WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (R), is flanked by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) while speaking to the media about President Trump's Proposed FY 2018 budget, on Capitol Hill on May 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE — Nolan Finley of The Detroit News wrote on December 29, 2018 that “the new face of anti-Semitism in America is increasingly black, liberal and famous.” Nolan singled out LeBron James and chastised him for reciting lyrics to a song by rapper 21 Savage: “We been getting that Jewish money, everything is Kosher.”

What Nolan missed in rushing to judgment about the nuanced lyric, is the oft-omitted exclusion of the opinions of African Americans, specifically African American Descendants of Slaves (AADOS), from the larger American narrative of the selective amnesia when it comes to upward mobility in racist America. Nolan claims that the lyrics are a repetition of an ancient charge against Jews “that they control the world’s money supply.” Lebron James, and 21 Savage stress, including many prominent African Americans who rose to defend them in public that it is not, and that 21 Savage and Lebron merely attempted to paint the picture of obvious Jewish group advancement in America vis-à-vis the exclusion of African Americans in the United States from accessing the same opportunities that Jews are able to access as a result of their race. Key is the issue of reparations for AADOS.

More specifically, what continues to shock most Black people in America is the continual insistence of American politicians and leaders to unswervingly support reparations for Jews, and to also continue to support aide to the Jewish nation of Israel, while avoiding the same theory that African Americans also deserve reparations in like manner as Jews have been granted reparations.

For instance, when Kamala Harris, a Democratic candidate for 2020, was asked about her support for Israel, she emphasized that “We can both support Israel and our country.” This answer came on the backside of House Democratic leaders—Nansi Pelosi and Chuck Schumer—who officially condemned the first black Muslim woman ever elected to the Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar, for rebuking large donors and AIPAC, which is driving pro-Israel policies in the House. On February 11, the House Democratic leadership issued a joint statement condemning Omar for what they called her “use of anti-Semitic tropes,” adding that her “prejudicial accusations about Israel’s defenders” were “deeply offensive.” They then demanded: “We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”

“Omar issued a statement thereafter, in which she “unequivocally apologized” for unintentionally invoking “anti-Semitic tropes,” but made crystal clear that “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics” – whether it be AIPAC, as well as the NRA or the fossil fuel industry – was one she would continue to aggressively address and combat.” (The Intercept).

Juxtapose the actions of the Democratic leadership with their actions against GOP Congressman, Steve King, who has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for sixteen years, yet Democrats – who controlled the House for four of those years and now control it again – never formally rebuked or condemned him until last month (they did so at the same time that Republicans removed him from his Committee assignments due to a long history of white supremacist remarks).

It is in the face of this hypocrisy in the racist culture and politics of the United States government that the import and nuance of 21 Savage’s lyrics can be scrutinized. It is true that African Americans have agonized just as much—if not significantly more under slavery and Jim Crow—as Jews have suffered during the Holocaust. Meanwhile, what is apparent in American politics and culture is simply that Jews are upheld in one esteem in America and African Americans are suppressed in a totally different caste. There’s one set of rules for Jews (and anti-Semitism) in America and there’s another irrelevant, non-existent set of rules for African Americans (and anti-Blackness) in America.

Let’s reconsider once again Kamala Harris answer to the Israeli lobby in America (AIPAC): “We can both support Israel and our country.”

Weeks ago, when Kamala Harris was asked about Reparations for African American Descendants of Slaves (AADOS), she emphatically dismissed the need for the nation to make amends for past human trafficking of Africans to the Americas as slaves, and she refused to admit that the nation needed to atone for the gross human rights abuses of Africans that ensued all over America’s plantations as a result of Chattel Slavery. Kamala emphatically supplied “I’m not gonna sit here and say I’m gonna do something that’s only gonna benefit Black people.”

Kamala Harris herself has claimed that she has descended from African slaves in Jamaica, although Kamala’s mother is fully Indian, and her father boasts broadly about his Irish ancestry. Kamala herself was raised as a Hindu outside the United States.

