Reparations for African Americas took center stage Monday evening as part of a two-day Race Relations Summit hosted by Mayor Scott Maddox in City Hall.
The forum played host to issues on such as racial attitudes, why reparation is due to African Americans and the idea that an intimate study of the history of racial discrimination is needed before any reparations can be made.
Gregory Kane, a columnist with the Baltimore Sun and visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, argued that the idea of reparations was not sound because it would compensate undeserving African Americans.
“Blacks were not the only people discriminated in the United States,” he said. “The Irish, Jews, the Japanese and the Italians were discriminated against.”
Adjoa Aiyetoro, chief legal consultant for the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America began the panel discussion saying that African American were due reparations not only for slavery but for, what she referred to as continuing vestments of slavery.
“Racial profiling is a vestment of slavery,” Aiyetoro said. “Disparity of wealth is a vestment of slavery. Yes the Jews got discriminated against but they got reparations. You can’t be for one and against the other. If you don’t support us then you don’t support them.”
Raymond Winbush, a professor of Social Justice at Fisk University and director of the university’s Race Relations Institute expressed his disdain with whites and their denial of slavery.
“We had two great film-makers produce excellent films about slavery and both went to the bottom at the box office – Amistad from Stephen Spielberg and Beloved by Oprah Winfrey,” Winbush said. “Why can’t they admit that they have a problem with reparations for black folk.”
The group alluded to congressman Bill Conyers’ reparation bill HR40, which is expected to be the catalyst for an intense study into the history of blacks in America. The bill has been buried in committee each time it was introduced to congress since its creation.
“The media has been successful in trivializing reparations,” Winbush said. “Conyers bill is critical. Before the Japenese got their reparations, they did a study on the impact.”
Ayietoro said that the political climate of the United States is a stigma that must be overcome. However, Sedler insisted that blacks need to stop looking back at slavery and look to the present.
“It doesn’t matter how long ago and how it’s happened but that there are survivors,” he said. “Slavery diverts attention from remedies. White people don’t feel guilty about slavery or racism of what they benefited them in more ways than many.”
Ayietoro explained that reparations are weak responses to beginning the healing process of African Americans.
“We are not asking individuals to pay,” she said. We ask that they (whites) acknowledge that they committed a crime. This is a debt owed by the government. It didn’t die when it went from one president to another.”
Lamb agreed saying whites do not have right to dictate the type of reparations hat blacks need.
“It’s none of our business,” she said. “It’s the same thing with the tobacco companies and their class action suit. They can’t tell the victims how to spend their money. Any person with a conscience would admit that what we did was a crime and its up to us that we step up to the plate and rectify.”