Bankole: Reparations talk ploy to exploit black vote

Bankole Thompson

"What does that mean? What do they mean? I'm not sure that anyone is very clear. What I've just said is that I think we need to do everything we can to address the massive level of disparity that exists in this country."

That is how Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders responded to a question on reparations for African-Americans during a recent CNN town hall.  

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Sanders’ tap dance on reparation, an issue at the heart of the struggle for black equality, is an indication of the white liberal/progressive hypocrisy on matters relating  to the advancement of blacks. Appearing to claim ignorance of the meaning, Sanders conveniently avoided taking a yes or no position on the issue.

There is no liberal politician in America who doesn’t understand that reparations mean compensation to blacks whose ancestors were enslaved in this nation. But Sanders’ response is one of the reasons I’m very skeptical about reparations making its way into our mainstream political discourse.

Sanders and Democratic presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren and others who seem to be entertaining the idea of reparations are doing so as a ploy to get out the black vote in droves for 2020. It does not represent any kind of serious effort on their part to work towards a meaningful compensation for one of the greatest tragedies in human history.

Let’s be honest. Democrats have not made any tangible move to bring reparations to the fore of mainstream consciousness. For most liberals the subject is a taboo. In fact, when former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., introduced HR 40, the bill to study reparations, it could not get out of the House Judiciary Committee since 1989 when it was first proposed. Conyers never relented on the issue until his exit. He kept reintroducing the bill at the start of every session, but unfortunately most white liberals wouldn’t champion the issue.

If Sanders and other presidential candidates want to know the real meaning of reparations, and its relevance in this dispensation, they should have their congressional staff pull up the Conyers bill for an educated understanding of the issue. But appearing to patronize blacks by speaking about such an important issue without directly taking a position on it and laying out in concrete terms what compensation should look like is another form of bait-and-switch politics. 

Also, the fact that the reparation conversation is coming at the 400th anniversary of when the first black slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619, is an indication that the attention it is getting is more about symbolism and less about substance. Democrats want to be viewed as deeply concerned about the scourge of slavery on humanity and on our national consciousness. 

No one should be fooled by this latest attempt to emotionally whip blacks into a state of frenzy, instead of well thought out policies that would specifically address the legacy of slavery that still lingers in black cities around the nation.

Slavery and the founding of this nation are intertwined. The conversation about reparations has to be more than just politicking for votes. 

“That was one of our founding principles as a nation, that black lives and black bodies don’t matter; you see that in all our headlines today. This original sin lingers on, that’s why we got to call it sin and talk about repentance from sin,” said evangelist and author Jim Wallis.

If Democrats are genuine about reparations, they should be ready for a conversation about how slave labor built the economy of this nation at its founding. Nations are founded on the basis of the will of the people, and the declaration of their intent and purpose, as is the case with the Founding Fathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution which cleared the way for the new nation.

But the economy that sustained the new-found nation, called America, was created by the blood and sweat of black slaves who toiled for free from dawn to dusk on the plantations for centuries under the callous whip of their masters.

That is why University of California-Irvine professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o, one of the leading anti-colonialist authors of the 20th century, said black slaves who worked on plantations are the real founding fathers and mothers of this nation. Democrats need to look at reparations through that lens and stop playing politics.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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