What Happened To 40 Acres?

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Harlem Report

What happened to 40 acres and a mule? How do Harlem residents feel about the issue of Reparations for Slavery, an issue that many activist insist has yet to be mentioned by any of the Presidential candidates in the campaign?

While others were celebrating Fourth of July, Harlem residents addressed these questions as they went about their business.

Israel Yahewah contends the government does not have enough money or resources to pay for the pain and suffering caused to both Native Americans and African Americans. "By the time they finish paying the Native American Indians for their genocide, then get to us, they would have nothing left," he says.

Moreover, Yahewah says no American politician has the moral bearing that would let him or her seriously address the issue of Reparations since they would have to address the issue of historical guilt.

Echoing Yahewah’s position, Janice Cooper recalled the national reaction a few years ago when there was an attempt to have an honest dialogue on race. "When Bill Clinton apologized for slavery people got mad at him,” she says. On the other hand, Copper believes the forms of Reparation should be treated broadly. “Reparations should not just come in the form of money," she says. "When you talk of Reparations you have to be careful and not just give it to crack heads who will use the money to buy crack; the money should be used instead to build better schools in our neighborhoods."

Maria Martinez concurs with Cooper’s view. "Many Black people cannot afford college so Reparations should definitely come in the form of education," Martinez says. "I don't know if anyone can compensate us for 400 plus years of oppression but if we are the so- called minorities then we should not be overlooked, because we are growing in number."

Indeed, Saa Neter, picks up on Martinez’s view and emphatically states that Reparations can never be quantified and is in fact insulting. No amount of money can ever make up for the bloodshed of slavery, the genocide of the Middle Passage, and horrific tortures on Plantations, such as when Black women would have their babies being ripped out of their wombs.

“How can the white man apologize by handing me a piece of paper saying he is sorry? If our great for founders Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner knew all we want is dead presidents they would turn over in their graves,” Saa Neter declares. "I believe the Reparations should be in the form of eye for an eye tooth for a tooth."

Malik, who did not want his last name used, says that as Slavery becomes a distant memory to the younger generation, he wonders whether they will even appreciate the pain and suffering the ancestors endured and the significance of  Reparations.

"We are still enslaved ourselves psychologically and for the young people it would just be like free money to them to spend on stupid things," he says.


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