Why are Blacks Reluctant to Pursue Reparations?


At a meeting of state, local and community leaders, Detroit NAACP branch president Rev. Wendell Anthony referred to the calls for U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ immediate resignation as an “unholy and unlawful guillotine.” Speakers said they didn’t want a person who has served the district and the country for more than 50 years to be pressured into resignation without a chance to defend himself.

Ask blacks:“What are the best ways to reduce racial inequality” you’ll get a plethora of answers based on approaches for reducing racism, but nary a word about getting paid debts owe us from slavery.  Everybody is talking about racism in America, but its rare anyone says a word about slavery and debts due us from that crime against humanity.  The only man saying anything about the damages incurred on blacks by slavery, was the Congressman John Conyers 30 years ago.  

Take a look at the truth: The best approach to reducing racial inequality is to get paid debts owed us from slavery and its aftermath.  Advocates of reparations are bidding Conyers “bye” and seeking new and vibrant leadership regarding an apology and reparations due us for slavery.

Beginning with more than two centuries of slavery, black Americans have been deliberately abused in this nation. It’s time for the nation to pay restitution.  Conyers was supposed to get “proper payback” for descendants of slaves, but he and other entrenched members of the Congressional Black Caucus spent more time enriching themselves than taking care of their neglected constituents.  Conyers pushed civil rights early on, but as he grew older he fumbled and bumbled doodled on the old, fumbling and on the issue.

Slavery existed in North America for 245 years.  Its aftermath is in force to day, however contemporary blacks are more enthralled with assimilating in America than justice .  Now, let’s say that for generations, your family and families like yours have been damaged by this country’s  prejudiced political and economic system — by law and widespread practice, with the intent of benefiting families not like yours — those are the “white privileged” that should pay for slavery and harm it’s done.

Conyers didn’t do a masterful job enabling reparations.  Blacks must coalesce around leadership that seeks justice.  While most members of the Congressional Black Caucus shy away of legislating and advocating for black’s interests, Memphis Congressman Stephen Ira Cohen is the one most likely to be of dedication and perseverance to pick up the gauntlet for reparations. Representing Tennessee’s 9th congressional District which includes the western three-fourths of Memphis Cohen has served that overwhelmingly black district since 20007 and is Tennessee’s first Jewish congressman..  It was not Conyers, but Cohen, that got the House to pass a resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow.

The Black Caucus’ leadership has got America into the shape its in.  The CBC  seeks mainstream district members like Mia Love from Utah and Will Hurd from Texas’ majority-white 23rd District of Texas while rebuffing Cohen’s attempts to join.  More than 60 percent of the people in his Memphis-based congressional district are black.  After Cohen replaced Harold Ford and Junior in Congress he took on more black issues than had Father and son Ford.

Why are blacks resistant to pursue reparations justice?  In their political alliances, blacks dance on heads of snakes; while they eschew legislation to secure reparations.  When it comes to pursuing justice and leadership in America, many blacks are more consumed with seeking affirmation and social acceptance in mainstream America  They should step away from partisan ideologies and tune into more focused activities to get just due. 

Sources of prejudice and discrimination are often rooted in particular historical and social contexts, and are shaped by institutional structures and practices.  Blacks have bought into: the American way of life and its values and traditions.  Instead of seeking to be paid, blacks have bought into “big government” ideologies and tangent. “poor peoples’ marches for government funding and assistance when we can get it all – between $6 and $14 trillion – if we organize for proper reparations.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via

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