The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 30, 1998 · Page 16
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March 30, 1998

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 16

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Monday, March 30, 1998
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THE PALM BEACH POST MONDAY, MARCH 30, 1998 17A Racial dialogue will go nowhere without apology for slavery Derrick Z. Jackson !i In Uganda this week, President : plinton said, "It is as well not to dwell too ! fnuch on the past, but I think it is worth pointing out that the United States has ; not always done the right thing by Afri-j ca." He said, "Going back to the time - before we were even a nation, European I Americans received the fruits of the slave ! trade, and we were wrong in that." ' Many of Mr. Clinton's centrist aides ; have long tried to keep the president out of the muck of slavery, for fear of anger- ing white voters. Mr. Clinton's African-! American aides have become weed-! whackers, clearing the field of annoying ! questions about slavery so Mr. Clinton j can deliver blossoms of enlightenment ; and acknowledgement without the ; thorns of apology and reparation. i Susan Rice, the State Department's assistant secretary for African affairs, ' said: "The past is past. We didn't come to j Africa to talk about slavery." The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mr. Clinton's envoy to ! Africa, said: "Slavery is not the issue. The ! question is where we go from here." The ' Rev. Jackson added: "Clearly, the ad- mission of the wrong of slavery is signif- icant. But without a plan for building L buildings, education, AIDS, one will have missed the point." j Left unexplained is how an America thjat backpedals from slavery can move rich, tell black folks to "earn it" while forgetting about veterans housing programs, post-Depression work programs, farm subsidies, corporate tax breaks and loans and inheritances from Mom and Dad. That is why Mr. Clinton finds it so hard to apologize on behalf of America either to Africans or African-Americans. No mere apology can return to Africa, once equal in population to Europe, the 40 million to 60 million souls stolen in the slave trade. No mere apology can close America's racial wealth gap. A genuine apology, in economic terms, means the transfer of trillions of dollars from white hands to black hands. Make no mistake. The money is there, as the $8 trillion of the World War II generation attests. What is missing is the will. President Clinton, a voracious reader of history, knows full well why he cannot say the nation is sorry for slavery. He knows it means far more than a perfunctory confessional. It means a direct, withering challenge to European Americans to stop plucking the sweet but sorry fruits of whiteness. An apology for slavery, while the thorns still cut deeply into black people, is a wilted, sorry blossom. Derrick Z. Jackson is a columnist forThe Boston Globe. Northeastern University sociology professor Tom Shapiro, coauthor of the award-winning but little-quoted 1995 book Black Wealth, White Wealth found that the effects of discrimination were passed from generation to generation, to the point that the mean net financial assets of European Americans in poverty nearly matches the mean net financial assets for upper-income African-Americans. Because of housing and banking discrimination either approved of or ignored by the government for most of this century, the average white Baby Boomer will inherit $65,000, compared with $8,000 for the average African-American Baby Boomer. How America solves this problem is subject to debate. But a major reparation has to be made before this country can lay claim to colorblind equality. If it is not lump-sum payments, then it at least has to be providing resources to get African-Americans into housing that grows in value, businesses, that can compete and educations that lead to quality jobs. Conventional wisdom says this is a hallucination. Affirmative action, today's only form of reparations, and one that benefits only middle- and upper-income African-Americans, is dying a slow death. White Americans, from poor to forward with Africans and African-Americans. The fact is, it is impossible. President Clinton cannot bring himself to apologize because slavery is a living thorn, still spreading and pricking America. He is not yet ready to tell European Americans that all the fruits they enjoy are not truly theirs. Two major polls last year from Gallup and ABC News found that 65 percent to 67 percent of white Americans opposed an apology for slavery, while 65 percent to 67 percent of African-Americans favored one. More to the point, while 65 percent of African-Americans favored some sort of reparations in the ABC News poll, 88 percent of white Americans were opposed. White opposition to reparations continues decades of denial. The American economy was .so dependent on black slave labor that the value of such labor, according to the 1990 book The Wealth of Races, was worth between $1.4 trillion and $4.7 trillion in 1983 dollars. The low estimate of $1.4 trillion is hauntingly close to the $1.7 trillion budget for the nation that last week passed the Senate Budget Committee. The high estimate of $4.7 trillion is hardly outlandish. The World War II generation will pass down $8 trillion to its children. Many European Americans say there is no need to dwell on the past or reparations because no slaves or slaveowners are alive today. But the mentality behind slavery never died. Discrimination, according to The Wealth of Races, cost African-Americans $1.6 trillion in lost wages from 1929 through '69. Those lost wages for black people went to white workers, white banks, white businesses and white college tuitions. If only creating peace in society were as easy as instilling violence Collecting feathers not criminal act By David Mitchell Regarding the Post articles about me last May 3 and on March 21 and 24, I have a message for all residents of Florida: Through our experiences we learn, and I have personally just received quite an education. Last May, I was charged with possession of migratory bird feathers. On March 23, I was found guilty of two such charges by a jury of my peers. I personally wish to thank the jurors for doing their very best in my trial. I believe, however, that this jury wanted to find me not guilty Donna Britt on all charges but thought it had no option to do so. Had the jurors known of their constitutional right to grant a pardon if they disagreed with " ymm. wwiii.. 