Opinion: Black People’s Land Was Stolen
Any discussion of reparations must include how this happened, who did it, and the laws, policies and practices that allowed it.
By Andrew W. Kahrl
Dr. Kahrl is an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia.
June 20, 2019
A House Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday held the first hearing in over a decade on the issue of reparations for black Americans. The hearing took place, fittingly, on the Juneteenth holiday, commemorating the announcement of the end of slavery in the United States, and five years after the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who testified, reignited the debate with his 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations.” Once a fringe topic, reparations has emerged as an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign, with several leading candidates for the Democratic nomination expressing support for various measures to atone for America’s racist past.
Thanks to Mr. Coates and others, today’s movement for reparations places as much emphasis on the racist public policies of the 20th century, which denied black Americans opportunities to build wealth and left them vulnerable to all manner of economic exploitation, as it does on the crimes of slavery.
The state’s Legislature approved a measure banning the form of racial discrimination. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat.
Image: A woman getting her hair braided at Djene Hair Braiding in Harlem.
By Liam Stack
June 28, 2019
California is poised to become the first state to ban racial discrimination against people based on their natural hairstyle.
The State Assembly voted unanimously on Thursday to approve the measure, which the State Senate approved in April. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, to be signed into law.
The bill would update the definition of race used in existing law to be “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
George Gascón, San Francisco’s district attorney, said the lopsided number of African-Americans in the city’s criminal justice system had compelled him to try something new.
By Timothy Williams
June 12, 2019
While riding the train in San Francisco three years ago, a white man told an African-American man that he smelled bad and should move away from him. An argument followed, and the African-American man, Michael Smith, was eventually tackled by police officers and accused of assaulting them.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Smith with seven counts, including battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. But after viewing body camera footage, a jury acquitted Mr. Smith, then 23, on most of the charges, and the prosecutors dropped the other counts. Mr. Smith’s lawyer said he does not believe a white person would have been arrested or prosecuted.
While the district attorney’s office disagreed with that assessment of the case, George Gascón, the district attorney, has acknowledged that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are prosecuted in the city, which led him to ask a troubling question: To what extent does bias affect the work of prosecutors?
We long for the same things as everyone else, and yet few campaigns treat us as if our experiences matter.
By Alicia Garza
Ms. Garza, a founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, is the head of the Black Futures Lab.
May 28, 2019
During election season, I always cringe when I see candidates eating fried chicken next to a bottle of hot sauce in Harlem or taking staged photos with black leaders. These shallow symbolic gestures are not a substitute for meaningful engagement with black voters. And candidates should know that we see right through them.
The idea of economic amends for past injustices and persistent disparities is getting renewed attention. Here are some formulas for achieving the aim.
By Patricia Cohen
May 23, 2019
The Supreme Court’s legal abuse of Native Americans set the stage for America’s poor treatment of many of its vulnerable populations.
By Maggie Blackhawk
Ms. Blackhawk is an assistant professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.
May 26, 2019