The next face of anti-Blackness that continues to baffle most supporters of the Democratic Party is Bernie Sanders: A Jewish man who admits a political identity of democratic socialism. When Sanders too was questioned on the Reparations issue for AADOS, he missed an important moment. He also refused to endorse the need for the nation to pay reparations to African Americans in the same way and manner that the Nazis have paid, and continue to pay reparations to descendants of Jews from Germany, and to the nation of Israel.

When Jews, like Bernie Sanders, who openly endorse reparations for their white ethnicity, refuse reparations to Black ethnicities like AADOS, it begs numerous questions about white identity politics in general. More troubling it begs questions about the honesty and true character of the Jewish reparations project if it cannot be squared with the need for the United States—whose primary wealth was based on the enslavement of Africans—to similarly embark on a project to atone for their past atrocities against humanity. If the Nazis can do it, why can’t the Federal Government of the United States of America?

It is perhaps on the back of this troubling contradiction within the Jewish communities of the Democratic Party that calls to boycott the Israeli influence in America (Israel is a self-proclaimed Jewish nation built out of Nazi reparations for Jews), which owns a heavy pervasive lobby in the United States (AIPAC), have to be considered. Not only is Israel committing crimes against Palestinians in the same nation, Israel is also committing human rights abuses against African communities in Israel. It seems none of this matters to the United States government which continues to tout allegiance to Israel and similarly expects all of its citizens and politicians to do so in order to avoid rebuke, or more perniciously, in order to avoid being labeled as anti-Semitic.

Why is reparation for Jews more important than reparations for AADOS, so much so that reparations to Israel cannot even be questioned in the United States? Is it perhaps because Jews are in themselves whites or Caucasians? It is perhaps because as a result of this Jewish whiteness, a Black ethnicity’s equal humanity cannot be granted in the same way and manner that the humanity of Jews have been so granted in the broadest sense of reparations?

If Kamala Harris can say that “We can both support Israel and our country,” why can’t she also admit that we can both support Reparations for AADOS and also support our country? The reason Kamala must support Israel and motivate her supporters to do likewise, is the same reason she does not support reparations for African American Descendants of Slaves. And the simple reason is that Jewish matters in the United States matter, while issues of African American concern do not matter.

If fact, Jews have always thought about upward mobility in American sociodemographic politics, of civil rights, and particularly of the reparations question in zero-sum terms. If AADOS must receive reparations, it limits the amount of reparations that Jews and the Jewish nation of Israel can get from the government of the United States.

For instance in Hollywood, Nancy MacLean details that a budding neoconservative Jewish American ethnic group, during the civil rights movement, started framing the issue of integration in America in zero-sum terms: more African American representation meant less Jewish American representation. Along with higher education recruitment and academe, the good jobs in the film industry into which African Americans sought entry were occupations in which Jewish Americans had long enjoyed a strong presence. As African Americans and their federal allies’ calls for proportional representation in employment gained steam, Jewish Americans essentially refused to integrate those institutions or sectors in which Jews were over-represented.

What Nancy MacLeans writes about in that period of dramatic flux in race relations shows that Jewish Americans, once they had made significant gains into segregated American institutions, rather consciously began to cleave increasingly towards their racial allegiances (white) and became equally receptive to racial resentments that were being propounded in incipient neoconservative discourses of the day against African Americans. The same is true now when questions are raised about the reparations issue for AADOS. The same is true when the wide socioeconomic gap between Jewish Americans and African Americans is questioned even in lyric by 21 Savage. The new face of anti-Blackness in the latter half of the twentieth century and in the twenty-first century is undeniably as Jewish as it has been white.

12 COMMENTS

    • So this is what I have gleaned from the article: Sanders, “Unlike any other 2020 candidate,… went on to offer his support for specific legislation, which would address racial disparities: the Clyburn/Booker 10/20/30 aimed at attacking persistent poverty. ”

      In sociology-speak, “racial disparity” is another term for racial “inequality.” Inequality in the US has by and large been defined as a kind of racial disparity. There is problem in definition there, but that is besides the point. Sociologist love to define Inequality in racial terms (using race as some fixed or variable independent variable). But that is another matter.