9 (. . , """" ' f W r " ""MMI1 IM"'1iiiir-r-l Yiniii, ni.in-i I,, ( f f.. the law, I honestly think that Mr. Mitchell Just for laughs, let's pretend. Say we ! wanted to create, in a relatively peaceful ',' society, a nation of youthful killers or ' just millions of aggressive young jerks. How could we do it? We'd have to start young. Analyzing infants, we'd realize their desperate need for love and intimacy. We would also note that a baby's only real job is to study, digest and mimic everything he or she encounters. 1 Then we'd go to work. We'd create an economy wherein most families, both parents the men and women with the strongest emotional bonds to children needed to work , outside the home to survive. Soon after birth, babies would be placed with care-givers who'd tend to their basic needs but who, in most cases, would lack the time and interest to invest the same kind , of love and attention as parents. Working moms and dads would remain on the job for ever-increasing hours. Their "free" time at home would be eaten up by paying bills, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework and finishing work uncompleted at the job. " Relaxed time with kids? Rare to nonexistent. ; Even so, many children would still - receive considerable love and attention, especially at home. To minimize that, we could design, say, an electronic box that beamed seductive, violent images into every dwelling. The box would feature some uplifting programming comedy, romance, educational shows. But moment by moment, day and night, the box would also provide in a bright, noisy, kid-friendly progression fistfights, beatings, rapes and murders. Now a few troublesome kids would realize such images are fiction. So we'd invent "news shows," highlighting real-life mayhem from local, national and even international sources. The box could also provide "talk shows" on which real people aired their problems before slapping, kicking and otherwise attacking each other as audiences cheered. But this might fail to make enough kids violent. So what if we invented strikingly realistic visual "games" for use on the box when it was turned off? Using the games, children could shoot, impale or beat to death lifelike images of people and monsters. Blood could splatter, "victims" could instantly revive, to be killed again and again! Some pesky parents would, of course, limit their kids' exposure to the box and the games. To deal with that, we could create public living rooms, complete with rocking chairs and popcorn! Here, kids could share with strangers the thrill of experiencing on gigantic screens complete with sophisticated sound systems vivid moving images of stabbings, garrotings, explosions and dismemberments. No one killed would be mourned for more than a minute; every death would be as choreographed as a ballet. Killjoys might try to keep small children from seeing these images, but we'd get around that by making versions of the images available to be seen later on the box. In certain parts of the country, rural and urban, we could glorify guns, make folks think they can't live without firearms. Then we could make it relatively easy for anyone, even kids, to get them. Still not enough? What if we did something with music? Kids love music, as anyone who has watched a baby react to a lullaby can attest. We could somehow attach violent, materialistic or overtly sexualized images to music. We could even persuade certain music- they would have exercised that right. Be that as it may, however, I now wish to issue a warning. Please understand that I do not kill or harm birds for their feathers. Rather, I have taken feathers from road-killed birds, and, like many adults and children, I have picked up feathers along the beach and in the countryside. The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission tells us that it is perfectly legal to hunt and kill game birds and designated waterfowl, but if you find, say, a sea gull's feather on the beach, you are now in breach of the law and subject to arrest, fines and possible imprisonment. "How could this happen?" we'd wail after each brutality, as if we had never done a thing to encourage it. With straight faces, we could present shows on the box about "Children Who Kill," write shocked editorials, swear to "get to the bottom" of the problem. Then, despite our myriad, obvious efforts to encourage children's brutality, we wouldn't change a thing. So. If a society actually did those crazy things, would kids not every kid, just way too many of them behave in frighteningly aggressive ways? Maybe. But what intelligent, caring culture could be that stupid? Just thinking about the prospect is scary. Thank God it's just pretend.' Donna Britt is a columnist for The Washington Post. makers to celebrate guns, greed and irresponsible sex in their songs! They, too, could provide images for the box of threatening-looking men and barely dressed women, all singing about the glories of instant, consequence-free gratification of every urge. In schools, we could spend hours focusing on reading, science and other necessary stuff while rarely requiring classes in conflict resolution, relationship-building or tolerance. We could stage "sporting events" in which young athletes' viciousness is accepted, even encouraged. To be sure kids got the pro-violence message, we adults could pretend to abhor brutishness. Kids are natural rebels. So we could bemoan violence ceaselessly in the media, and this is key feign astonishment each time a youngster assaulted or killed someone. These laws are very broad and difficult to understand. This is why I feel that the law is important for all to know. Be very careful if you or your chil dren pick up a feather. The mo Keep Kosovo in context