Skip to main content

By Ras Memnon

Fanon broke it down.

In his classic work, “The Wretched of The Earth,” Frantz Fanon stated that “the governments of the various European nations called for reparations (against Nazi Germany) and demanded the restitution in kind and money of the wealth which had been stolen from them.”

The Martinique-born psychiatrist and revolutionary (who played an integral part in the Algerian Revolution and War of Independence) also noted that “The wealth of the imperial countries is our wealth too…For in a very concrete way Europe has stuffed herself inordinately with the gold and raw materials of the colonial countries: Latin America, China and Africa…Europe is literally a creation of the Third World. The wealth that smothers her is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples.”

The question of reparations for African-Americans sparked controversy when award-winning journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates published a piece, in The Atlantic, pointing out that Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, opposes reparations for African-Americans.

Mr. Sanders thinks reparations are unrealistic and may be divisive. Every problem related to racial justice for Black people is always deemed “divisive” by Whites. Mr. Coates pointed out that Senator Sanders’ agenda is largely seen as unrealistic in American politics. So, why does Sanders, an avowed “radical socialist,” maintain such a soft stance on reparations?

The answer, at least in part, lies in the reality that most of White America, including White “liberals,” don’t really believe in true justice to repair the economic exploitation that is still being done to Black America. In fact, many in White America, across the political spectrum, still gain benefits from the suffering and victimization of Black people.

The war against Black America certainly didn’t end with President Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation,” nor did it end because of the gains that were obtained during the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties.

The circumstances surrounding the water situation in Flint, Michigan where Republican Governor Rick Snyder used an “emergency manager,” whose actions created an emergency crisis for the predominately Black residents of that city, is but one example of the war being waged against Blacks. For after Snyder gave over a billion dollars in tax-breaks back to the wealthy White residents of Michigan; he then chose to balance the states’ budget by cutting services in Black communities like Flint.

The changing of the water source was a way to save money at the expense of Black folk.
Unknown numbers of Black people (not to mention Black children) were exposed to all kinds of maladies because of the greed of those elites who Governor Snyder serves. The “emergency manager” concept was used here in a dictatorial manner. No doubt there are other places in Black America where similar shenanigans are occurring.

Throughout American history, to this present time, White privilege has repeatedly been achieved by economically exploiting Black people. Ever since Slavery, America has used Black people as pawns in their economic political game. America’s industrial revolution (and Europe’s) was financed on the backs of Blacks.

The debt America’s owes to African-Americans should be looked at in a broader context, beyond just Reparations for Slavery. Reparations should also be paid for the economic exploitation Black America endured (and still does) due to the criminal justice system and prison industrial complex. After Slavery, Black Americans were exploited thru insidious instruments like the Convict Lease System, the Black Codes, Chain-Gangs, etc.

In more contemporary times, the use of gentrification, redlining and predatory lending are all tools used to destroy the economic possibilities of Black people.

The biggest losers of the 2007-08 sub-prime mortgage crash were Black and Latino people. These “ghetto loans,” as they are called, are projected to cost our people (who White bankers refer to as “mud people”) over $200 billion in stolen wealth. Bernie Madoff is now in prison because he pilfered from rich Whites. But those who steal from Black people avoid prosecution.

For well over a year now, police brutality has been a pressing problem in the Black community, especially as brutality and murder are captured on video—like the killing of Laquan McDonald and Walter Scott, both of whom were shot down as they ran away from police. But the killing of Black people, by law enforcement, should not be removed from the larger victimization that is the function of the White criminal justice system.

America’s courts and prisons are just as guilty of victimizing Black people as police.
We all know what the Justice Department said about the police and courts in Ferguson, Missouri: that they are being used to bolster the town’s budget on the backs of Blacks, since one-third of their budget depends on the onerous tickets and summons Blacks in Ferguson face daily. Without question this tactic to tax Black people is being done in many jurisdictions beyond Ferguson.

