Some words about “healing”

Published online 20 June 2015.

A Facebook friend of mine says:

“Healing” is getting thrown around a lot, as per usual. Here’s the thing: if it’s meant to be taken literally, then we need to properly diagnose and cure the disease of racism. Then we’ll be healed. If it’s meant to be taken as a bland bullshit term that means, “Please don’t riot or in any way force us to actually diagnose and institute a plan of treatment,” as it usually is when coming out of the mouths of elites, well, yeah: that’s bullshit. You don’t tell a patient with a broken leg to just shut the fuck up and not cause any problems.

So, okay, curing the disease of racism.  What would be effective?  To quote from an earlier diary of mine:

So what white America told black America was: “Two hundred fifty years of slavery, ninety years of Jim Crow, maybe a few civil rights acts in the Sixties, and you’re on your own! Enjoy discrimination and predatory policing!” I’m sure it was applied with the same banal foolishness with which white America applies corporal punishment to its children.Does this sound like a fair deal to you?  And everyone’s worried about a few broken windows?

That’s what racism has been so far.  Just to be clear — I am talking about economic racism, of the brutal, generation-after-generation kind, and not just using the “N” word or saying bad things about Obama or whatev.  And as I suggested in that diary:

Back in June of last year we read a call for reparations from Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Let’s be clear about what this is about: it’s a call for reparation payments, to be issued to African-Americans, as restitution for slavery, Jim Crow, and institutional racism continued to the present day.

What would reparations mean?  (Feel free to look at that diary at any point here.)  Reparations would be a collective apology using the only currency America has really understood since its inception: money.  Reparations would give the victims of present-day racism the money to hire good lawyers to go after the racists.  And since it’s hard to talk about racism, reparations serve as a fine initial alternative to talking.

Oh and it’s not as if the theft of African-American legacy through the centuries counts as just a little bit of money.  Joe Feagin’s conclusion:

Without signicant reparations for African Americans, the deepest racial divide in the United States will never be eliminated.


So OK here’s how Feagin breaks it down.  Slavery:

 Historical economist James Marketti estimates the
dollar value of the labor taken from enslaved African Americans from
1790 to 1860 to be, depending on the historical assumptions, from $7 billion
to as much as $40 billion.


Marketti suggests that, if that stolen income is multiplied by taking into account lost interest from then to the present, the current (1983) economic loss (income diverted) for black Americans ranges from $2.1 to $4.7 trillion.

The point is that we’re not talking peanuts here.  You can read the rest.  The point is that not only is economic racism going on right now as we converse on, but that legacy matters, because events of centuries ago play no small part in determining who’s got money now and who doesn’t.

So the difference between poor people and rich people in America is that rich people can fight for what they want with lawyers, and with the politicians they bought.  It’s called “#BlackLivesMatter” because a movement must do what money cannot.  In the end it’s about this: do you want to see “healing,” or do you want something effective done?


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