Dialogue/2005

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Comment to CURE from David Pilgrim:

I am the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University. This anti-racism museum is both a real place and an Internet museum (www.ferris.edu/jimcrow). Our goal is to use objects of intolerance to teach tolerance. It works. We have created a place where people, from all races, talk openly and honestly about race, race relations, and racism. I invite you to visit the online museum. Thanks for the work that you do.

Comment to CURE from Safeaskins:

Hmmm - my sister has done some genealogical research into our family, about which we know little. We did find out that our Great-great granddad owned two slaves (perhaps more - we just don't know.) We are also pretty sure that our great-great-great granddad on Mom's side had about 50 slaves. Whatever wealth they had was long gone before it ever got to either of my parents. They both came from poor families that could barely eke out a living. I inherited nothing from slavery as a result of my genetic heritage (some "white privilege," yes, but that has nothing to do with being the descendant of a slaveowner.) Why do I hear this endless litany of all this "inherited wealth" that we descendants of slaveowners supposedly have? Everything that I have, I earned on my own merit. Please understand that I am not talking abut the general "white privilege." I don't dispute that - my problem is with this assumption that I have somehow inherited wealth and privilege due to my bloodline. Sorry - did not happen.

Response from CURE member Ida Hakim:

Dear Safeaskins: There are families that gained or multiplied their wealth through slavery and slavery related enterprises, and families that did not. There are families that passed on slavery related wealth to their descendants, and families that did not. I am encouraged by the fact that people are looking into whether or not their families owned slaves, and whether or not their inheritance is tainted by slavery. I see that as a good thing for us to do, and if we find out that there is none, then there is none. If we find out there is some, then there is some. At least a person can then proceed on a foundation of truth.

In my mind, when I think about wealth from slavery, I focus first upon the financial powers during the time when the slave trade was established and flourished - the slave traders and slavery profiteers, the shippers, the bankers and so on. For example, we can start with J.P. Morgan. According to the researcher Eustace Mullins, in his book The Secrets of the Federal Reserve, "As the American colonies were settled, its fiercely independent people, most of whom did not want slaves, found to their surprise that slaves were being sent to our ports in great numbers. For many years, Newport was the capital of this unsavory trade.... The pre-eminence of J.P. Morgan and the Brown firm in American finance can be dated to the development of Baltimore as the nineteenth century capital of the slave trade.... Few Americans know that J.P. Morgan Company began as George Peabody and Company. George Peabody, born in South Danvers, Massachusetts, began business in Georgetown, D.C. in 1814 as Peabody, Riggs and Company, dealing in wholesale dry goods, and in operating the Georgetown Slave Market. In 1815, to be closer to their source of supply, they moved to Baltimore, where they operated as Peabody and Riggs, from 1815 to 1835." (pp 48-49)

Making a guess, would you guess that the wealth gained in establishing a market for slaves has been kept in the J.P. Morgan family and increased through investment? In my view, if the J.P. Morgan descendants want to do the right thing, they can do what you did, and search inside their family history to determine the role of slavery in their present-day wealth. Since you are interested in the subject, why not undertake the task of identifying the financial powers that brought slavery to the Americas and created a market for them, and then follow the money into the present day.

Comment to CURE from Marco:

I have a question about reparations. I am African American. I would like to know, in your opinion, why is it that whites don't want to give blacks reparations? Is it because of the money (the amount that is)? Or is it because of the "I am sticking it to you" attitude and it has nothing to do with the money at all? Is it that white people believe that if they give reparations that blacks will be "one up" on them so to speak? Thanks for reading my comment.

Response from CURE member Larry Yates:

This is a very important question, and one we probably have not spent enough time on. Given the tens of billions that useless military programs, tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations, and white collar and corporate crime cost the average US citizen, I don't think the issue is really the money. Especially since no one really knows what reparations would cost an average white person.

Here are some other ideas about what may be going on. A lot of white people, already resentful of their declining standard of living and their powerlessness over conditions of work, the environment and popular culture, have been tricked by powerful institutions including the media, into blaming people of color for these problems, either on their own or as part of some kind of liberal elite conspiracy. For these whites, the idea of African-Americans getting "even more" through reparations, while they perceive their own situation getting worse, is intolerable.

