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40 Excuses and a Kick In the Butt
AKA - Wise Cracking Kid Gets Treated Like a Violent Killer!
We all have some idea what the expression, "40 acres and a mule" means. Most people would say it has to something to do with the need to make amends with African American descendants whose ancestors endured inhumane treatment during the slave trade era in the United States. The term actually stems from the actions of General Sherman Tecumseh, following an edict (Special Field Order No. 15) in 1865. This decree authorized the distribution of land to freed slaves confiscated from southern plantation owners by the U.S. War Department. The offering of a mule was not part of the decree, but the result of a surplus of broken-down and useless mules the army wanted to dispose of. It should be known that this decree was only partially carried out. After the assassination of Lincoln and President Andrew Johnson was sworn in, he summarily revoked the degree, evicted the slaves and the land was given back to the original southern owners. This attempt by the U.S. government to compensate freed slaves negates the question of whether or not African Americans are due reparations, it's just a few questions of; "Who is to blame?", "What should they get?", "Why does it matter?", "How will they benefit from it?" and "How will compensation help heal racial tensions?"
Who is to Blame? All American citizens share some culpability when it comes down to this topic, because we are the successful legacy spawned from of the original crimes committed. This country was built upon the scarred backs of persons who did not have what most whites and immigrants to this country enjoyed then and to this day, CHOICE. Through their life-long toll and their generations that followed, African Americans established the cotton industry which awarded the United States the most profitable economy of that time period. This foundation of wealth accumulated from these meager beginnings became the basis for affluence in this county now. Every U.S. citizen now benefits from our capitalistic way of life, in turn making everyone vicariously to blame.
To be free is to have the absolute right to choose where you live, how you pray and how you go about living your life. American citizens should recall that this country was established on these principals by a group of misfits who were denied these same inalienable rights in England; however, our forefathers never received the memo that they shouldn't encroach on other rights to discover theirs.
You might say, "It isn't fair to ask us all to compensate a group of people who are no longer alive. Life is better for them now. Furthermore, most African Americans can't establish themselves as direct descendants, and as a result anyone under the age of thirty wouldn't even know why they were receiving it!"
You would make some good points. The Civil Rights Movement did establish recognition of basic rights of which those born since have benefited. Whether or not the original victims are still alive is moot; since the loss of wealth, culture and heritage is an enduring legacy of the original crimes committed. Today, it is almost impossible to establish lineage rights by attempting to trace direct bloodlines. African families were deliberately fractured and widely dispersed to destroy any notions of uniting in revolt. African Americans were also considered to be property, therefore very little records exist to validate heritage. Sale receipts or stock inventory lists, that would now be hundreds of years old if they existed, would have been the only proof.
What Should African Americans Receive? Much has been written and debated about this topic. It has been a source of contention since the Emancipation Proclamation proposed freedom for certain groups of slaves in 1863. At that time, many political and religious groups debated reparations, not to decide if they were warranted, but to provide the tools for freed men to begin their lives. Between 1865-1869 countless alternatives were proposed to Congress, as well as to President Johnson. The motivations for these proposals were as varied as the propositions themselves. They ranged from a sincere belief that the freedmen were entitled to land; to a fear of violence erupting; to resistance of social, economic norms by demanding political and wealth equality. Some suggestions were even an attempt to purge the country of the burden of freedmen on the doles, while attaining economic gain by eliminating any competition they might present for employment.
In 2001, David Horowitz, the president and editor of FrontPage Magazine published an ad in several college papers giving his position on why giving reparations to African Americans is foolish, unnecessary, ineffective and racist. He thoughtfully raised some of the same questions posed here, with the rest being frivolous and inaccurate fabrications. In his ad he parrots the banter of those who wish to propagate the systematic oppression through untruths which retract from the issue. Mr. Horowitz and friends would be surprised to learn that monetary or asset compensation is not part of this proposal. It doesn't make sense to pass out checks, because cash is not enduring, unless the recipient has the skills to know how to capitalize upon it. Anyone steeped in poverty has this problem, not just African Americans who are poor. It also doesn't make sense to distribute land. The land belongs to those who colonized it first, the Native Americans.
If President Johnson's decision to revoke the edict of the War Department had been challenged in court in 1865, it might have been deemed illegal. He did not have the legal authority through estoppel to reverse the law decree made by the War Department. Taking this into account, a new proposal for compensation could be in the form of abandonment of behaviors that impede progression toward achieving true equality; such as nepotism, covert discrimination and harassment. This solution would allow for atonement and restitution through the creation of opportunity without necessarily admitting guilt.
Why Does It Matter? The barbarous treatment of African Americans has been so indoctrinated into American society that some whites believe this treatment is not only valid, but necessary to maintain their way of life. As a result, they have administered a consistent application of oppression throughout the entire history of the United States; e.g.: kidnapping, unlawful confinement, genocide, rape, torture, maiming, starvation, denial of culture/housing/employment/education, etc.
When Andrew Johnson denied freed slaves their legal right to restitution, he reaffirmed the notions of racial inequality of that time; notions which still prevail today. Another enduring result has been the systematic denigration of self-identity through the usage of stereotypical symbolism to dehumanize African Americans. Slave owners and their descendants knew it was necessary to publicly consider African Americans as less human to validate whites' superiority and to justify subjugation. Even those racial groups who never held slaves were inclined to accept these notions, because doing so was considered socially acceptable. To this day, white Americans mistakenly believe that all African Americans are lazy, dirty, hostile, promiscuous and dumb. These misleading and mortifying ideas are taught to them by their parents, who in turn repeat the untruths to their children to ensure a lasting legacy of racial hatred. As a consequence, most whites today will innately distrust and assume an attack position against African Americans they encounter without making an effort to get to know him/her personally. In consideration of Christianity and Judaism dictates to refrain from sin, the desire to do the right thing should outweigh desire to perpetuate brainwashing. If not, whites should at least want to treat others as they would want to be treated.
How Will African Americans Benefit?/How Does This Help Racial Tensions? Removing racial barriers and obstacles would provide African Americans essential opportunities to carve out the same satisfying quality of life that whites enjoy. Factors associated with poverty such as interracial violence, drugs, alcoholism, criminal acts, depression, and abandonment would diminish due to the restoration of the family unit through education, cultural revitalization, employment opportunities and fulfilment of basic needs.
It would also restore self-identity and the overall collective sense of self to African Americans. Abandoning our petty physical differences and working to restore the world to its original splendor could allow everyone to live the "American Dream", instead of just a few. African Americans need to be seen as equal citizens and positive contributors to American society, rather than competitors for what little resources are left. They have given much to this society in terms of inventions, craftsmen, and hard labor to culture and capitalism. Isn't time they received their due?