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Monthly Archives: June 2019

HR 40

Last week, I joined hundreds of eager citizens desiring to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cory Booker, Danny Glover and my friend Katrina Browne (whose ancestors were involved in the slave trade) testify on HR-40 on Reparations for Slavery.  You can hear their short, powerful statements at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfEe1MRxSgI.

Most of us who had arrived at 7:30am were not allowed to enter the hearing room at 10:00am because we were told it was “full.”  Folks had traveled from NY, NC, PA, bringing children who patiently waited until reporters, interns and ‘important’ people jammed ahead of them in the hall.  I enjoyed talking to people, asking about their stories, the meaning of t-shirts connecting many as members of ADOS# (African Descendants of Slavery).

No amount of money can pay for over two million lives lost in the Middle Passage or over 2.5 million slaves who built the US economy that so many of us benefit from today.  Or for the extreme suffering of families torn apart, language and culture lost, the rapes, the beatings, the lynchings that persist to today in the form of police killings of young Black men.

My eyes were opened in a deep way in my first year of teaching at Montgomery Catholic High School in Alabama in 1963, just 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.  The signs over some court bathrooms had been removed, MLK’s bus boycott had happened, but our small white Catholic high school was still segregated from the tiny African-American high school.  Separate, very unequal and a ridiculous use of resources.  It was an amazing year of change, of making Black friends, forming an integrated baseball team, rousing anger, becoming a revolutionary, realizing that I had grown up in similar segregation in Missouri and would fight the rest of my life to end it.

As Katrina Browne pointed out, white folks whose ancestors weren’t in the US before 1863 still ‘leap-frogged’ over the descendants of African slaves economically, politically, in every way.  Racism is not an abstract notion, but a continuing daily form of oppression and thievery from African-Americans who still do not have equality in education, housing, political power, health care, justice in an unjust court and penal system.

Let’s make things right!  Now!  Why wait?  African Americans have been waiting over 400 years!

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