In New York City, quotas are used to attack the Black community. Many deaths of Black men in New York City occurred while White officers were trying to fill those quotas. The cases of Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo come to mind.

Police, prosecutors and courts are all co-conspirators in the political economic war against Black America. Criminalizing Black folk is a way for the progeny of Euro-American criminals to project their criminality (for things like Slavery) on Black people, while giving other Whites jobs as cops, corrections officers etc. Prison privateers in America, like Wackenhut, make a mint on the warehousing of African-Americans.

Which corporations now benefit from the cheap labor of prisons?
America’s prisons have always used Black bodies for slave labor. The Convict-Lease system, Black Codes and Chain Gangs, which were all utilized after “Emancipation,” as a means to re-enslave Black people, who very often found themselves back on the same plantations they were “freed” from.

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15, which became part of the “three acres and a mule” mantra for the recently “freed” Slaves, was rejected by one of America’s most racist presidents: Andrew Johnson. Instead political forces used the aforementioned strategies of Convict Leasing etc., to create what one PBS documentary dubbed: “Slavery by Another Name.”

Michelle Alexander (author of the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”) has pointed out that for decades crime has been falling in America. Yet, the rate of Black incarceration hasn’t.

Many African-Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses that most White people get away with. What’s explains this? In certain areas of White America prisons are a source of job creation for Whites inside prisons, and for the local businesses. Prisons enrich these pale communities where they obtain extra Census funding dollars—while extracting wealth from those communities where their Black prisoners were taken from. White politicians, in these areas, benefit from this situation nicely since they claim these Black inmates as part of their district. White privilege, born of racism, benefits White folk (even those who might not be racist) in multiple ways.

At the same time this is being done, Black neighborhoods are being economically paralyzed, to keep us poor. Unfortunately, in America, even White “socialists,” like Bernie Sanders, are living in denial about the debt that is owed to Black Americans. America has given Reparations to the Native Americans and Japanese-Americans. Why are African-Americans less deserving of Reparations?

Those who have no problem giving Reparations to everyone else, except Black people, will usually use the “it’s impossible to quantify Slavery” excuse to say no attempt should be made to rectify the injustice that was done to Africans during Slavery. Although no figure can approximate the true wealth stolen from African slaves, Western nations owe a debt to Africans and Africa for the prosperity Europe and America now enjoys because of Slavery.

Barbadian historian Sir Hilary Beckles (author of the book “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide”) is now leading the charge for Reparations against Europe as chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, which was launched in 2013. CARICOM is a political entity that represents the interests of Caribbean countries.

Professor Beckles has pointed out that when English Slavery in the Caribbean ended plantation owners, besides all the money they already made, were then given reparations for the money they “lost” with the ending of Slavery, which is similar to what happened when the French demanded payment from Haitians, for their lost “property,” after French planters were run out of Haiti by the great Toussaint L’ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Beckles has argued that CARICOM should adopt a stance similar to the Jews, who secured Reparations for Nazi atrocities done during World War 2. The CARICOM Reparations Commission has hired the English law firm of Leigh day, who won Reparations for Kenyans who suffered under the brutal treatment of England during the 1950’s.

The Institute of The Black World (IBW,) and their president Dr. Ron Daniels, are working in tandem with Professor Beckles and CARICOM to secure Reparations for Black people in America and the Caribbean. Beckles also spoke at the Reparations Issues Forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus where he honored Congressman John Conyers, who has introduced Reparations bills in Congress for years.

Clearly the momentum for Reparations is building, especially as Black Africans all over the world unite around the issue. America (and all of Europe) became financially strong, “civilized” nations because of Slave labor and the stolen resources they hoarded from carving up Africa.
The time has come for White America, and Europe, to pay Africa and Africans restitution through Reparations.

Writer Ras Memnon is also a dub poet and song writer. In the coming weeks and months, his poetry and music will be appearing on the Black Star News.


IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.