Greens Speak Out in Favor of Reparations for American Slavery.
GREEN PARTY OF THE UNITED
STATES MEDIA RELEASE
Party members come to Washington, D.C. for the August 17 Reparations March.
WASHINGTON, DC -- On the eve of the Millions for Reparations March set for Saturday, August 17 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., candidates and other members of the Green Party of the United States called for a national discussion on reparations for the descendents of American slavery.
"The nation's capital is the right place for the march, and not just because it's the seat of our government," said Donna Warren, Green Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor of California. "Nearly all the construction of older federal buildings, including the White House, was done by slaves."
The Millions for Reparations March will draw Greens from all over the United States.
"Slavery was bad enough," said Joseph Fortunato, New Jersey Green candidate for U.S. Representative, 8th Congressional District. "But the injuries of slavery continued long after 1865, when all of the nation's 4 million blacks were granted freedom. Without property or money and mostly illiterate, African-Americans continued to suffer political suppression, violence (including lynchings), and economic exploitation. In many ways, 'virtual slavery' was perpetuated for almost a century after emancipation."
Greens stress that reparations address both slavery and its aftermath, noting that because of legally sanctioned racist practices and policies, every immigrant group was able to move into the middle class -- except blacks. Even after bondage ended, African-Americans were often unpaid for their work, under the sharecropping system, peonage, and Jim Crow laws.
After the Civil War, initial promises such as the Southern Homestead Act and General William Tecumseh Sherman's Special Field Order #15 were quickly overturned, beginning with President Andrew Johnson's rescission of '40 acres and a mule.' Blacks that gained such compensations in Florida and South Carolina had them taken away. "The demand for reparations is fundamentally a breach-of-contract complaint," added Fortunato.
"Laws and policies enacted by the federal and state governments kept African-Americans living in slums well into the middle and late 20th century, when the U.S. government withheld funds from cities and put massive investments in the suburbs," said Steve Greenfield, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 22nd Congressional District in New York. "Redlining of mortgage loans for American cities began under FDR; this guaranteed the postwar deterioration of U.S. urban neighborhoods."
"The Home Owners Loan Corporation, part of the New Deal and which provided federal guarantees for home mortgages, had a built-in redlining policy," explained Greenfield, who did an independent study on public policies that funded the flight to the suburbs. "Urban black neighborhoods were given 'undesirable' ratings and denied loans, while whites moved into the suburbs and enjoyed home ownership. A reparations suit could be undertaken on this basis alone."
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Until the 1960s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had a 'Negro Loans' policy, under which it rejected black applicants, and until a law suit in 1997, the USDA had a nearly zero rate of granting black farmers loans -- 95% of all farm loans went to white farmers.
Greens acknowledge that there are many legal and logistical hurdles, and the party has made no specific recommendation about the form in which reparations should be paid or how they should be disbursed. "What we need first is a national discussion about national responsibility," said Charles Pillsbury, Green candidate for U.S. Representative in Connecticut's 3rd District .
"Who are the defendants in a reparations case?," asked Rahul Mahajan, Green candidate for governor of Texas. "The U.S. and state governments mandated legal policies of segregation and economic suppression for up to 80 years after emancipation. Private companies and wealthy families made huge amounts of money from slavery and from exploitative, sometimes unpaid, labor after emancipation. In fact, the argument for reparations is strengthened by the fact that post-slavery violations of rights for many people still living allow a court to determine the economic damage fairly accurately."
Opponents of reparations have offered the statute of limitations as an objection, but Greens argue that it's not applicable in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"The statute of limitations itself has limits," noted Dr. Jonathan Farley, Green Party congressional candidate in Tennessee and longtime supporter of reparations. "No former slave, during the first generations after the Civil War, could expect to get a fair hearing, or, usually, a hearing at all, from any court. Since the U.S. didn't enforce basic constitutional rights for black people, it means that application of statutes of limitations must be delayed. The statute of limitations clock only begins ticking when full access to legal remedies is ensured. And anyway, there is no statute of limitations for genocide."
Greens note that reparations lawsuits have been pursued successfully in many cases, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans in camps during World War II. Japanese reparations were legally even more difficult than are African-American reparations, since there was a Supreme Court decision in 1944 declaring the internment of innocent Japanese-American citizens constitutional.
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