      Sanders seems rather to want to tackle “poverty,” (at the end of that sentence quoted), in the sense that he thinks that poverty is the central issue with reparations. I argue it is not. Yes, many AADOS are poor as a result of US current and past racial history. But there’s poverty in Japan, and certainly there’s poverty among some of the descendants of the infamous Japanese interment camps of the US. There’re also poor Jews. Poverty never stopped Jews or the Japanese from obtaining Reparations. Another way to put this is that tackling poverty is not the same as paying reparations.

      Reparations is not a racial matter: It is the process for addressing gross institutional human abuses against whole groups of people if indeed the assumption is that we are all human beings. Plenty of which US violence hardly any group of people can attest to than the AADOS. In that sense reparations is a moral issue and one that demands that the payers join the act of respecting those harmed in the process while offering substantive resources to appease the Gods (whoever they may be). I am yet to see Sanders, or any Democrat, even Obama agree to the theory that AADOS deserve the same kind of Reparative Justice, or treatment, that Jewish Americans and Japanese Americans have received. Perhaps after that we can speak of the class-argument for eradicating poverty/Inequality.

      What is troubling also is that Ms. Gray, the author, seems to also think that the question of reparations is vague. I wonder how that is.

    • Well there has been a fair amount of debate about the topic. The reason she is saying it is vague is because it is. Sander’s was responding to an interviewer who defined reparations as paying of funds. However, I suspect if he was faced with a more articulate interviewer the response would be different. The View – I believe – was the source interview, no? Not known for their rigorous journalism.

      Here, though, I have a interjection with a historian hat on: No Jews ever received reparations from Nazis.

      Bare with me for a moment. It’s true. West Germany paid reparations to the United States & Government of Israel. East Germany paid reparations to the Soviet Union.

      Which government would the United States pay reparations to? I have a few ideas…perhaps you have some?

      But, we shouldn’t pretend the Nazis paid directly to Jewish families. That just didn’t happen.

    • In other words, why can’t Sanders just say simply that: “I support reparations for African Americans?”

      I feel that Sanders is being asked if “Black Lives Matter.” But he keeps repeating that “All Lives Matter.” Which is fine, and true, but he is dodging the point.

    • You are not wrong Billy, although I have my views. But suffice it to say that the issue is not who or how to pay reparations. Every act of the payment of reparations has been unique. The issue is about whether African Americans deserve to be treated in like manner as Jews have been given Reparative Justice.

      Now whether Jews received it directly from Nazi Germany or benefited from landing in Palestine, or became an integral part of US white ethnicity is another matter. I grant you that. What I contend is that questions about how and who cloud the very essence of answering the question that AADOS are human in the same way that Jews are, and so deserve Reparative Justice as well for the crimes committed against their humanity.

  1. Billy Noseworthy. Point of information. Bernie does not support reparations to AADOS and it’s disingenuous for anyone to suggest that saying investing in minority communities using his non-specific 10/20/30 Clyburn’s formula is reparation for AADOS. That no reparations, it is tickle down or rising tide lifts all boat ideology.
    Secondly, i don’t know if you are deliberately misinforming people, but the US has paid reparations to Jews and she is still paying. Read the JUST act below and be informed
    https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/447

  2. For me there are logistical reasons why reparations in the form of a check is problematic. But i think free healthcare and free higher education for those who want it wld go a long way in addressing the economic inequality disproportionately suffered by African Americans

  3. Namer, I see your position more clearly now.

    If you recall my answer to the general question the last time we discussed this was “yes, of course.” The more complicated answer is “and I think those programs had clear weaknesses voiced by community advocates – and that AADOS deserve to have better reparations programs than those administered in the past.”

    Although, having assumed that position I am so used to being asked “how”? That I am more inclined to argue a combination of the two models TN Coates presents is best.

