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Marianne Williamson-- Reparations!

What do candidates do after they lose their race? Many disappear, at least for a while. Or if not disappear, they lower their profile significantly. I remember, though, on the night that election fraud cost Donna Edwards her first race, I spoke with her about how she needed to start running the next day. She did and she two years later she became the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress. Her own party had written her off for a subservient corporate shill and Hoyer and Pelosi had both campaigned against her but if that upset her-- and how could it not-- it didn't slow her down for one second. The second time around wasn't even close. She kicked his corrupt butt 59-37%, even beating him in his home base, Prince George's County, 55-41%.

More often than not-- other than in a wave election-- it takes more than one cycle to win a congressional seat. And not just Donna Edwards. For example, it also took Grayson two tries; same with Jerry McNerney and Joe Garcia. Juan Vargas ran 3 primaries against Bob Filner before Filner finally left the seat too run for mayor and handed it to Vargas.

One of my favorite candidates this cycle was Marianne Williamson who I doubt will run for Congress again-- at least not any time soon. In fact, she just wrote a beautiful endorsement of Ted Lieu, the state Senator who beat her and the two of them are co-hosting an event in Los Angeles for Alan Grayson in a couple of weeks. Much like values-driven progressives Marcy Winograd and Norman Solomon their candidacies were incidental to their work and their vision. Marcy and Norman are working away, not in congress nor in electoral politics, but still organizing around the same issues and principles that drove them to run for office. This week, Marianne took on the thorny blistering hot racial issues around Ferguson that most Democrats are too scared to talk about.

What is happening today in Ferguson, Missouri, had it roots hundreds of years ago, and nothing less than pulling out those roots will heal the situation today. America needs to reconcile with our racial history-- seeking genuine atonement and making meaningful amends. Until such time, tortured race relations will continue to plague us with more and more tragic results.

It's interesting that we even use the phrase "race relations," given how little we register that this is even about a relationship. The relationship between blacks and whites as groups in America is psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, to say the least, and until this is dealt with on the level of the cause and not just effects, we will continue to play out over and over again the cycle of violence at its core.

It's difficult to deal emotionally with the history of slavery in America, which is why many whites have chosen not to. Yet it's imperative that we do, because until we see clearly the line of development leading from slavery to the Civil War to the Ku Klux Klan to the civil rights movement to "benign neglect" to the "prison-industrial complex," America will continue to misunderstand the real problem. This is not just about how many bullets were shot into Michael Brown. The shots that matter most here are way, way too many to count.

…Slavery ended but the racism that gave rise to it did not, only burrowing more deeply into the fabric of Southern society after the Civil War… Many in the South, not surprisingly, then turned their rage at having lost the war against the people whom they saw as its cause. The last thing certain Southerners were ready to do was concede true equality of social status to blacks. And thus began an era of white supremacy in the American South, which was almost as ugly as slavery itself.

If slavery marked Phase 1 of America's black-white relationship, then the reign of white supremacy after the Civil War marked Phase 2…. "Benign neglect" [Phase 3] is a phrase first articulated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he was Urban Affairs Advisor to President Richard Nixon, arguing that the drama of the Civil Rights movement should be followed by a period of more or less quiet in the relationship between blacks and whites. It was not necessarily a proactively racist sentiment on Moynihan's part, or even on Nixon's. But it was an abandonment of a healing process nevertheless, and in that sense at least a passive betrayal of the relationship. To say to a formerly enslaved population, "Be glad! You're not slaves anymore, and you're not going to be routinely lynched or kept from voting!"-- while good, indeed very good -- was still not restitution. And nothing short of restitution will constitute a real amends and redeem the soul of America. It wasn't enough that slaves in America were freed. The question remains: What were they freed to?

Civil rights legislation, with its signature Voting Rights Act, was extremely important in integrating African-Americans into the voting pool. But of itself it did little to integrate African-Americans into America's economy. And people who are left out economically are left out, period. The era of race relations post-civil rights movement has paralleled the advancement of American society in general, in which a relatively small part of our population-- blacks, as well as whites-- has done very well, while the majority has hardly moved forward at all. "Blacks go to Harvard; blacks get rich; see, a black man became president!" is now the mantra used to justify a continuation of a policy of benign neglect. The fact that geniuses can make it in America doesn't of itself mean that social justice exists in America. Not everyone is a genius, but everyone should matter.

