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Black Amends

"Bloody Sunday" bridge, Selma, Alabama

photo by Joe

Underground Railroad National Museum, Maysville, Kentucky

photo by Joe

Amends to Black Americans Policy in Short


*To read the policy in full, read further below


  • Acknowledge that trans-generational learning tracks between, say, Whites and Blacks (since the start of this country) have been uneven  leaving some Blacks at a tremendous disadvantage.

  • Acknowledge many Blacks are caught in trans-generational, inner city poverty loops, and rural poverty loops.

  • Acknowledge that Black latch-key kids are often in situations where they are, daily, trying to dodge hunger, drugs and bullets in our cities.  Education for them is often secondary, at best.

  • Acknowledge many Blacks in these areas live amidst deteriorating schools, deteriorating infra-structures, deteriorating social programs

  • Institute a version of the Marshall Plan for Urban (and Rural) Blacks:  Massive reconstruction of inner city and poor rural schools, neighborhoods and infra-structure in general.  And full Black employment at livable wages.  (This would supplant extra police, extra prisons, with a genuine social policy.)

  • Congress enacted a 10% surtax to pay for the Vietnam War.  Because this would be an extenuation of the War on Poverty, such a tax would be apt  and go a ways toward tangible amends as well.

  • More help to Faith-Based groups, and other non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, to help in rebuilding homes and infra-structure in general in rural and city settings.

  • More aid to mentoring programs trying to help Black latch-key kids.

  • Reverse White flight, inspiring some from suburban and small town America to move back into the cities to further help reverse the climate of poverty, crime, and so on.  (Our family did this, moving to the heart of Cleveland, Ohio.)

  • The latter could, in spots, be aided with urban planning that allowed for mixed income neighborhoods, like what is happening in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina.

  • Education amends could include the development of a string of Urban Community School like models, mixing more well-off students with disadvantaged students.

  • Education for some Black youth could be supplemented with a lot more mentoring and tutoring programs.

  • Include more outside-the-lines classroom approaches to enhance learning motivation.  (This would Include the establishment of learning teams.)

  • More African-American studies in curriculum in grades K-12.  And more African American Studies majors at a collegiate level.













Reparations to Blacks Position Paper


“In an essay for the college text book Social Justice (Greenhaven Press), Lang writes: ‘Massive reconstruction of inner city schools, neighborhoods and infrastructure, and full Black employment at livable wages, would also make many cities more habitable places, and improve the quality of life of all residents… [These types] of reparations would enrich African Americans by supplanting prisons, police, low wages and corporate tax abatements with a genuine social policy.’” –Joe, (see “Marshal Plan for Urban (and Rural) Blacks” below).



Categories covered below include: 1) Decidedly Lower Learning Track; 2) Stuck in Poverty Loops; 3) “Marshal Plan for Urban (and Rural) Blacks”; 4) Funding; 5) Reversing “White Flight”; 6) Educational Amends


1) Decidedly Lower Learning Track


Slavery, segregation, and such have resulted in a tremendous disparity that has rippled through generations for many Black Americans. And it’s essential we make that right. Part of making it right is providing a series of reparations (monetary and otherwise) that will level the playing field, creating the kind of social justice parity that should have been there from the beginning.


During a campaign talk in Timonium, Maryland, I said that Black slaves were afforded no education whatsoever. Then after slavery – until 1964 – Blacks were afforded sub-standard education (in comparison to most whites). After the Equal Rights Amendment passed in ‘64, theoretically Blacks were then afforded equal education, equal job opportunities, and equal housing opportunities. However, this hardly evened out over night, and still lags behind tremendously in some areas.