For whites with a more realistic view of the world, I would suggest that shame and fear play powerful roles in this issue. First, most whites who grasp that they have an unearned advantage over people of color, but have thought little about what is involved, naturally feel shame. It's kind of like kids stealing from a neighborhood store. Even if everybody you hang out with does it, and you get used to having that bubble gum or those nickels to the point you think you deserve them, you still know at some level that it's wrong. But if a new kid comes along and says stealing is wrong and you should give all the money back, you will have gotten so used to the way things are that you will get angry at the new kid. The longstanding shame will flare up in anger and self-justification.

I think fear is a big factor for those whites who really don't know any African-Americans. Instead of thinking about what reasonable people might ask for as reparations, they imagine some kind of alien being, who might ask for any kind of outrageous repayment, and might destroy their own lives and livelihoods. The situation is similar to a traffic accident. More often than not, people who have just been in a traffic accident in their own community are civil to each other. They know that there is a system in place for deciding which person is in the wrong, and for paying the costs involved, and they generally accept it, even though they are shaken up, upset, and maybe even injured, and even though they know they may end up owing money. But if you are in a traffic accident in a foreign country, even if you know it's your fault, you are still going to be defensive, and still are likely to imagine that the people surrounding you and speaking in a strange language are going to gang up to treat you unfairly. White people who live in a society where African-Americans are demonized daily as violent, ignorant, impulsive and "not like us" are naturally wary of getting into a dialogue on reparations with such (imaginary) people.

An even more interesting question is -- why do a few whites support reparations? I think you will find that most whites who support reparations 1) recognize the real balance of power in this society, which favors whites and especially wealthy whites, 2) have dealt with the issue of shame in a conscious way instead of being plagued by it, and 3) have had enough interaction with African-Americans to know that they are at least as reasonable as any other group of people. This doesn't mean we are "better" than other whites; it means we have had a different set of life experiences.

Once a white person has reached that point, reparations becomes just another issue, just requiring that we look at the facts and the moral issues involved, and make a reasonable decision. But most whites, unfortunately, don't get to that point in a society where racial isolation is normal, those in power effectively shift blame to targeted groups, and we are systematically miseducated about people of other cultures and ethnicities.

Response from CURE member Kevin Chestnut:

I think that today's U.S. whites are generally concerned about the injustice that blacks were enslaved and brought to this country. I think that they are now STARTING to feel guilty about this and want to make amends. However, they think that just changing their personal attitudes away from overt discrimination and to start preaching the social value of colorblindness is sufficient to stop TREATING blacks badly. They remain completely ignorant and in-denial about the devastation of blacks' social structures, the institutionalized practices of discrimination that persist, the reality of whites routinely being afforded much privilege relative to blacks, and the great wealth of blacks' past labor that continues to be invested and held within whites' generational assets.

Making a case to give blacks financial restitution outright does not appeal to whites since it would give a feel of "favoritism" within this new "colorblind" environment. It's presumed that all citizens can start afresh now and rise on our own merits, with whatever initiative we may choose. Among whites, it is a commonly-accepted myth that all citizens can start from zero right now -- while some are standing on mountains of assets, privilege, and the social capital of reputation. Many whites feel that they and their ancestors have had to struggle to succeed and that giving such restitution to one class of citizens, regardless of the degree of their past persecution, ignores and disrespects those whites' own history and often considerable efforts. There is also the thought, "Where will this end?" It's hard to conceive HOW MUCH money would be sufficient compensation, and it's often claimed that this would just open the door to other classes of people rising up about THEIR just due... which feels like an endless and bottomless prospect, considering our country's history.

I doubt that there is any "I'm sticking it to blacks" element in whites' thinking. I would not be surprised, though, that many may still consider blacks to be inferior and uncultured (in whites' accepted ways and morality), and thereby not deserving any advantage now. Related to this, whites commonly believe that blacks would not wisely spend any restitution money that they might be given. Whites may continue to feel "racially superior" while yet promoting a colorblind society.

