Letter to the Editor: Reparations? ….Hmmm

To the Editor:

The impact of slavery, over the 400 years of the African American experience in America, cannot in any way be measured in dollars and cents. The sustained damage is simply incalculable … and therefore un-invoiceable. If you went to the theoretical “reparations billing department” what would they tell you?

In all likelihood they would start with… the prohibited charges for our abrupt and unsanctioned removal from the motherland. Add to that the cost of those African “malcontents” who took exception to being chained and were thrown overboard in the Atlantic Ocean or died aboard the crowded and disease-infested slave ships.  How about the loss of our African history, our African identity, our African language and our African selves?  What would the charges be for separating children from families and families from each other so that reuniting would not be possible?

Sharpen up your pencils to come up with the cost for building America, the South, the plantations, the crops, the raping and misuse of our women, the nearly 3,500 lynchings of black men/women throughout the United States… mostly in the South but don’t forget some were just an hour away in New York City.

There will be charges for the destruction of “Black Wall Street” during the Greenwood Massacre in Tulsa Oklahoma where riots in 1921 burned black owned businesses and residences, called by many the worst instance of racial violence in American history. Are we going to pay Benjamin Banneker for the design and layout of the infrastructure of our nation’s capital? Oh yeah… can’t forget Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a black surgeon who performed the first successful open heart surgery in America.  What’s that worth?

Let’s also factor in urban decay, young black men being gunned down by police violence, years of financial and social displacement, implicit bias, substandard living conditions and the stigma of living in public housing. Mass incarceration… Wrongful incarceration… Voter suppression, white nationalism, Neo-Nazi’s.

That’s right, we can’t forget the charge for the Tuskegee Syphilis Study where close to 300 men died in an experiment to see what happens when syphilis goes untreated. Instead of getting penicillin they received aspirin from U.S. Government doctors. Consider the accounts payable position for Henrietta Lacks whose unique blood cells called HELA cells have been used to test the effects of radiation and poisons, to study the human genome, to learn more about how viruses work, and played a crucial role in the development of the polio vaccine.

While we are at it let’s discuss the “use tariff and royalties” for all black inventors/inventions, like the air conditioner, peanut butter, paints and stains, lotions and soaps, the guitar, blood plasma, the elevator and the refrigerator.

Elijah McCoy (The Real McCoy) and his work with steam locomotives… the urinalysis machine, shoes, the helicopter and ice cream. How about the debt owed for Travon Martin, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and the scores of other black men murdered by gun violence at the hands of police officers and vigilantes.

Calculate the costs for the deaths of Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. The Central Park 5, Charleston Church 9, racism, bigotry, and discrimination. Redlining, zoning, indifference.

Are you starting to get the picture?  If we are talking about writing a check, the costs associated with the institution of slavery cannot possibly be measured.  If it could be measured and a check was written it would bounce from here to Johannesburg. If the check was able to be cashed the U.S. would be bankrupt until the end of time.

But what could be done… re-commit to Affirmative Action, free college education/vocational training for black students seeking higher education… early childhood enrichment and education. Create quality urban education centers, infrastructure and urban development in inner cities to improve the quality of life and living conditions. Address poverty, gun violence and remove hurtful rhetoric that divides people and produces a toxic and threatening environment for people of color, Muslims, and Central Americans and causes unnecessary tension where there should be none. Help us to become home owners so we can participate in “American Dreaming.” Restore hope for God’s sake.

America will never ever be great again, if it ever was, until all Americans feel like they belong and sorrowfully, that is a long, long time away and quite possibly, with the incompetent “wizard” we have in the White House sowing seeds of racism and hatred… we may never get there.

As for me, money can’t address the mayhem, violence and needless disturbance of an entire people over their entire time here in this country.  Just level the playing field, get out and stay out of the way.

Like the Godfather of Soul, James Brown said…”I don’t want nobody to give me nothing, open up the door, I’ll get it myself”.

Leighton Newlin