Get out your reparations calculator

Posted: Aug 15, 2002 12:00 AM
Thousands of aggrieved activists are headed to Washington, D.C., later this week for the "Millions for Reparations" march. The theme is: "They Owe Us." "Us" means black Americans who allegedly endure lasting psychological and economic suffering as a result of their ancestors (or someone else's ancestors) being enslaved centuries ago. "They" means the U.S. government, which means American taxpayers, which means tens of millions of people who had nothing remotely whatsoever to do with inflicting such injustice on anyone. So what exactly do We Owe Them? Russell Simmons, a wealthy hip-hop music executive, is marketing the reparations gospel to black youths under the modernized demand for "40 acres and a Bentley." He's also using the movement to sell his own line of "Phat Classic" sneakers. Wearing Simmons' hip shoes, you see, will do wonders to ease the vestiges of involuntary servitude and colonization. Defense attorney Sam Jordan, one of the march's lead organizers, apparently thinks that freeing former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal -- the death row inmate found guilty in the violent 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner -- would balance the historical books. "The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has much in common with the case of reparations for all the descendants of the sons and daughters of Africa forced into chattel slavery," Jordan inveighed at a press conference in D.C. earlier this week. "Mumia is indomitable, as is the spirit of reparations and the campaign for justice for the millions who yet carry the mark of the lash." Faulkner died with a bullet to his brain and back, and Jordan has the nerve to rant about Mumia's imaginary lash marks? The gall knows no end. One class action lawsuit filed in Brooklyn, N.Y., against Fleet Boston Financial, Aetna and CSX puts the reparations tab at $1.5 trillion in unpaid wages of slave labor. Others have priced the pain at $500,000 in special tax rebates for every black American in the country, or up to $8 trillion. A year and a half ago, when this self-pitying business of slavery reparations first took off, I whipped out my own reparations calculator. I urge others to do the same, and start clamoring for your own personal payoff: My ancestors from the Philippines were enslaved by Spain and forced to build and man the galleons that brought Hispanic explorers to America. During World War II, my relatives were subjected to extreme physical and economic oppression under Japanese occupation. During the 1920s, the states of California and Hawaii imported 50,000 laborers from my ancestral homeland to toil on American farms. Filipinos also worked on agricultural fields in Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Montana. In addition, my people built levees in the San Joaquin Delta and slaved away in fisheries and lumber mills up and down the West Coast in horrid conditions. During that time of servitude, Filipinos faced rampant societal and governmental discrimination. They were barred from voting, owning land or starting businesses of their own in California. Anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states kept my ancestors from legally marrying white women. Until 1947, it was illegal in California for Filipinos to marry whites. In Alaska, cannery workers from the Philippines were segregated and barred from many establishments that hung signs like "No dogs or Filipinos allowed." Crunching the reparations numbers, every American of Spanish descent owes me $514,000 plus compound interest. Adjusted for inflation, every fellow countryman of Japanese descent owes $750,222. California residents owe my family an even $300,000. Alaskans, Hawaiians, Oregonians, Washingtonians, Arizonans and Montanans must pay $75,000 to atone. And anyone else -- white, black or otherwise -- whose family members ingested Filipino-harvested asparagus, peas, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes, grapes or fish, or who burned Filipino-cut firewood, or who lived in homes built of Filipino-sawed lumber from 1923-1947, can settle their debt by sending me a check for $999.99. As for Russell Simmons, you owe me, too. A free pair of your $65 Phat Classic shoes should cover my pain. I wear a women's size 6-1/2. No sneakers, no peace.
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