Free education for students of African descent

For decades, there have been discussions on how to properly
compensate people of African descent for the hundreds of years of free
labor provided during slavery in America. Models have already been
established. Indigenous Americans (incorrectly called Indians because
Columbus thought he landed in India) were forced onto reservations but
are now courageously fighting in the courts to regain their land. The
American Japanese are being financially compensated for being
imprisoned during World War II in American internment camps. European
Jews are being financially compensated by the German government for the
atrocities they experienced in Nazi prison camps during the Second
World War. Yet people of African descent have not been compensated for
the massive tragedy they experienced here in America.

Estimates are that a person could walk across the Atlantic Ocean,
from Africa to America, on the bones of millions of Africans who were
killed, died or simply jumped off the slaving ships in the Middle
Passage. And we have not even begun to discuss the millions who were
enslaved in America — the so-called “land of the free,” which we now
know only applied to Europeans immigrating to America, minus thousands
of Europeans exploited during the “white slavery” period.

Enslaved Africans, in America, were not considered human. They were
classified, in an early version of the U.S. Constitution, as only
three-fifths of a human being. They had no rights whatsoever. Millions
of African families were broken, separated and sold off to other
plantations. Brutal beatings and mutilations were commonplace. Learning
how to read was a crime. Retaining one’s identity, dignity, religion,
history, language, names and other traits were outlawed and violently
prohibited. African women had to endure thousands upon thousands of
rapes by their slave owners and overseers. African men were forced to
stud, like animals, to produce more slaves and were not allowed to
express their manhood for fear of death. Evolving out of a slave
psychic takes many generations to accomplish.

It was once proposed to give all freed slaves “forty acres and a
mule,” but that was vetoed by President Andrew Jackson, himself a slave
trader. Later, in the twentieth century, the policy of affirmative
action was created to provide “equal opportunity” for people of African
descent, but that was eventually watered down to include all the
so-called “minorities.” The largest benefactors of the new affirmative
action were white women, descendants of the original slave traders and
owners. So again, people of African descent were cheated out of their
proper compensation.

The movement for reparations — financial atonement for enslavement
— has not been able to successfully get off the ground, as have the
movements on behalf of American Japanese and European Jews. There is
strong resistance to this both in and out of Congress. Some feel that
people of African descent are owed nothing. I am not convinced that
just giving lump sum cash payments to millions of people is the answer.
But there is a solution.

I propose Education Free Zones which would allow students of
African descent to attend designated colleges or universities
absolutely free — from freshman to Ph.D. This would include room,
board, books, tuition and class supplies. For instance, all students of
African descent who are qualified could attend Morehouse, Spelman, the
University of California, other universities or college systems in
every state, community colleges, or trade schools, without any
educational-related fees. The duration of this program could coincide
with the number of years that slavery existed in America.

Scholarships and fellowships are not the answer, for they may still
involve some kind of financial burden through student loans. work-study
or partial financial assistance.

Of course, this would not compensate all people of African descent.
But it seems that this proposal would he the best and most fair way to
compensate the descendants of those who were never paid for hundreds of
years of free brutal slave labor I am sure that the millions of
affected parents would much rather see a guaranteed top-notch higher
education for their children than one lump sum cash payment that may
satisfy immediate needs but not guarantee a future for their children.
The budgets for the B-2 bombers and the exploration of Mars alone could
pay the costs.

If this country purports to spread human rights, democracy and
justice all over the world, then there is no better place to start than
right here at home where a huge debt is owed.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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