Roughly 200 people gathered at the University of North Carolina at Asheville recently to discuss the city's commitment to local reparations. It was the first summit of its kind and an important step in Asheville's plan to compensate Black residents for decades of structural racism. As the city ramps up its reparations effort, the state of North Carolina is moving in a reverse direction, with state legislation seeking to limit discussions about racism, especially in government and academia. A new law passed in June forbids any employee of the North Carolina state government – which includes the University of North Carolina system – from discussing racism-related concepts, particularly in hiring practices.
Even as politicians work to reenact Jim Crow-era silences about how white supremacy has shaped America, reparations are on the table as they have never been before. After an upswell of grassroots organizing in 2020, we’re seeing a new level of recognition that descendants of enslaved people, whose labor was stolen, are owed a debt. While that organizing has fueled a collective understanding of the need for repair, progress has been bogged down by the weight of that debt and questions about how such debts can be repaid. These questions have been taken up across the country, from the California Reparations Task Force to the cities of Boston, Evanston, Kansas City, Knoxville and St. Louis, among others.
A Call To White People: Join The ‘Reparations Contingent’ At The Black People’s March On The White House
On Saturday, November 4, 2023 the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will hold its 15th annual Black People’s March on the White House raising the demand, “Drop the Charges Against the Uhuru 3!” The Uhuru Solidarity Movement calls on every white person who believes in reparations and justice for African people to get to Washington DC by bus, plane or car and march in the “Reparations Contingent” at this history-making mobilization! Co-sponsored by the Hands Off Uhuru Fightback Coalition, the March is rapidly gaining momentum with a wide range of forces uniting under the leadership of the emerging anti-colonial free speech movement.
John Kerry, U.S. President Joe Biden's climate envoy, made clear at a congressional hearing Thursday that Washington has no intention of compensating impoverished countries for destruction wrought by the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency despite playing an outsized role in creating it and continuing to accelerate it. During the United Nations COP27 summit held last year in Egypt, delegates agreed to establish a "loss and damage" fund through which rich nations can provide poor ones with financial resources to help cover the escalating costs of extreme weather disasters, which are growing in frequency and intensity due to unmitigated greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.
Here’s a little Fourth of July Critical Race and Labor History for you: On July 2, 1777 , Vermont became the first colony to abolish slavery when it ratified its first constitution and became a sovereign country, a status it maintained until its admittance to the union in 1791 as the 14th state in the United States. However, Harvey Amani Whitfield , author of The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810, writes that slavery in Vermont was gradually phased out over a period of multiple decades. Additionally, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) staff write in “Vermont 1777: Early Steps Against Slavery ” that even though “Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut abolitionists achieved laudable goals, each state created legal strictures making it difficult for ‘free’ blacks to find work, own property or even remain in the state” and that Vermont’s 1777 constitution’s “wording was vague enough to let Vermont’s already-established slavery practices continue.”
The International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled in 1986 that the US government had violated international law in its attacks on Nicaragua and that it owed the Central American nation reparations. June 27, 2023 was the 37th anniversary of this ruling, and Washington still to this day refuses to pay Nicaragua the money that it legally owes it. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the judicial arm of the United Nations. (It is not to be confused with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is independent of the UN. The ICJ was founded in 1945, in order to settle disputes between states; whereas the ICC was only formed in 2002, in order to prosecute individuals.)
The biggest fossil fuel companies in the world owe at least $209 billion in yearly climate reparations to communities that suffered the brunt of the calamities caused by the climate crisis, a new study has concluded. While substantial, the researchers consider theirs to be a conservative cost estimate, as it did not put a price tag on the loss of lives or income, additional wellbeing considerations or extinction of species and other types of biodiversity depletion not reflected in gross domestic product calculations, reported The Guardian. The study said the 21 biggest polluters have collectively caused $5.4 trillion in sea level rise, drought, wildfires, glacial melt and other climate-related disasters.
The debate over America’s symbols and monuments has sharpened with the growing mass movement for racial justice in the past decade. The lionization of slave-owners and genocidaires has been pointed out by many as in contradiction to the ideals of democracy and racial justice so often touted as national core values. In the midst of this debate, the decision by the US Treasury to place Harriet Tubman alongside Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill starting in 2030 has incited controversy. Howard University professor of political science Clarence Lusane joins The Chris Hedges Report to discuss the Harriet Tubman dollar bill, and the stakes of the debate over national symbols in righting the historical wrongs of slavery and white supremacy.
