Tag Archives: racism

More Shoutouts to Everyday Heroes

Pearl River     Not long ago we argued here that there needed to be some special praise for the quick action of people who grabbed smartphones or cameras to document police brutality and had the courage to take a stand for justice.  There are some other behind the scenes folks, some of whom we know, and some of whom are nameless, that also deserve a shoutout for putting their shoulders to the wall to push for social justice.

How about the Scrap Yard Dawgs semi-pro fast pitch women’s softball team from Conroe, Texas, north of Houston, for example?  After their general manager bragged to President Trump that the whole team stood up for the national anthem, the entire team resigned.  We could hope that at least one of those two men learned a lesson.

How about Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret, who was also a long snapper for the University of Texas following his Army service and played for the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 preseason?  In 2016, after watching Colin Kaepernick sit during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism, he gave him the excellent advice to knell instead, combining both respect, dignity, and protest. Thanks to both men, especially Kaepernick’s courage and sacrifice, kneeling is now a universal tactical response to oppression.

Wow!  Remember when if you were a jock you were supposed to keep your mouth shut, do what the coach said, and be the sharp point of the culture wars for the right?  I can remember as a high school senior on the football team being held down so that my head could be shaved in a coach-inspired hazing exercise masked as team-building, but really a statement about long hair at the time.  Remember when Michael Jordan walked away from any controversy with his “all about the money” shtick?  All over now.  We hope!

At least it is we follow the women’s lead.  Maya Moore, women’s’ pro basketball star, who took a year off from her career in 2019 to work for the release of Jonathan Irons, who she believed was innocent and wrongly convicted and held in a Missouri prison for the last 23 years, celebrated with Irons, now 40, as he was released after a successful appeal that Moore supported and partially funded.  Who does that?  Amazing!  Say her name!!

Or how about the anonymous groups of teenagers who have leveraged social media and Google spreadsheets to collect and document racist and offensive behavior by others, complete with videos and screenshots?  They name names, and in some cases, it has led to colleges and universities retracting admission offers to applicants who stepped across the line.  Maybe it’s a high price to pay for juvenile missteps, but they have to learn, better sooner, than later.

Or the K-pop crews that registered an unknown number of people in protest of the Trump Tulsa rally?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and a lot of people are showing the way, making justice a little closer through their efforts.


Reparations Qualifications and Confusion

New Orleans        As a Nikole Hannah-Jones fan, I followed her arguments carefully and approvingly in a recent piece in the New York Times as she demolished one quick fix after another that would achieve increased racial equity as she built up to her conclusion that reparations were the only essential, correct path.  As she worked her way up the mountain, she brushed aside voices that would say, their ancestors were innocent or they were recent immigrants by saying, “Reparations are a societal obligation in a nation where our Congress sanctioned slavery.  Congress passed laws protecting it and our federal government initiated, condoned and practiced legal racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans until half a century ago.  And so it is the federal government that pays.”  That makes sense and sounds right to me.  Everyone was affected, and everyone pays.

Hannah-Jones then argues that, “Reparations would go to any person who has documentation that he or she identified as a black person for at least 10 years before the beginning of any reparations process and can trace at least one ancestor back to American slavery.”  Later, she adds that, “The technical details, frankly, are the easier part.”  Compared to the politics, surely, the devil is also in these details, if we are to finally achieve racial equity, but her formulation leaves me confused about the narrowness of the qualifications she lays out here.

            We can all agree that “racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans [endured] until half a century ago.”  Why then would it be necessary for a potential claimant for any reparations benefits to be able to document and prove that they can “trace at least one ancestor to American slavery”?

The first slave ship from Britain landed in America with a cargo of 150 Africans in 1684, 336 years ago.  Slave documentation was largely nonexistent.  First names were common.  Last names often didn’t exist or were taken from the owner’s name.  Even at the time of the Civil War this was a fraught situation.  In the South and along the border states slavery was still practiced, while African-Americans were technically free in the other states.

Records and lineage to slavery should not be a dis-qualifier.  The discrimination was race and color-based, universally practiced, and state sanctioned.   To achieve any degree of equity, anyone with records to whatever magic date could be agreed ended state-sanctioned discrimination should qualify for some portion of any reparations.  A credible argument should be made that those state-sanctions continue to this date in many areas (healthcare, morbidity, housing and banking access, etc.), so any easier qualification might be to extend potential benefits to anyone black or African-American who is a citizen of the United States at time of passage and effective implementation.

To achieve racial equity, the approach needs to be encompassing, not limiting.  All boats need to rise, even if some might get more benefits than others based on more direct lineage to slavery’s practice.  To heal a nation, there needs to be no division.  All were harmed.  When we finally do right, we should do right by everyone.  That’s not technical, it’s just true.

Everyone was affected, everyone pays, and everyone benefits.