Bernie Sanders flippant response to reparations is an insult. I will acknowledge that reparations may never happen, but
the conversation being mute is insulting on its face. Before the Civil War, Congress was debating a form of reparations. In fact, they wanted to send all Black folks back to Africa, Liberia in fact, a country that America founded for slaves to live. Liberia is still dealing with the ramifications of America founding a country and dumping black folks there over 150 years ago. The alternative was to give black folks 40 acres and a mule. So, the notion of reparations felt more justified over 150 years ago and now it is not a topic?
This year, I went to two conferences – one in South Carolina and one in Louisiana. I visited different plantations – one that grows cotton and the other that grew sugar. I understand why Louisiana was deemed as much harsher than cotton, as the living conditions were astoundingly hard. White folks sat around and thought about the type of slaves they needed – blue paint, masons, blacksmith, etc. Thus, they went to Africa to capture slaves that had a distinct purpose. It was not randomly capturing black folks – it was purposeful. Then, over half of them died in Middle Passage because the living conditions were just horrendous. When they arrived, they found themselves in a swamp. The slave quarters is small, cold, and built on mud. On sugar plantations, for four months they were forced to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week with running the risk of being covered in hot sugar cane.
As I was told that these slaves gave their owners the concept of plaster to protect their house from just evaporating with the Mississippi mud bricks made me pause to think about the contribution of these slaves are immeasurable. Their contribution is mixed with their surmountable sacrifice, so what is that price? Well, they sold slaves (in today’s money) between $40,000 – 110,000, so let’s start there. Bernie (and others) express that a check is not going to happen, so let’s do something to impoverished communities. Yeah okay. I don’t live in the hood. I am not in any of those locations they are talking about, so run this by me again. My ancestors blood and sacrifice is equally meaningful, as all black folks do not live in these low economic areas they hope to target.
Slavery reaches in higher education, government, business, and religion, so to dismiss the concerns of acknowledging slaves sacrifice is just ignorant. I have no idea how slaves survived to even have descendants. Having generations come after them is a testament to a miracle.
Being the only Black faculty member in many of my English departments I teach, I am stunned still at the lack of understanding the need for representation. Instead, we are taught more on how to teach black kids instead of hiring more than one black faculty member. A young woman who finally became full time was excited to tell me that as a white woman she really wanted to create representation through starting a Black Student Union and teaching African American literature and Chicano literature classes. I gave a blank stare because Black Panther (2018) said it best, we don’t need a white savior, but you can be a white ally. The concept of starting a Black Student Union is great, but to be the advisor is not okay. The idea of wanting Chicano and African American literature being taught on the campus is nice, but to teach it is insulting. Our ancestors deserve better to have our students to be taught by those who they died for their offspring to live a better life.