Reparations…for Present Injustice

14/07/10 1 COMMENTS

Stolen Poker Chips Still in Play

Don’t get me wrong. I have long felt that there is considerable justice in the demand for the payment of reparations to the American black community in (at best pathetically partial) compensation for the two-century plus crime of North American black chattel slavery, whose savage legacy continues until this very day, when median black household net worth is equivalent to 7 cents on the median white household wealth dollar. I am informed here in part by the following useful analogy advanced by the African-American political scientist Roy L. Brooks eight years ago:

“Two persons – one white and the other black – are playing a game of poker. The game has been in progress for some 300 years. One player – the white one – has been cheating during much of this time, but now announces: ‘from this day forward, there will be a new game with new players and no more cheating.’ Hopeful but suspicious, the black player responds, ‘that’s great. I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for 300 years. Let me ask you, what are you going to do with all those poker chips that you have stacked up on your side of the table all these years?’ ‘Well,’ said the white player, somewhat bewildered by the question, ‘they are going to stay right here, of course.’ ‘That’s unfair,’ snaps the black player. ‘The new white player will benefit from your past cheating. Where’s the equality in that?’ ‘But you can’t realistically expect me to redistribute the poker chips along racial lines when we are trying to move away from considerations of race and when the future offers no guarantees to anyone,’ insists the white player. ‘And surely,’ he continues, ‘redistributing the poker chips would punish individuals for something they did not do. Punish me, not the innocents!’ Emotionally exhausted, the black player answers, ‘but the innocents will reap a racial windfall.’” [1]

read more…

“Felony is the New ‘N-Word”: Michelle Alexander on Mass Incarceration as “The New Jim Crow” in the Age of Obama

10/06/10 0 COMMENTS

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010).

Early in her courageous and important new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010), Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander offers a painful and poignant memory from the evening of November 4, 2008:

“As an African American woman, with three young children who will never know a world in which a black man could not be president of the United States, I was beyond thrilled on election night.  Yet when I walked out of the election night party, full of hope and enthusiasm, I was immediately reminded of the harsh realities of the New Jim Crow.  A black man was on his knees in the gutter, hands cuffed behind his back, as several polices officers stood around talking, joking, and ignoring his human existence.  People poured out of the building: many stared for a moment at the black man cowering in the street, and then averted their gaze.  What did the election of Barack Obama means for him?”
read more…