Overall, I'd say that so many whites are not seriously considering reparations for blacks because those whites are feeling unappreciated and insecure in the present economic environment (perhaps the natural consequence of capitalism). There also continues to be a great degree of social segregation between whites and blacks that would otherwise keep the injustice of the present reality in whites' faces. I have come to support slavery reparations due to the moral values of my Presbyterian upbringing (which my family interprets differently), the belief that the welfare of myself(whites) and blacks is essentially all related, because I have rubbed shoulders with the black community in St. Louis for 25 years, and because I maintain a simple living standard that keeps me from feeling especially economically threatened.

Response from CURE ally DeBorah Gilbert White:

It's important to understand that reparations is paid by governments, not by individuals. In the case of the U.S. reparations would be paid by the government which represents varied racial/ethnic groups, including Whites. So the conversation for me is not why Whites don't want to pay but why our society is not as supportive of addressing the wrongs of slavery and its aftermath. This means that African Americans as well as other people of color groups need to be in conversation and mobilization efforts to put the issue of reparations on the front burner of our elected officials. This means that other people of color groups have to be honest with themselves and with African Americans concerning the issue of reparations for slavery. This is why voting is important, so that you put in place people with a mindset for the issues which impact our communities.

Response from CURE member Ferrell Winfree:

Marco, as a white woman, I believe a great deal of the resistance comes from my people not wishing to admit responsibility. If they pay, then they are saying that they have done something wrong. The wrong, in this case, is so very wrong that it is much easier to deny than to accept guilt.

Response from CURE member Kathryn Gordon:

Thanks for writing the site. I have been thinking about the questions you put to us for a few days now. I think money is never just money, but is tied to people's feelings and fears about power and responsibility. I don't think the amount is as important as the idea of admitting that there is a debt owed and that wrongs were done. I think a lot of white people don't want to admit that, and that admitting it will give them a feeling of being "one-upped" as you say--and they just hate that feeling, don't want to give up the myth of being superior, on top. Thanks again for your questions.

Comment to CURE from marque:

I've perused your site after having it forwarded to a list I'm on by a pan-african fellow i've worked with before (on various issues related to Africa today, which still suffers grotesque ramifications of centuries of racist colonialism). Certainly, the site has obviously hit some raw nerves, judging from some of the posted comments- which suggests it is surely timely and relevant!

I am an (anti-zionist) Jew. I can relate to the difficulties which come along with questioning the privileges and oppressiveness of the 'ethnic' group to which I belong, in the case of Israel and its relationship with the Palestinian people. In fact, I can also say that in any case, I can relate to the difficulties of a white man questioning those factors amongst a 'white' population at large, because as a jew of european ancestry, I have to acknowledge my white privilege as well. I can attest to it from having a black, jewish brother (long story...), and observing and comparing his treatment with my own, and assuring anyone who may care to listen that his treatment due to skin color has often been remarkable.

I also thus belong to an identifiable group which has (and still does) receive reparations, which I don't think is likely to be seriously questioned (except by white supremacists). I could say, as others have tediously suggested in one way or another, that ' I personally' haven't benefited from slavery- and the following century and a half of exploitation on an indigenous sweat-shop labor population, since my recent ancestors were living in schtetls near Lvov and Riga. But I have! I do! I don't suffer the instant judgements which, say, my own brother, or the afro population at large has to endure.

As noted, the division even of cultural and scientific accomplishments becomes racially categorized, and previous posters can obliviously talk about 'white' benefits bestowed upon on the (human!) race. (does this, by the way, include global warming and mass extinctions?).

Anyway, I thank you for opening up this dialogue. Its one which needs to be resolved pretty damn quickly, and is intrinsically interwoven with other questions which desperately need to be resolved as they effect the survival of the entire human species...

Response from CURE member Jerry Saltzman:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. As a Jew of European descent I have some similar thoughts and questions regarding our people and the issue of reparations to descendants of enslaved Africans.

