African-Americans have been demanding their 40 acres and a mule since we were promised as much following the Civil War, but now everyday citizens aren’t the only ones arguing reparations are not only long overdue, but necessary for black people to flourish in the United States.
According to Vice, at a press conference in Washington, DC this past Friday, “three members of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said that Congress should pass the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, a bill that Michigan Representative John Conyers last introduced in 2015.” Speaking directly to Vice about the issue, working group chair Mireille Fanon Mendes-France said the U.S. has failed to adequately address the legacy of slavery and it’s lingering effects on African Americans.
“It’s been absolutely insufficient. They are excluded, they are invisible. There is structural racism and structural discrimination, and they face that because of the pigmentation of their skin.”
The UN Working Group’s official report won’t be released until the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva this September, but a preliminary report noted:
“Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of African-Americans today. The persistent gap in almost all the human development indicators, such as life expectancy, income and wealth, level of education and even food security… reflects the level of structural discrimination that creates de facto barriers for people of African descent to fully exercise their human rights.”
The thing is, the Working Group isn’t telling us anything we don’t know — and likely not the U.S. government either. But in order for reparations to move from a heavily debated concept to an instituted reality, those in power have to care. Looking at the current status of African-Americans in those areas of human development noted and even more so at the lack of justice afforded us by the judicial system in recent years, we already know why things have gotten to the point that they have: Americans don’t care about African-Americans. So researchers can make speeches and develop studies, and beg and plead for decades (which is pretty much what’s been happening thus far) and it won’t make a bit of difference if those who put the current systems of institutional racism in place are satisfied with their efforts and keen on continuing to ensure African Americans occupy the lowest status in society.
I very much applaud the UN’s efforts and it’s refreshing to see this issue looked at from a global perspective, but when all is said and done I don’t have high hopes of seeing reparations in any of my future offspring’s lifetime. Do you?