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January 29, 2003

The Cost of Not

Several months ago, I pretty much tossed my interest in American Reparations for several reasons, many of which I may have actually forgotten. What follows is certainly the last thing I wrote. There is nothing bold in the original, I highlight now.

april, 2002

christopher edley jr. says elsewhere and i concur that there should be no such thing as a debtor race and a creditor race, but certainly some transfer of wealth is in order. but the irony is, i think, that in the case of america, blacks are probably not going to do what is necessary for this transfer of funds.

in all the time that has transpired since i last considered this subject, since september 10th [2001] to be precise, it dawns on me that perhaps the time to make the case for economic reparations may have passed. like around 1969. there are several factors which drive this.

#1. a lack of extremist recourse.

#2. a lack of a geopolitical claim.

#3. globalization.

i don't know the details of the plaintiffs or complaint in a recent reparations suit, but i have head that one of the respondants is aetna insurance. i think one of the others was an old boston bank, which reminded me of first boston. but first boston is now credit suisse first boston. many of these old line firms have been and are being merged out of existence. it's going to be difficult to deal with corporate immunities, as enron proves. american and multinational corporations simply cannot be punished other than through shareholder pressures. the irony of this is that puts jesse jackson front and center again, because he, more than any individual or collective in america can get a company's stock to quiver because of racist charges. a friend of mine works in community relations for toyota and she tells me that company is absolutely petrified of jackson.

on the matter of geopolitics, there simply isn't any international support for african american causes. we used to matter to the world, and now we do not. not at all. it is something i haven't considered in all this time, but i don't believe there is any forum anywhere which considers the plight of the american negro. that is because the american negro doesn't exist any longer. there is no negro problem in this world, and even if there were, it pales in significance to the kurdish problem, the hutu problem, the albanian problem, and a dozen others.

i'll be called a bum and worse but the lesson of the holocaust seems to be that nationalism solves nothing. it only gives armies a home. these days i'm rather curious to check out what non-zero sum game theorists had to say about world government and pay close attention, because the way things are turning out, nations seem to be playing an old dysfunctional game and the moral high ground belongs to radical, violent liberation movements. in mind are subhas bose' indian rebel nationalists in concert with gandhi, malcolm x in concert with king, hamas in concert with whomever we eventually recognize as the good negroes of palestine, the 'good' mujahadeen in concert with karzai, etc.. [ok this all sounds grasping and far-fetched beyond utility]. but my point is that a good portion of negoitiating a peace requires a credible threat of war. that's how nations are reformed. african americans are not going to issue a credible threat of war for reparations, and the amount of reparation due from this nation requires that much. i believe olgetree will make the case and prove the theory, but the cost of not repairing is not high enough.

So wither integration? I have a problem, which may be a contradiction fixed in an ocean of theory, with accepting the notion that America is at a positive racial equilibrium. It seems to me that things are out of balance, not progressing and that we are losing the capacity to deal cogently with those two facts. Because of that, time is running out for consideration of solutions, and the current ideas of racial identity will become ossified.

Is it OK for Compton to remain Compton from here on out? Will America declare that nothing that overproduces for black Americans should ever be accepted? Will the talented tenth always falsely represent the entire caste half the time and the criminal hundredth represent us the other half?

Perhaps I am underestimating or undervaluating the benefits of a creative tension. Certainly as a pedagogical device, the trope of black vs white brings us to issues close to the core of American liberty and true freedom itself. This is easy for me to say. I've inherited a world of meaning through my skin and for similar reasons, no property. So I am a writer and heir to intellectual and social struggle, a privilege born in the desire to untangle the riddle of race in our national life. A coon boon.

I don't like being subsumed into the America I see. So I will continue to scratch at this until I find a more satisfactory set of answers.

Posted by mbowen at January 29, 2003 09:40 PM

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