On January 6, 2009 Rep. John Conyers introduced H.R. 40, which proposes a Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. A brief description of the bill follows:
"To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.”
On Feb 9, 2009 the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. As of November 13, 2009 the bill was still in committee.
I must admit to being bothered by the intent of this bill. Slavery of African-Americans ended in our country well over 100 years ago and any effort to provide financial reparations to descendants of slaves is nothing more than an attempt to extort money from non African-Americans. Find one or more living persons who were slaves and I will readily agree that they were wronged and deserving of appropriate remedy for their inhumane treatment. The non slave descendants of slaves are no different than the rest of us immigrants to this country who endured hardships and in some cases inhumane treatment but do we deserve any form of reparations? Of course not and you will never see a bill introduced proposing reparations for us.
Now if anyone deserves reparations in this country it is the Native American Indians. The mistreatment of Indians, including but not limited to the stealing of their land, was equally wrong but the stealing of their land has continued to affect descendants of the living Indians of that time.
Rep. John Conyers has introduced this bill in prior sessions of Congress (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2005) and each time the bill has died in committee. The significant difference in the 2009 bill submitted is that it represents a campaign promise of Obama to seek reparations for descendants of African-American slaves. If African-Americans want to undo progress that has been made in the area of racial integration, employment and academic opportunity equality, and progress in elimination of all racial discrimination then go forward with this bill and see what kind of backlash occurs. This subject will fracture racial harmony where it finally exists and inflict a severe set back in the cause of African-Americans.
Sometimes the best way to go forward is to stop going backward. The time has come for African-Americans to live in the present and work toward a better future. This is no different than what is required of peoples everywhere, regardless of race, color, or creed.
Don’t forget your ancestors and their history but stop living in the past as if you were a slave. If all immigrants, willing or unwilling, to this country continued to harbor ill-will suffered by their ancestors, we would have a country of Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, English-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, and so forth.
If people choose to be known as such then fine but what is wrong in being recognized as Americans, which is what all of us became when we took our oath of citizenship or became citizens by birth? When the day comes that all citizens of our country consider themselves Americans first, and their original country of heritage second, that will be the day when this country is finally united as one and can achieve harmony in all forms. I hope to see that day in my lifetime.