Yes, it is true-- and very much to be celebrated-- that blacks have opportunities in America today unheard of 50 years ago, but that of itself does not constitute full economic justice. The poor in America are all benignly neglected now. As long as 1 percent of our people control 40 percent of our wealth and 60 percent of our people live on 2.3 percent of our wealth, economic justice for the majority of Americans of any color isn't even on the short list of our national priorities.

One in five American children live in poverty today, making us the second highest child poverty rate in the advanced world. Among black children, however, the poverty rate hovers at 40 percent. A black male has a one in three lifetime probability of incarceration in the United States, lending credence to Michelle Alexander's description of America's "cradle to prison pipeline." These problems are not discreet and newly formed; they are the continuation, the legacies, of a situation that began in the 1600s and still plagues us today. It's not as though the situation finally erupted into violence on the streets of Ferguson. The situation erupts into violence in the hearts of black mothers and fathers all over America every day, as they teach their children-- particularly their sons-- how to behave in order to avoid the unequal application of criminal justice in America. For America has fallen into a terrible pattern in the area of race, as in so many others: don't heal the disease, just suppress or seek to eradicate the systems. The message communicated by most governmental action is this: "Don't keep blacks down, necessarily-- just don't lift them up. The geniuses among them will make their way. If and when they complain or act out, we have police and prisons to show 'em who's boss."

Yet heal the disease we must. And the most significant healing of any societal woe emerges from justice done. Blacks in America have been trained to ask for so little, as though God knows, we've done enough. We've done enough, white America..? What, in the name of God, have we done? We spend millions on anti-poverty programs and billions on prisons. In fact, we haven't even apologized. It's much easier for someone to forgive you when you've had the courtesy to apologize, and much easier for them to get over it if you've had the decency to fix the problem.

We need to apologize, and we need to make genuine amends. America needs to pay long overdue war reparations, and until we do, we will not move forward in any meaningful way. America needs more than forgiveness; we need genuine repentance, and restitution for our national sins.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton suggested we have a "national conversation about race," suggesting perhaps that if we talk about it enough then maybe the problem will go away. But it's difficult to have an authentic conversation when half of the people involved in the dialogue have over two hundred years of understandable rage to express. There are situations in life-- and race in America is one of them-- where talk without action does not heal a wound, but only exacerbates it. Whites and blacks have a relationship in America, but it is an unequal one. One side owes something to the other, and until the debt is paid, the relationship will remain unhealed. The very mention of actually paying something back to people we enslaved for two hundred fifty years is still not on the table, not really. And until it is, then America will not be free.

America spends over $600 billion a year on defense. Over $1 trillion has been spent on the Iraq War, seen now to have been the biggest foreign policy blunder in America's history. Yet no one ever asked if we "could afford it." So it should not be considered unreasonable to suggest that America put $500 billion toward a Reparations Plan For African Americans. Not piecemeal things, like Affirmative Action. But the real deal-- in a big way-- with the emotional, economic and social magnitude it deserves. Incremental changes often add up to no fundamental change at all.

Reparations are not a radical idea; they're considered a basic tenet of social and political policy throughout the world. Why should America not pay reparations to the descendants of slaves who were brought to America against their will, used as slaves to build the Southern economy into a huge economic force, and then freed into a culture of further violence perpetrated against them? It's not as though all that's over now; if anything, the problem has grown within the cells and psyches of every generation since. America will continue to waste money on relatively limited fixes, until we buck up and pay this debt in a real way once and for all. Millions are indeed wasted if the billions we owe here are not paid. A Reparations Plan would provide a massive investment in educational and economic opportunities for African Americans-- rendered as payment for a long overdue debt. Until that debt is paid, the cycle of violence that began in the 1600s and continues to this day will continue to haunt our psyche and disrupt our social good. It is time for America to atone for our past in both word and deed, and to heal our weary soul.

Source: 
Down With Tyranny

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