The immigration of my father and his family from Poland to the U.S. in 1928 was not simply a change of country. It was a journey of liberation from conditions of hideous oppression to conditions of relative safety and opportunity; it was a journey from excessive imprisonment, extreme poverty and the constant threat death to a condition of opportunity; it was a journey from a situation where Jews were treated in ways similar to those in which black people were being treated by white people to a situation where white people benefit from an economic structure which was built to a large extent on the enforced labor of kidnapped Africans and their descendants. This structure, at the point of father's family's sojourn in this country, was not set up to benefit black people. In fact, many immigrants were offered jobs (often involving difficult work under harsh conditions at minimal pay) at the expense of black people, causing black people to seek employment under even harsher conditions at even less pay. To use a phrase from Derreck Bell, black people were consistently pushed to the bottom of the well. At the same time, many Jews used the opportunities afforded them by a society which extended its welcome of them into more diverse areas to ultimately become economically, socially and professionally successful.

The point of the above narrative is that Jews and other immigrant groups were immediately accorded privilege which was absent in their home countries that was not accorded black people. This inequality of privilege served as a basis of separation (and sometimes antagonism) between these two peoples. This separation was clearly evidenced in my family by their economic opportunities and their racist attitudes. The more my family took advantage of these opportunities to prosper, it seemed the harsher their racist views became. Of course, this was not true of all Jews. Many of our people fought for black causes, often out of a sense of justice that permeates our religious tradition and out of a sense of identification with the unequal treatment black people were receiving. But no matter what the motivation, our people were still acting from a place of privilege, which put us in a one-up position. And being in such a position with respect to those who have been severely marginalized by racial oppression can always make us vulnerable to a backlash. This became apparent in the later years of the Civil Rights Movement when many younger black activists criticized and fought hard against Jewish participation (see Jonathan Kaufman's Broken Alliance: The Turbulant Times Between Blacks and Jews in America). This was the beginning of a profound rift between our two peoples, a rift that has lingering ghosts even today. If we Jews want a stronger alliance with black people, we will need to work hard to dismantle the system of privilege which separates us. This will, of course involve taking a hard honest look at our own privilege and the ways in which we are complicit in holding up a class system that supports it.

This brings me to the subject of reparations. Our people who suffered the atrocities of the Holocaust deeply deserved the acknowledgements of and apologies for our suffering, the return of stolen property and an allocation of the resources necessary to help survivors build their lives again. This was inherent in the German phrase "weidergutmachung" (meaning to make good or whole again) which was applied to reparations settlements to Jews. However the according of reparations to our people again puts us into a position of privilege vis a vis groups that have no received reparations, such as contemporary black Americans. This sets Jews up for the same sort of vulnerabilities that were alluded to above.

Let me put this point in a wider perspective. A class based society will employ mechanisms to pit groups against each other in order to preserve itself. Historically Jews have been put into places that set them up to function as agents of oppression (tax collectors, keepers of church keys, money lenders, etc) and to be seen as such. This has been one of the major factors leading to the anti-Semetic oppression of Jews and is today a consistent theme in contemporary anti-Jewish rhetoric ("the Jews control the wealth", "The Jews control Hollywood", etc). The power of anti-Semetic rhetoric through the centuries derived in part from the separation of Jews from other groups (particularly oppressed groups) by placing them into a position of serving as agents that perpetuate a class based (oppressive) society. This is, I believe, the real basis of anti-Semitism which keeps Jews vulnerable to attack. Ending this phenomenon is up to us as well as to non-Jews who harbor and perpetuate these attitudes. The part we can play in ending this cycle is to align our interests with those of groups who are fighting for economic and social justice. In the present case, it would be incumbent upon Jews whose brothers and sisters have been recipients of the most generous reparations settlement accorded to any group to fight ardently for reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans.

Comment to CURE fom Ludiano:

I believe it is not making sense what you're claiming about reparations to African Americans. First of all: 1) Why should people from poor European American families pay for something they did never take advantage from? At this moment, poor Whites are the only group publically denounced even by Blacks. Here I don't see any solidarity from other ethnic groups for "White Trash". 2)Why don't you focus on the elite White groups instead of ordinary White Americans, like Anglo-Saxon and Jewish groups, who have much higher incomes then others in the USA.

