By Barney Blakeney
I’ve got a lot of respect for Fred Lincoln, president of the Wando-Huger Community Development Corporation. The retired Mount Pleasant fireman was one of the main guys who pulled the troops together to fight the SPA Wando port expansion back in the ‘90s. Since that encounter I’ve learned a little about the man. I like what I’ve learned. Lincoln’s a strong intelligent Black man who takes to heart James Brown’s admonition “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; Open up the door, I’ll get it myself”.
So when Lincoln asked to write about his opinions on reparations from the United States to Black America, I agreed. It’s not something I would usually do, but Lincoln’s a smart guy. I figured I could count on him to come with some sensible stuff. People ask me to write stuff all the time. I don’t mind when whatever it is they bring provides some benefit to my people – that’s what this is all about – benefits to my people. I’m in a privileged position. I try not to abuse it. And I don’t allow others to abuse it! But I know what Lincoln does. I thought I’d accommodate him.
Lincoln wanted to talk about reparations to Black America. I’m only now, as I write this piece, understanding where he’s coming from. Like a lot of folks, reparations is a subject I’ve thought about, but not a whole lot. In fact, I’m really quite undecided about reparations to Black folks. I mean, how do you compensate millions of people for the input their ancestors provided in the building of one of the most powerful and prosperous nations on the planet? Kick in those millions of present day people and their ancestors continue to be dehumanized and disenfranchised participants in all that power and prosperity and the subject of reparations is most complicated.
I met with Lincoln last week to discuss his views, and in preparation to write the column, I’m learning that the discussion of reparations again is resurfacing as presidential candidates develop political platforms. I haven’t paid much attention to the candidates who singularly seem to be popping up each week. The political landscape is confusing enough without the cacophony of political rhetoric being espoused by people whom I’m sure have their own agendas – undoubtedly agendas that have little to do with my well-being. Just cause you Black don’t make you Black like me!
According to some of the stuff I’ve recently seen about the reparations discussion, the subject is viewed much as a political football with some candidates figuring they can use it to score votes in the Black community. In a March 3 opinion piece Detroit, Mich. Journalist Bankole Thompson intimated as much. He reminded us that former Rep. John Conyers in 1989 introduced a reparations bill that got stuck in legislative mire.
“Let’s be honest, Thompson wrote. “Democrats have not made any tangible move to bring reparations to the fore of mainstream consciousness … But appearing to patronize blacks by speaking about such an important issue without directly taking a position on it and laying out in concrete terms what compensation should look like is another form of bait-and-switch politics.
“Also, the fact that the reparation conversation is coming at the 400th anniversary of when the first black slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619 is an indication that the attention it is getting is more about symbolism and less about substance. Democrats want to be viewed as deeply concerned about the scourge of slavery on humanity and on our national consciousness. No one should be fooled by this latest attempt to emotionally whip blacks into a state of frenzy, instead of well thought out policies that would specifically address the legacy of slavery that still lingers in black cities around the nation.”
I think Lincoln is on the same page. Blacks need reparations now more than ever, he said. The simplistic idea of giving every Black person some amount of cash is insulting and pointless, he said. While I could use the cash, I agree. Bestowing money without power is pointless. Lincoln thinks some immaterial assets would be more beneficial.
He made me laugh when he said the majority of blonde-haired women in Charleston today are Black women. The mentality of portraying some other identity has been woven into Black people’s psychology, Lincoln said. I took more seriously his perspective on the public policies of affirmative action being passed off as reparations to Black people. Both are examples of the psychological damage imposed upon Black people who have been dehumanized by a 400-year-old system that has ingrained in them self-hate.
Lincoln said reparations to Blacks must include sociological and psychological empowerment. “Give some Black men $10 million and the first thing they’ll do is find a white woman to give it to,” Lincoln said. “There are Black girls in North Charleston saying they want to have babies by Hispanic men because Hispanics make ‘pretty’ babies. We’re suffering from PTSS – post traumatic slave syndrome” he said.
The greatest asset reparations can provide to Blacks would be self-esteem, Lincoln said. That discussion needs to begin in Black communities. “It may be difficult, but we have to fight for it. I hope we start that conversation,” Lincoln said.