What is Reparations?
Reparations, to put it simply, means repairing the damage.
It is a demand of the black working class-led Uhuru Movement for the return of the stolen wealth of African people that has gone to benefit the white society for the past six hundred years.
It is an invitation - and a challenge - to white people to take a principled, positive stance of rectifying our relationship to African people and joining the human family in fighting for a world without oppression and exploitation.
As Penny Hess, Chair of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, wrote in the book Overturning the Culture of Violence, reparations is a stand that “goes right to the dialectical relationship between human bondage and wealth, genocide and land ownership, suffering and well-being, justice and atonement.”
The Uhuru Movement is calling for reparations to go towards the creation of an independent, anti-colonial, liberated black working class economy that empowers African people to gain control of their own resources so that charity and philanthropy become obsolete. This is what the Reparations Legacy Project was formed to raise reparations as funding for programs like the Black Power Blueprint.
All of us in the white community who have access to social wealth can participate as a genuine stand of class struggle, unity and solidarity with the right of African people to be self-determining.
In 1982 Chairman Omali Yeshitela served as the People’s Advocate at the first International Tribunal on Reparations to Black People in the United States held in Brooklyn, New York, where he eloquently stated:
“To withhold the right to justice and international legality to the powerless, oppressed African people in the United States would be to validate the most cynical concept that ‘might makes right.’ It would give credence and validity to the awful concept of the right of the powerful to make and enforce international law. Such law as that is no law at all. It is accepted tyranny.”
Reparations to African people is our rejection of such tyranny and our refusal to be complicit with our own ruling class. Taking this stand is in our interests as human beings, whether we are business owners, CEOs or just regular white people who inherited wealth because of our place on the pedestal of the oppression of African people.
We can and must take an active role in ending the system of have and have-nots built for our short-term material benefit on a foundation of the conquered lands, exploited labor and plundered resources of Africans and other colonized peoples.
Join the Reparations Legacy Project, a profound opportunity for white people to unite with the rest of humanity, right the historic wrong and align ourselves with a future where no human being profits at the expense of another.
The Case for Reparations
Beyond chattel slavery, convict leasing, theft of African land and property, mass incarceration, and other forms of exploitation and oppression generated trillions of dollars of wealth for white people. The entire U.S. economy was built through stolen African resources, land, labor and lives. We owe reparations.
The conditions are worse today than ever before:
White people, a small percentage of the world population, control and consume over half the world’s resources, while the majority of African, Mexican, Indigenous and colonized people live on less than $10 USD per day.
8 billionaires have more wealth than 3.6 billion people combined. ()
The median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median African family. ()
In the city of Boston, white families have 31,000 times the wealth of average black family.
African people in the U.S. live in deep colonial conditions of homelessness, food deserts and starvation. Fifty percent of homeless families in the U.S. are black families. ()
The Indigenous people of North America are confined to concentration camps, euphemistically labeled “reservations,” where the average life expectancy is 42 years of age.
According to a study published in The Wall Street Journal, it would take the average black family 228 years to amass the wealth of the average white family. (Source)
Through centuries of oppression and exploitation. ()
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the depths of these disparities, and intensified them. Billionaires in the U.S. have increased their total net worth by $637 billion during the COVID-19 at a time when millions of African and colonized people are facing unemployment, eviction, and food insecurity. Africans die at four times the rate as white people from the “colonial virus,” as Chairman Omali Yeshitela has called it.
U.S. and European wealth built on stolen African lives, labor, resources
Why are there two Americas? Where are there two realities in the world?
The answer is simple: Capitalism.
As Chairman Omali Yeshitela has explained, capitalism was born from the colonial assault on Africa and the enslavement of African people whose labor was exploited to build the foundation of the U.S. and European economies.
Before the European invasion of Africa beginning with the Portugeuse onslaught in 1415, African people were free and self-determining, having built advanced civilizations that traded with other parts of the world.
This changed with the European assault on Africa, the looting of the continent and the enslavement of African people.
