have already endorsed non-binding resolutions in favor
of reparations for slavery. Many local politicians, anxious to please a strident
and vocal constituency, believe there's no harm in supporting such measures
since they are general in nature and and politically noncommittal. The result
of this strategy can be seen by what happen in Chicago where a reparations
resolution passed by a 46-1 vote.
Although it may
appear to be impotent now that overwhelmingly positive endorsement from such
grassroots political action will reappear when the legislative fight on Capitol
Hill begins in earnest. And, coming in full circle, the federal fight will
begin in earnest when there is an impression that the reparations juggernaut is
just too big and going to fast to stop it.
Of all the local
legislative initiatives, California leads the way. The reparations movement has
establish a proving ground thanks to former state senator Tom Hayden, the
radical New Left leader of the 1960's. In 2002, Governor Gray Davis signed into
law two pieces of legislation sponsored by Hayden: the "Slaveholder
Insurance Policies Bill," and the "Slavery Colloquium Bill."
Slaveholder Insurance Policies measure, the state investigates all insurance
companies doing business in California to see if their records tie the company
to slaveholder insurance policies issued by their corporate antecedents before
1865. The second measure provides funding for the University of California to
conduct a research conference for the purpose of analyzing "the economic
value of slaves in building this country."
These two new laws
will help form the impression that slave-supporting corporations are still in
business (built, literally, on the backs of blacks) and that they have the
resources to share with the victims of slavery. In the meantime,
University-produced studies and academic papers on the aspects of reparations
will seemingly add depth to the issue as it is debated from Washington, D.C. to
every local community. Hayden's work has produced tow weapons to help apply
pressure from the top.
On this vital
battle front, the reparations movement have placed some heavy guns. They have
formed the "Reparations Assessment Group" (RAG), a powerhouse legal
team who are testing and refining class action lawsuits against the federal and
private corporations. The RAG braintrust includes:
* Alexander J. Pires Jr., who won a $1 billion
settlement for black farmers in a discrimination complaint against the U.S.
Department of Agriculture;
* Richard Scruggs, the key strategist of the
368.5 billion tobacco settlement; and
* Johnnie Cochran of O.J. Simpson fame.
In addition to RAG,
Cochran has just formed an alliance with a Washington-based law firm headed by
Michael Hausfeld, one of the lead attorneys on Holocaust-related class-action
cases that generated $8 billion in settlements from German, Austrian, Swiss,
and French companies.
In a roundtable
discussion among RAG attorneys published in November 2000 issue of Harper's
magazine, there was talk of filing suits against private individuals as well as
the government and businesses. Families whose ancestors included slave owners
or even marginally involved in the slave industry are in the crosshairs.
During the Harper's
magazine-sponsored roundtable, Alexander Pires mentioned the fact that the
ancestors of John Brown, the abolitionist terrorist, "made much of their
money as slave traders in the late eighteenth century." That was the
motivation of Brown's "...descendants [when they] underwrote Brown
University enough to cover up the embarrassment of where he made his
As an initial step
in preparation of the court fights, RAG will recruit a representative
"victim" who will personify the aggrieved "class" in a
lawsuit. In the Harper's piece Richard Scruggs noted that
"...you don't want to trot Mike Tyson out" as a symbolic victim
"...you carefully pick [the plaintiffs], you interview a lot of people to
pick someone who's articulate, who's got an appealing personal case, and who is
typical of the class that he's going to represent." Pires agreed, adding
"All our famous plaintiffs are selected. Rosa Parks was Selected."
industry is only the first target of the reparations extremists. The Associated
Press reported (October 2, 2002), Chicago Alderman Dorothy Tillman vowed...
"The insurance industry is just the tip of the iceberg ... The financial
industry, textile industry, tobacco industry, railroads, shipping companies and
many others got rich off the suffering and free labor of our ancestors."
Creating the image
that the reparations juggernaut is just too big and going too fast to stop is
fundamental to the black extremists' strategy. That takes a coalition of greedy
blacks and guilty whites.
