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THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND REPARATIONS

Dr. Conrad Worrill, Chicago Crusader

During this Presidential election cycle the issue of reparations for African people in America should be raised just like all the other interest groups raise their issues and demand a response from the candidates. The backdrop to this idea is centered around the period of 1997.

In 1997, the question was raised as to why the President of the United States, William Clinton, decided to speak on the issue of race relations in America at the University of California at San Diego. President Clinton also announced the appointment of a special panel to examine race relations in America that was to be headed up by noted historian Dr. John Hope Franklin. Further, Clinton announced he would also have a series of town hall meetings throughout the country to address this issue.

In this same connection, President Clinton responded to proposed legislation “introduced by a dozen white members of Congress who argued that a formal statement of regret (national apology to African Americans whose ancestors were sold into slavery) would help bind the wounds that still sting 134 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in the Confederate South.”

Clinton was quoted as saying on CNN’s Late Edition that “An apology under the right circumstances, those things can be quite important.” Continuing, he said, “Surely every American knows that slavery was wrong, and that we paid a terrible price for it and that we had to keep repairing that… And just to say that it’s wrong and that we’re sorry about it is not a bad thing. That doesn’t weaken us.”

During this period in 1997, I made the point that the African community in America should be clear on the eighty-year tradition of African leadership in this country seeking relief for our grievances through international bodies. This tradition has been carried out by the petitions to the United Nations by the New African Independence Movement, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, the work at the United Nations of the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities and the NBUF genocide petition/declarations of 157,000 signatures that were filed on May 20, 1997.

It was my observation during this period that the international work of these Black Liberation Movement organizations placed tremendous pressure on the United States Government to respond to the various petitions of these groups without identifying them. Through the procedures of the United Nations these official complaints are forwarded to the State Department. That means the Government is fully informed as to the complaint against them by these non-governmental organizations and the nature of the complaint. In fact, through this process nations throughout the world become informed of these complaints.

Other factors that caused the United States Government to respond to the condition of African people in this country in 1997, as a result of international pressure, can be cited by three additional examples.

In response to these complaints and petitions, Mr. Maurice Gle’le’-Ahanhanzo, U. N. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forums of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, conducted an official mission to the United States on October 9-12, 1994 “to meet with representatives of the U.S. government and individuals in the political, economic and social fields who were in a position to provide him with information relating to various aspects of his mandate.”

Mr. Gle’le’-Ahanhanzo (who was from Benin in Africa) reportedly stated his belief that “racism and racial discrimination persist in American society, even if not as a result of a deliberate policy on the part of the United States Government.”

Also, he found that “sociological inertia, structural obstacles and individual resistance hindering the emergence of an integrated society based on the equal dignity of the members of the American nation and willing to accept ethnic and cultural pluralism. Vested interests, competing influences and the power struggle between the various political and social components of American society also provide opportunities for residual racism and racial discrimination to linger on.”

This report was read widely throughout the world by government leaders, scholars and activists. The U.S. Government criticized the report.

On March 4, 1997 Ren Yanshi of China wrote a stinging critique of the United States human rights record. Mr. Yanshi said, “The United States State Department released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for1996 on January 30, 1997, once again distorting and attacking at length the state of human rights in China and more than 190 other countries and regions.”

Mr. Yanshi revealed, “The U.S. Government, posing as the human rights judge of the world, turned a blind eye yet again to the serious human rights problems in its own country and did not utter a single word about them in the report. In fact it is the United States itself, the self-declared human rights authority that has a very poor human rights record in the world today.”

The third additional and final example of international pressure placed on the United States concerning the condition of Black people was the October 16, 1995, Million Man March, led by Minister Louis Farrakhan. The impact of this event around the world was witnessed by the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March that was held on October 10, 2015, where, once again, more than a million people responded to Minister Farrakhan’s call under the theme “Justice or Else.”

During this Presidential election cycle, now more than 100 years of international organizing by the Black Liberation Movement in the United States, should demand that all Presidential candidates address the question of the African Holocaust/Maafa that caused the continuing genocide against African people worldwide. We should demand that the issue of Reparations for African people be a central point of discussion for all Presidential candidates and that negotiations for this long-standing issue begin.

Reparations for the repair of the damages inflicted on African people as a result of our enslavement in the western hemisphere should be the key issue we fight for during this Presidential election cycle.

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