The first European stock market sprung up in Amsterdam in 1602, at the height of the trafficking in enslaved Africans that turned human beings into the world’s most lucrative commodity.
Every facet of the wealth of the United States and Europe have their origins in the profiting from the enslavement of African people.
Every major bank, corporation, insurance comapny, unversity, and hospital in the U.S. was funded through profits from slavery and/or built off the backs of enslaved African labor.
One such example is the financial center of world capitalism: Wall Street.
Just 50 meters from the site of New York’s first official slave market, the New York Stock Exchange was formed. In the 19th century, U.S. banks in the north sold securities to help fund the expansion of southern plantations. The banks sold insurance policies to protect slave masters against the risk of boat capsizing or loss of “property” in the form of African people dying or becoming injured.
After the lie of “40 acres and a Mule”: Slavery continues
After the Civil war, the U.S. government pledged to pay reparations to African people in the form of “40 acres and a mule” for every African person.
Within months of Field Order 15, the Johnson administration rescinded the order and the 400,000 acre land mass — “a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John’s River in Florida, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast” — was placed into the hands of confederate plantation owners who then exploited thousands of Africans in the brutal system known as sharecropping.
The 13th Amendment codified slavery into the U.S. constution by declaring that slavery was llegal “except as punishment for a crime.” The U.S. then criminalized every move African people, creating fake “crimes” such as vagrancy, loitering, etc., to justify the re-enslavement of African people udner the convict leasing system.
The motto of Convict Leasing was “One dies, get another,” because there was no longer the profit motive for slave owners to keep their property alive. African people were leased out to plantation, mine and railroad owners for hard labor.
Africans were brutalized, worked to death in the heat and bitter cold and starved. The U.S. south rebuilt its wealth through convict leasing and many white plantation owners surpassed the income they had accumulated under chattel slavery. Convict Leasing made so much money that it rebuilt the economy of the south after the Civil War. The state of Alabama, for example made 75 percent of its revenues from Convict Leasing in the 1890s.
White terror against African people
The general white population, including white workers, participated with enthusiasm in the colonial plundering and looting of Africa and the Americas. Regular white people filled the ranks of the lynch mobs and volunteer cavalry who led the campaigns of terror and mass murder against African and Indigneous people. For over a hundred years white people carried out thousands of lynchings of Africans throughout the United States and no one was ever arrested or prosecuted for a crime.
White terrorism against African communities crushed any movement of African people towards economic self-reliance and prosperity. When Africans created a thriving business district in Tulsa, Oklahoma called “The Black Wall Street,” white people burned it down in 1923 and slaughtered over 300 African people. Similar massacres took place in Rosewood and Ocoee, Florida and other towns throughout the U.S.
This white terror displaced Africans from land they had purchased and functioned as another means of theft to enrich the white population. At the turn of the 20th century African people in the US owned 16 million acres of land. Today African people in the US collectively own only 1 million acres.
In the past half-century mass incarceration in private prisons along with state run prisons have become the method through which Africans are enslaved to generate massive profits for the white ruling class, corporations and stimulate economic development in rural white communities.
The United States has the largest prison population on the planet with over 2.5 million people imprisoned, over half of them Africans.
1 out of 8 people imprisoned on the planet is an African man inside the U.S. Nationally, the Census Bureau counts 88 black male adults for every 100 black women, while the ratio for whites is a more equal 97 men for every 100 women. In several predominantly African neighborhoods in Atlanta, there are only about three black men for every five black women under age 65.
The ratio of white family wealth to Black family wealth is higher today than at the start of the century. (Source: Brookings Institute)
History of Reparations
Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s work to “make reparations a household word” was a bold and revolutionary act.
From its beginnings in the 1970s to now, the Chairman’s strategy to popularize the reparations demand has forced this essential question into the mainstream discussion of our times.
It is urgent that we internalize the Chairman’s revolutionary definition for genuine reparations and how this informs the call to the white community to build the African People’s Solidarity Committee and Uhuru Solidarity Movement under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party.