A wide variety of
partners at all levels are necessary to make reparations payments look
reasonable ... even the smallest contributor adds to the momentum:
I know about what my people did, I wouldn't be able to respect myself if I
weren't doing everything I can to have ... white people face up to the crime we
committed and to right this grave wrong," New Yorker Donna Lamb, 53, a
member of "Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation" (Washington
Post August 16, 2002)
leaders, from top to bottom, understand the lessons of building coalitions from
the civil rights movement some forty years ago:
Washington of the black Telephone Workers for Justice ... said it's a question
of tactics and strategy because the target of the reparations movement is not
everyday white workers, but the government, along with corporations and banks
that profited from slavery and the slave trade. He maintains that opponents of
the reparations movement are seeking to offset any unity around reparations by
creating a contradiction between working-class people. 'We have to make that
(white) worker an ally in our struggle. We cannot do that unless we are absolutely
clear in defining who is 'they' when we say that they owe us,' Washington said. (Reparations and Labor Unions by Charles Brooks, Amsterdam
News, August, 28 2002.)
6. The Internet
The Internet is a
now an integral part of American society: business, research, education,
entertainment are all reasons why millions of Americans go on-line each day.
The younger generation, brought up with computers, rely on the Internet for
help with school papers as well as to "surf" or explore the web. Type
in the words "Reparations" or "Reparations Programs" or
"Reparations for Blacks" and a Internet search engine will post
scores of front groups and ideologues on a computer screen. Articles such as
"Millions for Reparations," "They owe Us," and "White
Woman Embraces Black Reparations" are plentiful.
Look a little further, and you can find
sites such as: C.U.R.E. (Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation),
Sons of Afrika, 40 Acres and a Mule, African-American/Jewish Coalition for
Justice, Reparations War Chest, Republicans For Reparations, New Panther
Vanguard Movement ... It's a long list.
How is the
Reparations movement positioned for victory? The answer comes from an unlikely
but reliable source: The New Vanguard Panther Movement (www.globalpanther.com),
a successor to the Black Panthers of the 60s and 70s. Their assessment:
... the issue of "reparations" among African-Americans is
being increasingly publicized and talked about among wide sectors of the
African-American population - from elected officials in city government to
state legislature, and from the United States Congress to 'nationally-known
leaders' like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. In marketing his recent
book, The Debt, Randall
Robinson [Executive Director of TransAfrica] has reached into the consciousness
of thousands, maybe millions, of African-Americans and whites, who heretofore
would have thought that the idea of reparations was either idealist,
unrealistic, or even "too militant."
That's a look from
a vantage point at the top. From the bottom however, there is mounting pressure
that may reveal more clearly where the reparations activist really want to
Service reported (August 17, 2002) that at a pro-reparations demonstration in
Washington, D.C., Charles Barron, a New York City Councilman, told the crowd:
"I want to go up to the closest white person and say, 'You can't
understand this, it's a black thing,' and then slap him, just for my mental
the attitude Malcolm X encouraged.
At the same rally
Louis Farrakhan railed: "We need payment for 310 years of slavery, of
destruction of our minds and the robbery of our culture ... We need land for
political independence, we need millions of acres..." (Reuters News
Service, August 17, 2002.)
That call for land
and "independence" may give a hint of what the "or else"
demands of the radicals at the bottom will soon be.
Malcolm X was very
clear about this issue of what's owed blacks and how they intend to get it:
This is a
real revolution. Revolution is always based on land. Revolution is never based
on begging someone for an integrated cup of coffee. Revolutions are never
fought by turning the other cheek. Revolutions are never based upon love your
enemy and pray for those who spitefully use you. And revolutions are never
waged singing "We Shall Overcome." Revolutions are based upon
bloodshed. Revolutions are never compromising. Revolutions are never based upon
negotiation. Revolutions overturn systems and there is no system on earth which
has proven itself more corrupt, more criminal than this system ... (Two
Speeches, op. cit.).
nationally-syndicated column of March 13, 2001, Citizens Informer
editor Sam Francis, Ph.D. put the underlying force of the reparations
revolutionaries in focus:
issue of reparations is not whether reparations are justly due to blacks or
justly owed by whites. The central issue is one of racial power- as it is with
most other racial conflicts today: over the Confederate flag, affirmative action,
racial profiling ... The central issue is that one race (blacks) seeks to
assert power over another (whites).
definition, what's at stake for both sides has just become much more valuable.