    If we stick to legal terms, the United States federal government has never (nor will it ever likely) pay funds to surviving families of the Shoah for crimes the US government supported or committed in the 1930s. Land in Palestine was an anti Semitic second solution from England before the final one was proposed from Germany. Naturally, the majority of American Jews did not and do not support sending arms to Israel to repress Palestinians as reparations for the Shoah. Evangelicals love the idea, because, well let’s be real: they are anti Semitic. Right wing figures in the Jewish community have always allied with Anti Semites- op cit the Meskem Haavara. So let’s not assume supporting AIPACs positions and giving reparations to Survivors of the Shoah are the same, because they aren’t. Additionally, there are absolutely Jewish families for whom poverty was a barrier in receiving reparations. Numerous. In fact this resukted in Goldmann’s platfor being criticized as a form of essentially “trickle down economics,” which served families with access and not those without. Of course, black Jewish folks are black, white Jewish folks are white, brown Jewish folks are brown, so we should never dispute that white Jews benefited from America ingrained white supremacy. But we should also not argue that all Jewish folks benefited from white supremacy.

    Regardless, actual repetitions to members of the Jewish community have been mostly funds and assets, to white Jewish folks now living in the UK, US, and Israel. The United States government has only attempted to “support” funds and materials transferred from governments in Europe to families in the United States, including under two lawsuits against European Railroad companies. It’s not the most useful model; but it does provide the argument that the broadly genocidal nature of crimes committed when African descended Peoples were enslaved in the Americas can be accounted for, specific crimes can be highlighted and private companies that benefited can be included, as well as federal governments.

    The Japanese American case is useful because it sets as a precedent that the American government itself can be held accountable.

    I’m personally interested in seeing reparations paid out to AADOS whether they reside in the US and elsewhere, as you know Namer, which is why I’m here to discuss. It was a platforof the Quakers at a point, so why cant it be a platform of a government?

    That said, when Inouye and Goldmann were each advocating their individual cases, they won by having a reparations platform.

    Since I’m interested in seeing this actually happen, that’s why I’m curious about hearing your thoughts about what it needs to include for AADOS. There are numerous organizations that support the concept; but to get a settlement for crimes against humanity is not a comfortable topic to discuss, and my sense is that the question of “how” can only stall the conversation if there isn’t a response.

    If someone asked me the question I would say: funds for crimes against humanity, compensation for lost property/damaged property during reconstruction, overhaul/dismantling of CJ system, support for education programs. But all of process normally starts with a House Resolution that commits funds to a research committee to discuss Reparations to AADOS. The house seems to be firing on all pistons, so why not one more? There at least three young members who would support it, I think?

    Would I hope that when presented with a “Platform for Reparations for AADOS” Mr Sanders would support it? Surely.

    Am I certain he would? No. No one can be certain of that. He does say “We are going to do everything we can to help communities that were hurt by slavery.” To me that auggests that there is a specific reparations platform he would support, although everyone seems to agree the support should be more explict, as do I.

    Regardless, if you’d like to flesh out a joint discussion on the topic more…my PM is open, as always.

  4. Billy Noseworthy, let me attempt to address some of the salient points you’ve raised:

    (1) I cannot deny the disparate Jewish narratives on issues regarding the payment and receipt of reparations from Nazi Germany, Britain or the US. So I will grant you that Jewish Reparative Justice was not perfect.

    (2). I understand the curiosity, or even need, to grasp the scope of Reparative Justice for AADOS. And so the question of “How?” arises. I agree that the question of “how” needs answering. There are numerous experts, TNC has enumerated a couple of solutions in an article on The Atlantic. Myself, I cannot pretend to be an expert on the subject of how to do it. What I contend is that in theory it seems rather odd that the question of how must mask our convictions about Reparative Justice for AADOS. Besides, various experts have given their full views on the matter, although none seems to have gained traction for the very reason you assert: That white Americans are uncomfortable about the very idea of the right of African Americans for reparative justice. That is white supremacism. Jews can get it. Japanese can get it. Even the French, supported by the government of the USA enforced reparations from Haiti to France. But African American Americans cannot get it because of how?

    If there’s a will for the reparative justice for AADOS, a way will be found. America has knowledgeable people enough to accomplish a feat as this if indeed it found a way to the moon. Or did it not? What is missing in America today, and what has been missing in America ever since its founding is the total respect for the humanity of Africans. The elephant in the room is simply that the large masses of white Americans partly hate and partly despise Blacks (as a result of the empirical entrenchment and concerted cultivation of white supremacism in white society) and so cannot be expected to plan adequately for the definite future of an America with a burgeoning society of African Americans (paraphrasing W.E.B Dubois). The elephant is hate and so we cannot even get past the conviction of the equal humanity of AADOS to Jews to Japanese and to the French, let alone to sit around a table and discuss how to accomplish reparative Justice.