Many Europeans also were enslaved during history, especially the Russians and died with millions. But like anything else, in the USA it is all about publicity and public outrage. Take a look at WW2, how many people know 27 million Russians died? I think nobody and still the average American looks down on Russians, even though many Russian women are sold as sex slaves nowadays.

I think it is much better to focus on the issues of fighting modern day slavery, which is targeting vulnerable groups like women and children, instead of focusing on events from two centuries ago. At the end of the day, we are living in a privileged country where we should work together to build a great future in diversity. Everybody had equal opportunities here and we should be glad of this. Far more important then money, which I don't agree with anyway, since by far most people came here as IMMIGRANTS way after abolition of slavery, is a positive mentality from ALL sides to one another. I believe you are well intended but you're focusing on outdated issues.

Response from CURE member Larry Yates:

No one in CURE denies the existence of class differences, or thinks racism is the only issue. It is the issue that we are working on here, but many of us are union members, members of civic groups, and so on. I personally lived in an all-white working class neighborhood for 9 years, was President of the Civic Association, and helped fight off the local university's plans to level the neighborhood and scatter dozens of low income whites to the wind. Our most reliable allies outside the neighborhood were African-American.

US residents from European countries are generally worse off than their relatives back in countries like Sweden, Italy, Germany, and the UK -- especially in terms of benefits, control over their working lives, being sent to useless wars, and lacking power to influence their living conditions. Why? I believe it's largely because here working class whites, rather than coming together as working people in a labor party or in strong unions, have identified with the elite white groups against people of color. So I believe the best thing we can do for white working class people is to destroy US racism -- by supporting our most reliable allies, African-Americans, in their call for justice long delayed.

To put it differently, you can't have it both ways. If you really want to kick the butt of the small wealthy elite, the best way is to open up your mind and your heart to the people who have most consistently fought for everyone's economic and civic rights, and have been most willing to do their part as allies of justice from the Revolutionary War to the Union cause to the CIO to environmental and antiwar fights. (People like Paul Robeson and Langston Hughes knew very well that Russia took the brunt of fighting Germany, and they had a lot to say about it, calling for a Second Front early on. Learn your history -- if Harlem had been running things instead of Harvard, the US would have been in there really supporting the Russians a lot sooner in World War Two.)

If you don't like the distribution of power and wealth in this country as it applies to you, don't disrespect the group that has done the most to change it. People like you and me have had billions stolen from us by Enron, the savings and loans, lack of decent health care, assaults on our environmental health, etc. That's happening right now, not someday. And I believe it's going to keep happening as long as folks accept their white role and focus their anger on what some African- American might do to hurt you some day, not on what is actually hurting you now.

Comment to CURE from Xohsuziqx:

I've heard a relative of my family say that an ancestor of mine was a slave owner. I feel that someday, I should try to make reparations, when I am financially able to (I'm just a student now, with absolutely no money). However, my grandfather passed away long ago, and he was the only one who knew the details of "ownership", as far as I know. Does your company have any resources for finding out who that slave may have been, and how to find out their descendants? Or at least some sort of suggestion of how to find out. Though I suppose it's not immediately vital because I cannot do anything about this yet.

Response from CURE member Ida Hakim:

One of the CURE members is currently looking into his family's past with regard to slavery. I've asked him to keep a record of the process that he goes through, and write about his experiences for the benefit of others who would like to undertake the search. He is currently at work on this, and when he is done, we'll post his writing on the website. Thank you for thinking about it and for your intention to do what you feel is right in a personal way.