The point I made that night in Timonium is that common sense indicates whites in this country, from the beginning, had a continually ascendant learning track, with each generation advancing further and further. Meanwhile many Blacks had no education at the beginning of our country, then sub standard education, and so on, which put many at a distinct disadvantage trans-generationally along a decidedly lower learning track. (For instance, you have to factor in that a lot of learning acumen, etc., comes, not just from the teachers, but a good deal from the parents. So if these parents had less advantage…)


2) Stuck in Poverty Loops


What does all this look like now? Many Blacks are caught in inner city and rural poverty loops, often with little hope of getting out.


We have traveled the country extensively looking at these dynamics. We looked at Black rural poverty issues in the South’s “Black Belt” region through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. We went to such cities as Chicago and Atlanta taking in-depth looks at many of the faces of Black, dead-end poverty in these places. In Atlanta, we spent some six months volunteering at a center for the homeless there. And in Cleveland, Ohio, we intentionally moved close to the inner city for five years, not only to research, but to help.


What we found in our neighborhood in Cleveland was, among other things, the aftermath of a lot of white flight to the suburbs. Many Blacks here weren’t so much living – as trying to survive – daily in the midst of hunger, needles and bullets, I told the News-Journal in Mansfield, Ohio.


At the Michael J. Zone Recreation Center where our kids played basketball, most kids were Black. My wife Liz and I coached a number of teams there; many of the kids didn’t have fathers at home, and many moms were working all kinds of hours at low paying jobs.


Many of these Black children were “latch key kids” left to fend for themselves in some pretty tough neighborhoods. There were, for instance, two homicides on our block in a period of six months. Likewise, a young boy showed up at the Rec. Center one afternoon, a bullet in his leg and blood everywhere. He’d been caught in the cross-fire between drug gangs.


In the midst of all this violence, deteriorating schools, deteriorating city infrastructure and deteriorating social programs, how can we logically expect many of these children to get ahead? We can’t. And simply pointing to the small percentage of these children who somehow “get out,” as a realistic possible success calculus for all the children down there is, well, simply naïve.


3) ‘Marshall Plan’ for Urban (and Rural) Blacks


At the front end, our administration would propose reparations be made to Blacks in America’s cities through what Clarence Lang refers to as the “Marshall Plan for urban Black America.” (Lang is an assistant professor of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.)


In an essay for the college text book Social Justice (Greenhaven Press), Lang writes: “Massive reconstruction of inner city schools, neighborhoods and infrastructure, and full Black employment at livable wages, would also make many cities more habitable places, and improve the quality of life of all residents… [These types] of reparations would enrich African Americans by supplanting prisons, police, low wages and corporate tax abatements with a genuine social policy.”


Concurrently, a similar initiative should be done in rural Black America.


We traveled to Green County, Alabama, the poorest county in the country. Green County has primarily a black populace. Many houses were quite dilapidated and the downtowns were mere shells of what they once were. For instance, we toured downtown Boligee, Alabama here. There used to be grocery stores, a gas station, an auto shop, a clothing store, a general store… Now the only thing open is the Post Office.


As you’d reconstruct city schools, neighborhoods and infrastructure in general in the cities, you’d do basically the same thing in the country.


4) Funding


So where would you get the money? In the short term, you’d raise taxes for most income brackets except the poor and lower middle class. (More well off Blacks would have the option of helping with their tax dollars as well, or not.)


This would, in effect, be a continuation of the “War on Poverty.” And as a parallel, Congress enacted a 10% surtax to pay for the Vietnam War. (You’d take your tax bill and add 10% to it.) This tax produced a surplus by 1969. Why not a 10% surtax to provide tangible reparations for the “War on Poverty” in regard to the pseudo Marshall Plan for Black America?


And this could also be supplemented with stepped up volunteerism to provide even more reparations. For instance, more money could go to such faith based initiatives as Habitat for Humanity. On a research stop at Georgia’s Koinonia Farm (birthplace of Habitat), we learned those living in Christian community on the farm reached out to help renovate the homes in a poor, rural Black neighborhood up the road. (This was the genesis of Habitat.) With more money and more volunteers, this could be happening with much more frequency throughout the country – in both rural and city settings.


