Both of my parents descended from slaves and grew up in the Jim Crow south, in different states. They both headed north as part of the Great Migration looking for a new and better life. Under the harsh lights of the big city, they found their way. Like many other people, they used informal networks of displaced southerners to get their bearings. These networks were made up of people that usually hailed from your hometown, county, or state. These people often knew “your people” or they were your “cousin.”
Make no mistake, some of these skin folk were predatory. Just spinning tales to use you in some fashion. Big cities like New York, Chicago, and Detroit were quite dangerous and held no guarantees of success. Because poverty and second-class citizenship can’t be shaken off by just changing locale. There is still much work ahead once you put your bag down. The trip was the “easy” part.
Because the specter of poverty is always around Black communities, each migrator knew even the best of benefactors could only help you temporarily. You were on the clock to get right and keep moving on.
My parents did just that. They hit the ground running.
Using their intelligence, charm, street smarts, work ethic, and a dash of guile; they each made their own way. They met (my father was a notorious street harasser), dated, fell in love, married, and had beautiful children, obviously. They later benefited from the gains of the Civil Rights Movement and both got union jobs. They bought a home, raised us, sacrificing anything and everything to give us a good life. I salute that drive and sacrifice with everything that I am.
Like most parents, the fight of my life has been assuring the economic well-being of my children, grandchildren, and the humans that they will, in turn, bring into this world. This includes providing education, training, and experiences that give them the tools to navigate the world from this foundation. This is not unique parenting, by any stretch.
What is different from most other families is the inherited, compounded legacy of burdens that stem from American policy and practice of chattel slavery. This liability has never been addressed. Therefore, my further increase begin in a place of inflicted detriment, as do all other American Descendents of Slavery (ADOS).
This is not to say that other communities have not experienced hardship. On the contrary, I recognize the many communities around the world have suffered at the hands of American action and inaction. I and many other #ADOS people have stood with you in coalition.
A coalition is a group of groups that stand together in common cause. Each faction respecting the specific needs and causes of the other. Some traumas shared others not. But, each having their own agenda while fighting the good fight.
“Soldiering on” “for the ancestors” has put us in last place in the nation we built. My sons have a 75% chance of falling back into poverty. Erasing all the sacrifices made by their grandparents.
For decades, it has been lamented that Black people should demand more of the Democratic Party for their unfailing loyalty. We proved these voices right by remaining largely silent under every POTUS since Johnson. Allowing Gatekeepers and others to replace our voices and mask our pain.
It was especially the case under President Barack Obama. We were told by so many people that “he can’t do anything just for Black folks,” “wait until his second term,” or “he’s lifting all the boats.” We listened to our “leaders” and played good soldiers, even after giving him that second term. It all turned out to be nonsense, smoke and mirrors. Our wealth cratered under Obama.
Ushered in by Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Social Media, Wall Street predation, and government failure; we entered a new political age in 2016. Bernie Sanders reawakened the American political imagination. Young people roundly rejected the status quo represented by Hillary Clinton and her coterie of sycophants. The Democratic Party rejected them and went with the status quo. Trump beat Hillary in the places that counted most and became President. He has done a lot of damage. Often with breathless Democratic support.
But, people are watching and fighting back. Bernie kept pushing the Progressive Agenda. Medicare for All became the rallying cry. In 2018 and 2019, Progressives changed the face of Congress by voting in Women and people of different shades in like minds. Open socialists won seats all over the place. Anything was possible.
A new era indeed…
On January 16, 1865, when General Sherman promised freed slaves 40 Acres and A Mule, the flame for Reparations was lit. Centuries of labor, blood, and rage would finally provide something for the victims. However, the failure of Reconstruction, White terrorism, and American policy made that impossible.
We were violently stripped of political, economic, and social power. Even during and after the Civil Rights Movement, Reparations was just an unrealized dream. Discussing it in public marked you as an unserious, almost dangerous, negro. Centuries of White terrorism taught that talk like that could get you lynched or assassinated.
Education and advocacy from morally and economically sound policy seemed to work wonders for Medicare for All, Fight $15, and other policies. AntiFa and Black Block were publically cheered and the supporters weren’t rounded up. Even things like MMT, Abolish ICE, ending Capitalism we’re gaining traction and a following.
What a great time to address this glaring unpaid debt owed to the people who were enslaved in the United States and their descendants. The Fed had started releasing data on wealth, not just income. Economists like William “Sandy” Darity started interrogating this data. Historians and scholars had written books like “Color of Law,” “The Half Has Never Been Told,” “The New Jim Crow,” “Medical Apartheid,” and “Slavery by Another Name” chronicling the uniquely American experience of slaves and the generations that followed. TaNehisi Coates wrote the Case for Reparations and he was still breathing.
Here is all this data. Scholars available to discuss it and no one to put it all together and make the required arguments. After Hillary went down in flames, Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore started YouTube channels. They decided that this New Era was rife with possibility and it was high time someone really tackled Reparations in a way that was only possible with new media.
The model was simple, read, analyze, discuss the analysis in public, and discuss with the audience. That’s exactly what they did. They just kept hammering away. Their audience grew, learned, and became galvanized. They became the ADOS Family and changed everything.
As mentioned earlier, Black folks being this vocal about a subject this difficult and specific to economics is quite new in modern politics. We played a role in Occupy and BLM was all us, for the most part. But, demanding economic redress in this focused a manner on such a controversial subject is stunning.
This is Armageddon for Gatekeepers. I can see their paymasters (pun intended) right now saying “You had one job! One.” The GKs are supposed to keep us quiet and docile. They tried to smear #ADOS with the “Russian bot” thing, the lazy neoliberal catch-all. That was quickly smashed to bits as presidential candidates openly discussed Reparations and Mueller’s report disappeared Trump-Russia collusion.
They have now regrouped and are trying to aggressively co-opt the message. At the same time, claims of xenophobia and a sudden uptick in angry, anti-immigrant tweets from low-follower accounts are in the offing. [thinking emoji] As a veteran of the First Bernie Wars, I’ve seen this all before. Anyone surprised at a smear campaign against Reparations should be very angry at their brain.
The above is not to dismiss any real xenophobia. There may very well be people using the #ADOS hashtag saying anti-immigrant things. That is inexcusable and should not be condoned.
In that vein, many people view ADOS saying that people will no longer take what is rightfully theirs is being viewed as anti-immigrant. Yet if I, an obviously Black man, were to say I wanted a check because the Japanese were forced into camps during World War II, people would rightly question my sanity. However, every non-White, non-male group can and has dipped into Affirmative Action, which was developed specifically for ADOS. Stating that this is obviously unfair and demanding it stops is seen as a strike against solidarity.
The groups that have been partaking in Affirmative Action, as ADOS continue to fall further and further behind, are unhappy that slave descendants are speaking up. They are fighting back. Calling the claims “unrealistic,” “fantasy,” and of course “xenophobic.” These folks have a lot to lose if ADOS claim what is rightfully theirs.
Even in light of this aggression, #ADOS stand with any and all groups that want to make their own claims for redress. That is their unequivocal right. We have never and would never block another group from a just claim. We have not or will we demand a portion of another group’s restitution. That is morally reprehensible.