REPARATIONS

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Thu Apr 4 09:38:31 MST 2002


Mark Lause wrote:

At core, I repeat, this issue is built upon a comic book understand of
history that whitewashes the racism of the capitalist order.  It ascribes
the problems of racism not to the current economic system but to some
lingering affects of slavery.

Response (Jim C): Part of the problem is that those who are featured on the
TV as advocates for reparations, the usual elites (African-Americans and a
few Indians) who will skim a whole lot if reparations are actually paid, are
not even the real leadership or at the grass-roots of the issues.
Absolutely, if reparations are portrayed as "atonement for the PAST" so we
can have a new day--under capitalism--then yes, reparations will have the
effects--in terms of mitigating dissent and understanding of capitalism as
the source of many of the ills for which reparations need to be paid--that
Mark talks about.

But again, I am always amazed how radicals, who denounce the bourgeois media
for their information about various movements, use precisely those sources
to make summary judgments about what those movements are about. I can tell
you from various and wide sources in "Indian Country", sources the bourgeois
press could never get close to, that among Native activists, no one, I mean
no one, says that WAS the PAST; there is a definite link between the past
and present not only in terms of the past living within and shaping the
present, but also in terms of the present being a continuation of the
ugliness and barbaric logic of a whole system. I know no Native activists
who talk in terms of personalities when talking about past and continuing
present genocide and horrors; they all talk in systemic terms.

Further, do not forget that we have victims, living on nothing, dying daily
before their time due to preventable and treatable illnesses, who have just
claims for reparations and compensation, and any monies shaken loose
literally mean life and death for many Indians--and African-Americans. They
don't have the luxury of sitting by and forgetting about the possibility of
compensation and reparations--in some cases the possibility of reparations
or the attention that the issue brings is the only thing keeping them going.
The don't have the luxury of speculating on the possible petit-bourgeois
motives or possible anti-historical uses/misuses of the reparations issue.

Yes, absolutely there are opportunists misusing the reparations issue and
the victims seeking reparations. Yes, there are all sorts of possible
non-progressive and anti-progressive uses/misuses of the reparations issue.
But please, those fighting for compensation and reparations are not part of
one homogeneous movement; and the real radicals, you will never see them on
the bougeois "news"--so why go there for the only source on what reparations
are about and who is advocating for them and why. By painting with a broad
brush, speaking generically about reparations and those advocating them,
from the armchair, one may wind up slandering some real activists and issues
about which one really knows nothing.

Jim Craven

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