    It seems as though the US only knows how to enforce and administer reparations to people who are identified as not-Black. Anti-Blackness is what is pervasive in the US. That sentiment is shared across the globe. And this is why we cannot even get to how. It seems the “how” is needed in order to claim or throw-out a conviction of the fact of the moral justice of reparations. Why must it be a requirement? This is why the question continues to stall the moral conviction that one should expect all humanity to embrace.

    Is Bernie Sanders and co. really saying that unless they understand the full scope of reparations to AADOS, they cannot explicitly endorse the moral theory of reparative justice for AADOS? Obviously Sanders tends to think that a part of reparations can be likened to fixing poverty in the inner city. What it not clear is if he understands reparative justice as a separate issue from poverty reduction?

    Which brings me to the last point: (3) Often what is lost when we discuss reparations is the entirety of the AADOS experience in America during those turbulent periods: Which include the loss of property, land, and family. TNC also noted that reparative practice can result in different terms for different members of the AADOS movement. There cannot be a one-fit-all justice. Not all AADOS families and ancestors had their homes torched, lands stolen (e.g. in Forsyth County, GA) even in the early twentieth century. There are real and calculable property losses and murders that transpired even between 1850 and 1960s. That is on top of issues of repairing the atrocities of slavery itself.

    Hence to accept the conviction that crimes were committed against humanity and to accept the need that those crimes must be addressed is one (good) thing. It is entirely a different issue to proclaim that until the exact specifics of the form of reparations for AADOS are known, one cannot commit to the moral issue of reparative justice for AADOS in the same way that only a few question reparative justice for Jews, the Japanese and the French (who were supported by the US to tax their ex-slaves in Haiti for reparative justice). If there’s a will, there shall open the way. But there’s no will in America, and none anywhere else in the world. That is troubling for humanity sake.

  5. Well, I don’t really have any further contentions this time.

    One issue you raise, I think we can explain: Sander’s focus on urban communities easily enough. It’s experiential. He encountered the Civil Rights movement as a student in urban Chicago, with his first sit-in petitioning for the desegregation of housing.

    As an individual who was from Brooklyn, my sense has been that he does not want to leave out the African American community that was still hurt from systemic white supremacy but arrived in the United States after 1865. I would contend he could do more than one thing at once in terms of restorative justice for AAODS, including explicit reparations and a broader reparations oriented platform.

    I will be curious to see if he is successfully pushed to make a more explicit claim to reparations as he moves from Iowa (where the focus was on rural farmers and agrarianism) to more southern states (Miss, Alabama, and my current residence, after years in Wisconsin: Louisiana). Here’s hoping he adapts his program in response to many of the points you have raised, as I am sure others are raising them with him as well (It is hard to imagine Sean King, Nina Turner, or Cornel West never bringing this up).

    In case others are following. One essay by TNC on the topics above (which I think is excellent, and draw from in college-level courses) is here: https://www.theatlantic.com/…/the-case-for…/361631/

    In the essay, TNC quotes John Woolman, who seems to have made one of the earliest petitions I am aware of.:

    ““A heavy account lies against us as a civil society for oppressions committed against people who did not injure us,” wrote the Quaker John Woolman in 1769, “and that if the particular case of many individuals were fairly stated, it would appear that there was considerable due to them.””

  6. To me, the next natural path forward is for the house to reintroduce the very legislation that TNC backed: H.R.40 — Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.

  7. Thanks for the TNC article. That “next natural path” H.R.40 would be an indication that the US is committed to Reconciliation & Reparative Justice.Without it, the US dances about the same bush in which it found itself barbarously enslaving people like cattle and extracting their talents and labor for free, for many centuries. Without it, the US cannot adequately convince the rest of the world that it recognizes the humanity of AADOS in the same way that it recognizes the equal humanity of Jews, Japanese and the French.

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