I am one of the more than 30 million descendants of American slavery.

Our enslaved ancestors were shipped, sold, robbed, maimed, raped, murdered and otherwise wronged from 1619, when a Dutch ship named the White Lion arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, until slavery was supposedly ended at the end of the Civil War in 1865.

That entire pattern of behavior happened openly. It happened officially. It was sacralized by preachers and congregations, carried on as part of daily business, and continued across successive generations.

This society has done nothing to compensate the descendants of enslaved persons for 250 years of unpaid labor.

This society has done nothing to compensate the descendants of enslaved persons for 250 years of life theft.

This society has done nothing to compensate the descendants of enslaved persons for 250 years of rapes, castrations, mutilations, beatings and murders.

This society has done nothing to compensate the descendants of enslaved persons for 250 years of state-sponsored and sanctioned enslavement of African people.

It has done nothing to repair the transgenerational harms my ancestors suffered and bequeathed to their descendants.

I refuse to forget the debt that is owed for those harms.

I refuse to forget that people who prayed and preached about loving God perpetrated those harms.

I refuse to forget that my ancestors were forced to endure those harms with a resignation that I witnessed generations later as a child growing up in the closing years of the official Jim Crow era.

I now live in an unofficial Jim Crow era of mass incarceration, political, economic and educational disempowerment, wealth and health disparities that are traceable to the enslavement of my ancestors.

America refuses to admit the debt it owes descendants of formerly enslaved Africans. Preachers, religious educators, politicians and ethicists refuse to admit that a debt is owed.

Meanwhile, they want descendants of formerly enslaved Africans to think and talk with them about “racial reconciliation.”

I will not do so.

People who will not admit the transgenerational harms suffered by my people from American slavery lack the moral competence to talk with me about racial reconciliation.

Instead, I will continue to indict, denounce and condemn this society for its refusal to admit and pay the debt owed the 30 million descendants of American slavery.

I will also challenge my Black co-descendants to do likewise. I will remind them what Randall Robinson mentioned in his book titled The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks by quoting him at length here.

“The issue here is not whether we can or will win reparations. The issue is whether we will fight for reparations, because we have decided for ourselves that they are our due,” Robinson said.

“Let me try to drive the point home here: through keloids of suffering, through coarse veils of damaged self-belief, lost direction, misplaced compass, shit-faced resignation, racial transmutation, black people worked long, hard, killing days, years, centuries — and they were never paid” he wrote. “The value of their labor went into others’ pockets — plantation owners, northern entrepreneurs, state treasuries, the United States government. Where was the money? Where is the money? There is a debt here.”

“Jews have asked this question of countries and banks and corporations and collectors and any who had been discovered at the end of the slimy line holding in secret places the gold, the art, the money that was the rightful property of European Jews before the Nazi terror. Jews have demanded what was their due and received a fair measure of it,” Robinson continued.

“Clearly, how blacks respond to the challenge surrounding the simple demand for restitution [reparations] will say a lot more about us and do a lot more for us than the demand itself would suggest,” he said. “We would show ourselves to be responding as any normal people would to victimization were we to assert in our demands for restitution that, for 246 years and with the complicity of the United States government, hundreds of millions of black people endured unimaginable cruelties — kidnapping, sale as livestock, deaths in the millions during terror-filled sea voyages, backbreaking toil, beatings, rapes, castrations, maimings, murders.”

“We would begin a healing of our psyches were the most public case made that whole peoples lost religions, languages, customs, histories, cultures, children, mothers, fathers,” Robinson said. “And they were never made whole. And never compensated. Not one red cent.”

To this day, America refuses to admit its debt. Instead, American policymakers and thought leaders add insult to the injuries caused by slavery by bragging about “the rule of law.”

In the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War that ended in 1865, three amendments were added to the U.S. Constitution.

In 1866, the 13th Amendment was ratified, outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for criminal conduct.

In 1868, the 14th Amendment was added, guaranteeing equal protection of the law and prohibiting deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was added, securing the right to vote for all males born in the United States – an apparent effort to extend voting rights to formerly enslaved men (no women were granted voting rights until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920).

However, no provision was made in the U.S. Constitution – or in any other law – to repay the formerly enslaved persons or any of their descendants for 246 years of forced labor carried out under “the rule of law.”

Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts. Part two will appear tomorrow. This article is part of a series calling attention to the United Nations International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (March 25).

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