Comment to CURE from DB:

I was wondering if there are any folks in CURE who are familiar with The New Abolitionist Movement, which, to over-simplify, believes "Whiteness" is simply a social construction, because there was no such category of persons (or even the phrase "White People") as recently as 400 years ago. It's just an idea invented to divide and conquer, etc. This idea was originally suggested by the great scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and spread by James Baldwin. Unfortunately, Baldwin's still-in-print Notes of A Native Son (essays) only scratches the surface. And the full collection, The Price of The Ticket, is hard to find. The most popular New Abolitionist these days is probably Noel Igniatev, the author of How The Irish Became White, and editor of the journal RACE TRAITOR.

Response from CURE member Larry Yates:

I can't speak for anyone else, but I am familiar with Ignatiev's work -- in fact, I have admired his anti-racist perspective since the 60s. I attended one of their meetings in NYC sometime back in the 90s, and I have a lot of sympathy for their positions, certainly including the idea that race is a social construction. However, CURE generally doesn't put a lot of energy into theory like this. Again speaking for myself, I think this is because CURE is a very practical organization, basically trying to ensure that there is an organized white voice that is pro-reparations, so we are inclined to focus more on tasks than theories. (I am not putting down theory, just describing the task we have taken on, in my opinion.) CURE is trying to have a dialogue with whoever shows up at our website or otherwise interacts with us, and most of them are smart but not necessarily folks who would relate to the discussions the New Abolitionists are having. Of course, we would not be able to do this if a lot of people like Ignatiev, DuBois, etc, had not done a lot of theoretical work.

Comment to CURE from Lola:

I want to thank you for your brave and unselfish stance for humanity. I am an African American MSW Graduate Student attending Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Here we have a wonderful cast of characters from all races, countries, and walks of life. I believe the deep nature of reparations is its potential to heal blindness. By this I mean pretending that the pivotal history of slavery was only a nightmare for those enslaved. By allowing governments (headed by individuals with different world views) to divide a nation based upon the ideas of few is a terrible thing. When the masses think that cast a vote for their best interest, it allows governments to bankrupt us all, as a nation, as parts of humanity, and allows democracy to go unseen. I have great love for all humanity and I thank each of you for feeling the same.

Comment to CURE from Jehejamin:

Many people think all white people are Racist, but this organization at cure has proven that all white people are not bad and racist. It blew me away how open right and fair cure is in dealing with this issue. Not only that but they put their actions where their mouth is... very refreshing and it tells us in the african american community that race relations has some hope... thanks again...

Comment to CURE from Itsallgood:

This website has managed to make me somthing that Ive never been before, at a loss for words. History shows that from the beginning, tribes took over tribes, states took over states and country took over country, taking what they saw as valuable and tossing the rest. Its the nature of the human race, but not just the white race like you have seemed to have convinced yourself. You make it sound like black people NEVER have done the same. And what about the fact that the middle eastern countries were the people that originally started selling africans as slaves. Are you pushing the arabs to pay reparations? Facts are facts, the past that we as Americans have to face is some of this countries ancestors had and encouraged slavery. The percentage of actual slave holders was VERY low, in the single digit percentages. And even fewer had more than one slave. Were the slaves wronged when freed and then brushed aside, and again I astounding say yes. Is slavery still alive in america now, no, but racism is. Racism is a two way street and I see more of it from the "black" americans towards whites, as well as mexicans, and TRUE africans migrating to the U.S. Another amazing fact, true african "black" men and women that migrate to America are statistically much more successful than that of the native black americans. Why you ask, they dont suscribe to the poor language, poor dress habits, victimism philosophy, and poor attitudes. They come to the U.S. and work their tails off and get their just deserves. Dont even try to say its not true, I presonally listened to the black men raising holy hell about the situation. Calling the native africans sellouts and not true black people. Please, they are from the motherland, correct? I know MANY sucessful black men and women and each have told me the same thing, they have had few, if any problems, with making their way to the top. When I asked them why, they all answered that its because they didnt ask for freebies, they worked hard and earned it. Victimism is a disease, and one that spreads and gets worse with each generation. The mere fact that we as a nation lable people as black, or white or mexican pushes me over the top as it is. BUT since your site lables, Ill stick with the format. I have more black friends than white, some of which claim the victim status. They are the people living paycheck to paycheck and breaking the law on a normal basis. My black friends that have broken the chains of victimism and worked, just as I had to do as a white man, to make my way up the ladder of sucess, are just as well off if not better off than me. So spare me the tears and instead of pushing to make it a easy handout, push for the American black man and woman to talk properly, dress professionally, ditch the poor attitude and apply themselves and get their education. I do not feel bad for those that are stuck in a situation because of laziness or their wanting to push the blame on those a 30 years in the past. Quit crying and get working, then maybe you will see your deserved respect and get treated as such. I beg for your reprisal!!

