March 19, 2008

Reparations



There are a lot of things to worry about, and in the event that Senator Barack Obama is elected President, the issue of reparations could be one of them.

In the many articles that I have read recently, this caught my attention:

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004 Obama opposed reparations for slavery. After his election, Obama subtly changed his view, stating he was against "just signing over checks to African-Americans," leaving open the possibility of other forms of reparations would be acceptable to him (Chicago Tribune 11/14/2004).

After reading that, the following became pretty interesting, too. It is a resolution passed at his church's Annual Meeting in June, 2001.

RESOLUTION REGARDING REPARATIONS FOR SLAVERY

Submitted by TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST and UNIVERSITY CHURCH

THEOLOGICAL RATIONALE:

The Lord said to Moses: If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord... about something...stolen...or he commits any such sin that people may do - when he thus sins, and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner... Leviticus 6:1-5 (NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to...preach good news to the poor...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God...and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them...a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. ...They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ancient cities that have been devastated for generations. Isaiah 61:1-4 (NIV)

"Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter...he has gone to be at the house of a 'sinner'. But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus said to him "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:5-9 (NIV)

The Law, the voice of the Old Testament Prophets as well as teaching of Jesus in the New Testament speak often, both emphatically and parabolically about repentance, restitution, restoration, and reconciliation. It is clear from the Law, as noted in Leviticus 6:4 that when something is stolen, obtained by deceit or through intentional or unintentional misdeeds, restitution plus "interest" must be made - in order to restore the wholeness of the community. Wholeness of the community and a communal life that honors and glorifies God was a central theme in the laws passed down by Moses. Repentance, Restitution, Restoration and Reconciliation are Required.

The prophets likewise quite eloquently urged and pleaded for God's people to reconcile with God - through a return to a focus on what God requires and a plea for God's people to heal the spirit of the oppressed, and to do what is necessary to proclaim the day of the" Lord's favor." As noted in Isaiah 61 (repeated again in Luke 4:18 as Jesus stated earthly mission and ministry focus), Isaiah known by some scholars as the greatest old testament prophet, summarizes God's request for God's people, by calling for the rebuilding of (and advocacy for), a united and healed community that glorifies God, honors who God is and calls us to be. Isaiah describes this community as one wherein the ancient ruins both figuratively and literally are restored, and a place where prior devastation is reversed, and despair is replaced by praise. Repentance, Restitution, Restoration and Reconciliation are Required.

Likewise, Luke the physician, and disciple of Jesus uses the story of Zacchaeus, a man of Jewish heritage (a person by profession, denoted as a "sinner" because of his oppression of and theft from the poor), to demonstrate how Zacchaeus' exposure to Jesus, produced, an act of repentance and his "repayment" four fold to those he stole from. Luke used this account of an acknowledged sinner's encounter with Jesus, to demonstrate that God is glorified and salvation accomplished throughrepentance, restitution, restoration, and reconciliation.

And so it is with the issue of Reparations for African Americans. Christians, especially those of us in the family of the United Church of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ must be cognizant of the foundations set before us in the Old Testament Law, acknowledge that the voice of the prophets still speak to us today, and hold tight to the teaching of Christ. In summary we are called to embrace repentance, restitution, restoration and reconciliation.

There can be no dispute that Africans were forcefully and through deceit, stolen from Africa, oppressed, abused physically, emotionally and psychologically, and forced to work without pay - the highest and most inhumane form of theft. The law as well as New Testament says if something has been stolen - repayment four fold is required, i.e., reparations.

There can be no doubt that one of the aftermaths of this horrible tragedy and smear on American history and greatness, is racism both institutional and personal, along with its pervasive counter part white supremacy, which has produced a deep malaise of the human spirit in a whole race of people. There can be no dispute that community is broken - remaining unreconciled, and in need of restoration. There has yet to be an official apology (repentance) for this great suffering and tragedy. This great suffering as aptly noted and described by Non-governmental Organizations and African Nations meeting as a part of the African Regional Preparatory Conference for the UN World Conference Against Racism, in January 2001 has resulted in, substantial and lasting economic, political and cultural damage caused to the descendants of the victims, the perpetuation of the prejudice against Africans on the continent of people of the African descent in the Diaspora, including and specifically the United States of America.We need advocacy, as called for by the prophet Isaiah, by a people of God for a new community.

Both reparations and advocacy for a new community will demonstrate as it did for Zacchaeus - that salvation has truly come. We need repentance, restitution, restoration and reconciliation.
The following resolution on Reparations for African Americans, supported by this theological rationale and others, will assist themembers of the Illinois Conference United Church of Christ to indeed embrace repentance, restitution, restoration and reconciliation as called for in the Law, by the prophets and as demonstrated in the teaching of Jesus.

BACKGROUND:

Members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ began conversations on the issue of reparations for slavery following the Disciples Justice Action Network-sponsored Justice Jubilee 2000 gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma in September 2000. It was noted that awareness and discussion of this issue occurs almost exclusively among African American clergy and those churches they serve, but is also a justice issue long overdue for the serious attention of Christian citizens motivated by faith and tradition. Members of two Illinois Conference congregations - Trinity UCC, Chicago and University Church, Chicago - have held church school classes and study groups on reparations.