San Francisco, California - These were some of the more than 100 recommendations made by a city-appointed reparations committee tasked with the thorny question of how to atone for centuries of slavery and systemic racism. And the San Francisco Board of Supervisors hearing the report for the first time Tuesday voiced enthusiastic support for the ideas listed, with some saying money should not stop the city from doing the right thing. Several supervisors said they were surprised to hear pushback from politically liberal San Franciscans apparently unaware that the legacy of slavery and racist policies continues to keep Black Americans on the bottom rungs of health, education and economic prosperity, and overrepresented in prisons and homeless populations.
We are still living in the aftermath of 2020’s overlapping crises of racial injustice, our nation’s polycrisis. Between the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic recession, and the public police murder of George Floyd, we saw a harsh truth about the structure of American political economy: White supremacy has shaped our institutions such that their outcome is consistent Black precarity and premature death. This confluence of tragedies brought awareness of the Black American condition to a new generation. It also reinvigorated interest among academics and policymakers to finally do something about the problem of racial disparities (though activists and community organizers largely never lost interest in this).
Louisiana - In a rare victory, Louisiana recently reached a $100 million settlement with the mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc., for contributing to the erosion rapidly devouring the state’s coast. And this is just the beginning. Recently, a federal court ordered a nine-year-old lawsuit to return to state court. The suit was filed against Chevron USA, Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and BP America. Over 40 similar legal challenges may follow against the oil and gas companies that have caused, and are causing, Louisiana’s wetlands to disappear at an alarming rate. These lawsuits could win billions of dollars in damages. The call for accountability against oil and gas companies is critical, but the dominant narrative misses an essential component: There’s no mention of financial reparations for Indigenous and historically Black communities in southern Louisiana who suffer the most loss and damages due to land loss and climate change and who are being actively displaced.
By this measure, only 27% of the world’s population supported the resolution; 73% did not. This is a resounding defeat for US/NATO “soft power.” It can only be explained by global antipathy toward the US/NATO side in this war and sympathy for Russia. Consider that the US has long used bribes and threats to engineer UNGA votes; it controls the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; it imposes illegal unilateral coercive measures (“sanctions”) on a quarter of the world’s population; it is prolific and virtually alone in its constant coups and destabilization campaigns against uncooperative governments around the world. So it is not surprising that the US has mustered as many votes as it has for this and previous Ukraine/Russia resolutions. What is surprising is that it could not get more.
Over 45,000 people from 196 countries, including 120 heads of state, are gathering in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt as the 27th iteration of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP27, began on Sunday, November 6. “We are gathering this year at a time when global climate action is at a watershed moment,” stated Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, as the country took over leadership of the summit from the UK. “Multilateralism is being challenged by geopolitics, spiraling prices, and growing financial crises, while several countries battered by the pandemic have barely recovered, and severe and depleting climate change-induced disasters are becoming more frequent.”
The 1968 Kerner Commission report didn’t just say that US journalists were mistelling the reality of recent civil unrest in Newark and Detroit and elsewhere. They declared that that coverage was only part of a broader media failure to “report adequately on the causes and consequences of civil disorders, and the underlying problems of race relations.” And the report linked that failure to the industry’s abysmal record in seeking out, hiring, training and promoting Black people. For those that remember Kerner, that’s where it seemed to end. But actually, the report didn’t say more Black journalists were the answer. It said that affirmative action was a necessary part of the process of de-centering US reporting’s white male view. It wasn’t just about making newsrooms look different. It was about changing the definition of news as being only, or primarily, about white men, and about doing that for the good of everybody.
Demands for reparations are growing across the Caribbean, following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. The British monarchy have come under heightened demands from several Caribbean countries to undergo the reparatory justice process and issue an apology for their part in the slave trade. It comes after Royal tours of the Caribbean earlier this year led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, followed by Prince Edward and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex were bundled by photo-ops disaster and tone deaf gifts. Niambi Hall-Campbell, Chair of the Bahamas National Reparations Committee, said: “As the role of the monarchy changes, we expect this can be an opportunity to advance discussions of reparations for our region.”