Response from CURE member Larry Yates:

Where to start? First, I don't believe there is something especially bad about white people, or even that white people are really a definable group. Most of the people I love and respect are "white." What I am interested in doing something about is not what happened millenia or centuries ago. What I am concerned about is the society that is actually around us. It's hard to discuss that society with you, since you say things like "Don't even try to say it's not true...." But let me try this. We all have anecdotes -- little stories that help us understand what is going on around us. You have some powerful ones, and you deeply believe them. But if you are really honest, you will put your anecdotes to these three tests: 1) Who do those anecdotes benefit? 2) Do the facts, statistics and historical facts fit in with your anecdotes? 3) Are people around me telling me what I want to hear? I don't think your anecdotes will pass those three tests.

The idea that we can all make it as individuals in the USA is a myth, which is retailed to us all because it works for the few who really do make it. We are by far the most unequal of the wealthy industrial societies, and those bozoes that make 100s of times what the average worker (of whatever racial designation) loves having the rationalization that we could all do this if we just weren't so dern lazy.

The reality is that, while the system is porous, and some people can succeed against tough odds, the odds are against the average hardworking African-American making it. Why? Here are a few reasons. a) They start out with substantially less assets -- white families on average have more than 10 times the assets African-American families do b) there is a great deal of day to day discrimination -- perhaps most blatant in housing, where its existence has been proven in every major city by a rigorous testing process c) law enforcement and the rest of the justice system target African- American men -- again an empirically demonstrated fact. As with the lottery, a few will beat the odds. Most will not. Blaming those that don't is cruel.

The bottom line is that, while it may feel to you that you are a unique individual with no prejudices, you are living in a society where we are all assigned roles and status, and most of us go along. This is true here in the US just as it was true in the Soviet Union or monarchial England. Generally, fish don't think much about the water they have always lived in. I hope you will have the guts to think about these things.

Comment to CURE from G Simmons:

I am curious to know if you are going to make the africans that were killing off other tribes and selling the captures to the slavers on the african beaches pay their fair share of these reparations. I ask this because without them there would have not been very many slaves taken. also just who are the responsible white families I am from the south but none of my ancesters ever owned a slave are we expected to pay some of this money for a crime we did not comit. I have many other questions but these I would like you to answer personally also I would like to know if the decendents if the white people used as slaves in south during the same period of which there were 1000's(mostly poor english and irish kids) who were treated just as harshly as any african slave if not worse are to receive reparations as well. if you were not aware of these white slaves Ill be happy to educate you. thanks for your time.

Comment to CURE from Marcia Bell:

I am pasting on to this message an article/commentary that I submitted to Portland IMC regarding my experience as a Black female, with a disability having suffered (along with other professional level minorities) often overtly biased and illegal discriminatory treatment while employed at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, from 1999 until 2001 --an entity, I soon learned never has and still does not exist (thus 'it' can not be sued, nor defended). Corporate racism and other forms of discrimination against a number of minority groups is a longstanding and flourishing industry within itself in Oregon. Agencies like Kaiser NW (or whatever they call themselves) reap the advantages of their placement in inner North and Northeast Portland. The Research Center is continually seeking to examine Blacks and other minority 'specimens'. However, within the organization they have little to no interest in interacting with those groups on an intellectual or academic level. I hope that the concept and integration of Civil Rights has not lost its value in Oregon and America in the wake of all the discussion of securing democracy in Iraq and other remote or rhetorical diversions. In all, thank you for this opportunity to speak.

Direct link to article: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/12/306606.shtml