By Beverly Gadson-Birch
I have given this apology for slavery a lot of thought. Upon hearing the City of Charleston Councilmembers apologize for slavery, I immediately texted and asked a friend, “what now?” Now that you have apologized, what do you plan to do about the subjugation of a class of people—my people, descendants of royalty that were turned into slaves for profit? The problem I have with Council’s apology is it is not specific enough and does not include a comprehensive compensatory plan for hundreds of years of slavery. While the apology is long overdue, I believe the City of Charleston needs to “put your money where your mouth is”. I mean taxpayers’ money that you misuse and abuse! Let’s walk this slavery apology down slowly.
The Indians were slaughtered and driven off their land by white men. I am no history buff, but I do remember the Catawba Indians were awarded some $50 million dollars to settle their land claim after years of wrangling with the state. I became interested in the case because it involved the upstate – Rock Hill and Fort Mill. And, I remembered thinking what if the Indians won their case against the government? Will that set a precedent for blacks seeking retribution? The possibility of the Indians reclaiming their stolen land wasn’t an option because too many people would have to be uprooted so they were compensated. The Indians used their settlement to establish long term sustainability income by opening casinos and bingo parlors. The government approved the gambling operations because they were built on Indian reservations–their land.
If they were compensated, why not Blacks? Freed Blacks were promised 40 acres and a mule to help work their land but only a handful benefited from the promise. The problem with cursory promises and apologies is they are as worthless as the paper they’re written on without recompense. Whites can never make up for such inhumane acts perpetrated upon slaves and descendants of slaves. According to the laws of the land, kidnapping, illegally transporting across state lines not to mention out of the country, whipping, burning, branding, raping, and dismemberment are punishable offenses. However, most offenders were never brought to trial.
This latest effort by Trump to separate immigrant children from their parents is simply another diversion to dilute people of color. It’s a form of modern day slavery to divide and conquer. This division goes deeper than what the eyes can see. It’s no different than separating slave families, selling the father to one owner, the mother to another and children to yet another. Then y’all wonder why there are so many shades of blackness and why black families can’t stay together. When I speak of compensation, I am simply asking that slave descendants be treated like the Indians or any other nationalities that have been injured. Charleston, the port of slave trade, has generations of blood on her hands. Now, it’s time for white folk to wake up and smell the blood on their hands. It’s time integration means integration and not selectively accepting Blacks who fit into a certain class. It’s time that banks make loans based on one’s ability to repay, not on color or address.
America can never atone for slavery! NEVER!! The damage is too deeply rooted. Slaves were denied an education and whipped mercilessly or killed if found reading or writing. And folks are wondering why black high school students are reading on an elementary level? Stop pretending like y’all don’t know!! If the Council is serious about an apology, make college education free for all students so they don’t spend the rest of their lives repaying student loans. White folk, y’all just need to own it! Yes, talking to YOU!! I know y’all thinking, “Oh, I had nothing to do with that; I wasn’t around during slavery”. Well, you are around now living your grandiose lifestyle made possible from slave labor. Your ancestors were around and if you benefited from slavery, you are guilty of complicity. You, yes YOU!! You are responsible for irreparable damage to generations of Blacks and you have failed to educate all children equitably. Now that some of you elected officials have at least acknowledged slavery was wrong, you need to work on closing the divide. You have an obligation to close the educational gap so you don’t dumb down another generation of black students. Do you want to know what else you can do? You can begin by making lottery scholarships available to all students. What about Black soldiers fresh out of high school who were sent to Vietnam, placed on the front line, severely wounded and killed, while you enrolled your kids in college to avoid the draft? And when black soldiers returned home on drugs made available by you to formulate within them a killer instinct, they ended up on the streets homeless, jobless and alienated by YOU!! And when those same addicted soldiers bought drugs on the streets of Charleston (that you dropped off, incidentally), they were arrested, received longer prison sentences than their white counterparts and denied benefits.
White folk, since you made sure you remained in control of the purse string, what about excessive interests on bank loans, auto and mortgages? And as if that wasn’t enough, you introduced predatory lending to enslave Blacks financially. Can you reinvest some of that extorted money back into black neighborhoods? Can you work on fair lending practices for all? And what about black sons, husbands and fathers illegally imprisoned? Can you work on fair sentencing and legal representation and stop remanding Blacks to prison for asinine offenses? Incarceration is another form of slavery. Ya’ darn right whites need to apologize for destroying black families. This whole white superiority thing is propaganda and you know it. You fabricated this whole white dominance and continue to do so to regulate blacks to a position of inferiority. That’s why you continue to hide behind the Confederate flag, sheets, robes and two-piece suits. You don’t want to reveal your true identities because some of you are neighbors. You are in the same social clubs. You even attend black churches.
So, NO!! Apology not accepted until you come up with a comprehensive, compensatory plan to make things RIGHT!!