to make U.S. policy succeed By Stephen S. Rosenfeld : ' WASHINGTON The Serb factor is poorly grasped in American deliberations on Kosovo. The United States ' ignores it at the peril of stumbling unaware into a southern ' Balkan morass. The issue is how to deal with the multi-; layered Serbian presence in a place that American policy formally recognizes as a province of Serbia but that many Americans see as a territory endowed by its 90 percent The United States must deal with two Milosevices. First we must discipline Milosevic the aggressor, the patron of 'ethnic cleansing,' the denier of Albanians' rights. A second Milosevic must also be engaged the political leader who, hateful as he may be, has a legitimate concern for the integrity of his country, a Serbia including Kosovo. jethnic Albanian population with a powerful claim to nationhood on its own. Now, Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic is the ment you hold that feather in your hand, you have taken possession of a possibly illegal feather and could be arrested. I realize how absurd this sounds, regardless of how true it is. Remember also that about 98 percent of the birds in Florida are considered migratory. Even if this bird flies only between counties, it is still considered migratory, and therefore, any of its parts are illegal to possess. I think of children playing on the beach, finding a feather and dreaming of flight. Unless we citizens are willing to take a moment and write to our state legislators concerning what I see as an absurd law, requesting that it be corrected, we will all continue to live under the threat of prosecution for the simple act of possessing a feather. While it is extremely important to protect all wildlife and the environment for future generations and to preserve the balance needed for all life forms, we must also have fair laws for all. David Mitchell, 49, of Jupiter, is also knoun as Standing Hawk and says he is one-tenth Cherokee. I . here the denier of Albanians' rights. This is the Milosevic on whom U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would impose new sanctions for his killing of scores of Kosovans, including women and children, and for his refusal to open an autonomy dialogue with the Kosovans' elected leadership. A second Milosevic must also be engaged. This is the political leader who, hateful as he may be, has a legitimate concern for the integrity of his country, a Serbia including Kosovo. The U.S., acting on the principle that borders should not be altered by force, has forthrightly supported the integrity of Serbia against Kosovan demands for independence. It has done so in the bitter knowledge that its nemesis Milosevic may profit. The U.S. has been less emphatic on the principle of protection of minorities all minorities. Overall in the rump Yugoslavia, minorities means the Albanians. But in Kosovo proper it means the Serbs. Washington must navigate a minefield Ensuring the Kosovo Serbs' welfare will naturally bind Washington to Belgrade. But this result, however politically unpalatable to both parties, cannot honorably be avoided. largely overlooked is the party with the heaviest responsibility of all for Kosovo's Serbian minority. That is, of course, Kosovo's Albanian majority. To replace Serbia's heavy hand on Albanians with an autonomous or independent Kosovo's heavy hand on local Serbs would be a ticket to disaster. The commendable American support for a restoration of Kosovo's autonomy cannot be allowed to give its Albanian citizens the slightest impression that they have no obligations to their fellow citizens, Kosovo's Serbs. villain. He demolished Kosovo s earlier autonomy. Through his repressive rule, he turned Kosovo's reach for political rights into a popularly supported, armed independence movement The movement's success in aiming at military rather than civilian targets has kept it from being categorically stigmatized as "terrorist." These considerations explain how a territory most Americans could not locate on a map has suddenly been born in our political awareness as the Milosevic divergent social organization, religion, language and demographics; patches of cooperation amidst conflict; equivalents of (Jerusalem's) Golden Dome Mosque and (Western) Wall; a north-south dimension as regards economic development; a diaspora dimension " Many of us have dismissed Serbia's attachment to the ancient Kosovo sites where some part of Serbia's national consciousness is rooted as the stuff of a comic operetta. In fact it is a tragedy. Leader's power rides on Serb pride Most of us have no awareness that the provision of autonomy to Kosovo in 1974. by Yugoslav Communist President Tito, contributed to Albanian attacks on local Serbs. Unless you know that, you can only be mystified that Milosevic was able to turn himself from apparatchik to authoritarian leader by picking up the banner of Kosovo's embattled Serb minority. His famous promise of 1989 that "nobody can beat you anymore" made him master of Serbian nationalism and gave him the power he then abused to destroy Yugoslavia. It follows that we must deal with two Milosevices. First we must if possible, with our allies discipline UI dvtr, utriHrivuig uiu uuii'viiii victim of Milosevic's aggressions. We see comedy where there's tragedy But this is too simple. Americans, including diplomats, who are supposed to know these things, and not least journalists, who have their own pretensions, need to know the minimal history undergirding a sound policy. A Washington Post reader's summary: The problem transcends the oppressive nature of the Milosevic regime, just as Bosnia did. It has a historical dimension: Albanians as enforcers of the Ottomans; counter-repression after 1912; then several cycles of violence and revenge; archetypal aspects of a cgtilict of two communities with sharply McEvoy recuperating George McEvoy. a columnist for The Palm Bearh Post, has undergone heart bypass surgery. His column will resume when he has recovered. Stephen S. Rosenfeld is a columnist forThe Washington Milosevic the atyressor. the patron of "ethnic cleansing," .Post.

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