More than forty years ago, Uhuru Movement founder and leader Chairman Omali Yeshitela made the explosive statement that reparations is more than simply a payout from the U.S. government; it is a function of the revolutionary struggle of African people to reclaim control over their resources and achieve self-determination and political-economic power over their lives.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s goal for the African People’s Socialist Party was to take reparations out of the classrooms and courtrooms and reclaim it as a demand of the African masses-- a revolutionary demand.
Party tribunals brought reparations to the forefront
The Party held the first world tribunal in reparations in New York in 1982 in Brooklyn, NY to indict the U.S. government for its genocide against African people. The tribunal calculated that $4.1 trillion were owed to African people, the equivalent of $14 trillion today.
The Party’s World Tribunal used international law, such as the UN’s human rights charter, on behalf of the colonized, oppressed African population to expose that African people inside the U.S. are a colonized population living under the foreign, hostile domination of the U.S. government
As the People’s Advocate at the Tribunal, the Chairman explained that the verdicts of the tribunal were legitimate but African people do not yet have the state power to enforce. Winning state power is the task of the African People’s Socialist Party.
As Chairman Omali Yeshitela has proven, the entire economy of capitalism is based on the assault on Africa, the enslavement of African people and colonialism around the world. Reparations are owed for more than the period of chattel slavery in the United States, but for the ongoing oppression of African people that forms the foundation of the social wealth and opportunity available to all strata of the white population.
Reparations in practice: Party builds APSC and USM
As the Chairman has written, “Every white aspiration and dream, every expectation for happiness and a good life—from a successful marriage to a secure future for their children—requires drone strikes in Pakistan, police murders and mass imprisonment in African colonies and barrios of the U.S., and starvation and forced displacement of the oppressed throughout the world.”
The Party’s founding of the African People’s Solidarity Committee in 1976, opened a new front of the African Revolution “behind enemy lines,” as the Chairman says, by recruiting members of the white oppressor nation population to work under the Party’s leadership, going back into our own white communities to build the movement for reparations.
Material solidarity, rather than empty gestures, was required. Our responsibility is to raise resources for the work of the Party as a concrete expression of our commitment to reparations. This is how we can begin to right the historic wrongs of slavery, genocide and colonialism that built our lives at the expense of Africans, Indigenous and other colonized peoples.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s theory of African Internationalism has proven that the struggle is not against racism, the ideas in the minds of white people. African people are a colonized nation dispersed around the world, fighting for power in the hands of the African working class.
Reparations is concrete. African people’s resources, hoarded in the white world, must be turned over to the Black Power Blueprint program of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund, transforming the lives and conditions of the African working class in North St Louis and beyond.
As APSC Chairwoman Penny Hess wrote in a column published by The Burning Spear newspaper in 2018, “Reparations is a worldview and campaign that is only possible through joining under the direct leadership of the organized African working class in the form of the African People’s Socialist Party. It is a way of life of action in defense of the African working class and the right of the African nation to struggle for the unification and liberation of Africa and African people everywhere.”
What is APSC?
APSC builds political and material solidarity with the Uhuru Movement, which leads the struggle for African people to win self-determination and the total liberation of Africa and African people worldwide, one billion strong. APSC works under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party which formed APSC in 1976. The chair of APSC is Penny Hess, who is also the author of Overturning the Culture of Violence.
Beyond Philanthropy and Charity
Reparations means solidarity, not charity or philanthropy
Charity maintains the status quo of wealth, power and resources in the hands of the white population and the ruling class. It does not change the material conditions or the structural relations of colonial power that form the basis for the fact that white people have control of over half the world’s resources while the majority of African people live on less than 10 US dollars per day.
Reparations is not an act of charity, nor a philanthropic “gift.” It is the practice of material solidarity with the African-led movement for the creation of an independent, anti-colonial, liberated black working class economy that empowers African people to gain control of their own resources so that charity and philanthropy become obsolete.
Reparations is a stand on the side of African people working to free up the productive forces in the African community to benefit their own people.