SUMMARY:

This resolution calls upon the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, its Associations, its local churches, and other related agencies, to be educated about the historical evils of the slave trade and its legacy which is a pernicious and self perpetuating distrust and fear that continues to feed the sin of racism and its fruits of inequality and injustice. It further calls upon the Conference to take actions in support of reparations.

TEXT OF RESOLUTION:

WHEREAS: The institution of Slavery is internationally recognized as crime for which there is no statute of limitations, AND

WHEREAS: Uncompensated labor was demanded from enslaved Africans and their descendants for more than two centuries on U.S. soil; AND

WHEREAS: The principle that reparations is the appropriate remedy whenever government unjustly abrogates the rights of a domestic group or foreign people whose rights such government is obligated to protect or uphold has been internationally recognized including, but not limited to:

- German reparations to the State of Israel for the Holocaust

-United States reparations to Japanese Americans for illegal internment

-Reparations by the United Kingdom to the Maori people of New Zealand, AND

WHEREAS: This violation of human rights of Africans led a long legacy of subordination, segregation, and discrimination against descendants of slaves, AND

WHEREAS: In January 2000 a bill was presented in the U. S. House of Representatives: THE COMMISSION TO STUDY REPARATIONS PROPOSAL FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS' ACT (H.R. 40) by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), "To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and in 13 American colonies between 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of those forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies and other purposes" AND

WHEREAS: In the century and a half since the abolition of slavery the United States government has never acknowledged or taken responsibility for its role in the enslavement of Africans and the promotion of White Supremacy, AND

WHEREAS: The experience and legacy of enslavement, segregation and discrimination continues to limit the life chances and opportunities of African Americans, AND

WHEREAS: Christians must not only continue to call for the release of the captives (Leviticus 25:52) but also to proclaim liberty, bring good tidings to the afflicted, and build up the ancient ruins, (Isaiah 61) AND

WHEREAS: General Synod of the United Church of Christ has voted ten resolutions, statements, and pronouncements on racism since 1963; AND

WHEREAS: the Chicago Metropolitan Association at its Spring Annual Meeting held May 5, 2001 adopted a Resolution supporting Reparations For Slavery.

THEREFORE: be it resolved that the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ meeting June 6, 7 and 8, 2002, go on record supporting Reparations for Slavery and a process of study for; AND

THEREFORE: be it further resolved, that this resolution be communicated to the Associations, Congregations, and related agencies of the Illinois Conference for study and reflection and that the Illinois Conference; AND

THEREFORE: be it further resolved, that the Illinois Conference instruct its staff to communicate our support to Representative John Conyers for House resolution 40 which he presented to the U.S. House of Representatives; AND

THEREFORE: be it further resolved, that the Conference Minister write letters to all Illinois Members of the US House of Representatives asking them to sign on as co-sponsors of the resolution; AND

THEREFORE: be it further resolved, that the Illinois Conference UCC explore what actions it might take to seek forgiveness for its participation in the benefits of slavery and explore creating models of Reparations that might be adapted by other ecclesiastical and governmental bodies; AND

THEREFORE: be it further resolved, that this Resolution be enabled by the appointment of a Reparations Task Force, that includes members of the sponsoring congregations (Trinity UCC and University Church) and that the Task Force be instructed to engage associations, congregations and related agencies of the Conference in study and action; AND

THEREFORE: be it finally resolved, that funds for these efforts come from the Conference Justice and Peace Funds.

Presented to Annual Meeting June 2001

Amended and passed at Annual Meeting June 2001

Interesting, indeed.

I wonder if this is something that Senator Obama was not aware of, either. It hardly inspires confidence in me to trust someone running for the highest office in the country, knowing that he is, and has been a part of a church, and congregation, with this misguided way of thinking.

I think it would only cause one to wonder if he would be for all the people, or only a select group of people.



6 comments:

The Hermit said...

Well, gosh. I figure when you calculate every kind of tax I pay, I pay about 44% of my gross income to some government agency. But I would gladly pay another two or three percent to compensate the poor black people who had ancestors who were the victims of slavery, yes, indeed. Makes perfect sense to me..........

Jan said...

Hermit..you don't really think you'd get off that easy, do you?

When he says that he would leave it open to other forms of reparation, that could mean a lot more than what you mentioned. How about a division of property? Or think about what happened to South Africa.

Heaven forbid.

GUYK said...

Hell, just divide all the wealth up equally and lets start all over..I figure that within 10 years it would be just like it is now with those who are willing to work hard and sacrifice having most of it and those who ain't willing to do a damn thing on the bottom and the rest of us somewhere in between..

Yehudi01 said...

I just don't know what to say after reading that, Jan. I had family that died in HaShoah, but Germany isn't sending me a check. The survivors...the ones who were there-they deserve reparations, but not great-grandkids. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

Jan said...

guyk..I think it is a little more complicated than that.

No matter what some people get, they still want what rightfully belongs to someone else.

Jan said...

Yehudi..it is totally mind-boggling to think that there are those who think that they are owed something, just because they are descended from certain people.

My family didn't own slaves, and besides that, the generations of descendants of those who didn't own slaves, have never owned slaves, either...so what do I, or any of my past or present relatives really owe them? Nada. Zilch. Zero. Period.