Likewise, faith based initiative money could go to more mentoring programs to help Black latch key youth, and such. For instance, I sat in on a talk about a project in the inner city in Wheeling, West Virginia. Black adult men go through a 14-week mentoring training program; then each takes on a youth who has no father at home. Likewise, more government money (again, in the form of reparations) could go to programs like Big Brothers & Big Sisters to help more of these at-risk Black youth.


5) Reversing “White Flight”


I also believe it’s not enough just to invest way more money in, say, urban areas. It is my belief there must be a reverse of white flight. That is, another form of reparations would be for some people from suburban and small town America to move back into the cities to live side-by-side in solidarity, while working to change the cities even more.


Our family moved to a rough area of Cleveland near the inner city, along with a group of other Catholic Workers who had all intentionally moved into a block on W. 38th St. These Catholic Workers lived approximately every third house down and were working diligently to help the neighborhood. They had started an informal drop-in center for the poor. They started an urban farm on an old vacant parking lot and involved the neighbors, including the children. They put on family nights at a park in the neighborhood. Several of the Catholic Workers would regularly give micro-loans and micro-gifts of money (and items) to neighbors in need. The block became a lot safer, the neighbors got a lot closer.


While this was happening in an ad hoc fashion in Cleveland, it was happening even more intentionally in New Orleans (from a housing standpoint). Post Hurricane Katrina, urban planners had come up with an innovative concept in rebuilding from scratch some of the most devastated neighborhoods. For instance, we toured one neighborhood by a break wall at the Mississippi that was designed as a “mixed income” neighborhood. There was low income housing, middle-income and upper class housing all interspersed together with the hope of fostering an environment similar to what was going on in Cleveland.


6) Educational Amends


What’s more, while I was in Cleveland, I researched the award winning Urban Community School in the neighborhood that could be considered another form of this creative, outside-the-lines reparations, and more.


Urban Community School (UCS) in Cleveland won the Excellence in Education Award from the U.S. Department of Education. UCS Director Sr. Maureen Doyle (UCS is a Catholic/Christian k-8 school) said when the school first started 40 years ago, people from the suburbs brought their children in to sit side-by-side with inner city kids. What’s more, UCS has no official “grade levels.” Sr. Doyle said the inner city kids particularly often come from tough home situations and haven’t had the same learning advantages as other kids of similar age. So not having formal grade levels helps “meet students where they’re at” in a non-shaming way.


The creative, outside-the-lines learning techniques here (and there are many) prove quite effective. In tracking over the past 40 years, a phenomenal 91% of UCS students have gone on to graduate high school and 62% have gone to college. (These are figures that are way above the curve for inner city students.)


Sister Doyle said that with the changing demographics of the area (whites are indeed moving back into these neighborhoods from the suburbs), the current 450 UCS students are now all from the neighborhood.


Coupled with this trend to help disadvantaged Black youth through such schools as UCS, we also learned about a “lab school” in Rhode Island where “teams” form around each student. That is, the teams consist of a teacher, the parents, a couple neighbors, a town businessperson and such who meet regularly to help support a student’s progress. The inspiring of these teams nationwide around these Black children would be another excellent form of amends.


In the schools, and as another form of amends, our administration would propose African American studies in curriculum from K-12. We, as a nation, must not only embrace other cultures, we would do well to learn as much as possible from other cultures. Call it ‘hyper-integration,’ if you will.


On a stop in Spokane, Washington, we talked with Gonzaga University’s Bob Bartlett, who has developed the course Race & Ethnicity. (He is head of the university’s Cultural Affair’s Program.) His contention is that there should be in-depth courses on different cultures introduced as early as possible in a youth’s education. And in the context of making amends to Blacks, we would propose a rich, and extensive, series of classes revolving around African American studies.


And in addition, Black History month (now every February) would get a lot more attention.


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