For Everything There is a Season
With the debate about reparations for African Americans heating up in the past few years, we decided a few months ago that it was time for Black Issues to examine this hot-button issue. It is a debate that is not just confined to the Black community. The reparations discussion has spread to college campuses where students and scholars have been quite vocal about this age-old debate.
Many college students got a lesson in Reparations 101 earlier this year when David Horowitz ran a full-page advertisement during Black History Month titled “Ten Reasons Reparations is a Bad Idea, and Racist Too,” in several campus newspapers. If his goal was to stir up debate and a little bit of controversy, he succeeded.
The Horowitz ad provoked protests and debates. Students criticized not only Horowitz for placing the ad, but criticized their college newspapers for running it. For example, student activists at Ivy League Brown University trashed 4,000 copies of their student newspaper for running the ad; and approximately 200 Duke University students staged a sit-in on campus protesting the student newspaper’s decision to publish the advertisement.
On such campuses as the University of California at Berkeley and University of California at Davis — just two of the schools that ran the ad — apologies were later expressed to their respective student bodies. Berkeley said it had been used as an “an inadvertent vehicle of bigotry.” However, some student newspaper editors said they ran the ad in the spirit of free speech and open debate.
Reparations is one of those volatile issues that provokes great emotion. Everyone has an opinion about whether Black people “deserve” some form of compensation for their involuntary servitude.
The Bush administration knew reparations was a volatile issue and opted not to send a high-level delegation to the U.N.’s World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in August. The administration was criticized by Black leaders, human rights advocates and others for saying they would not attend the conference if the “backwards” debate on reparations was going to be discussed. Black leaders accused the United States of hiding behind the “Middle East issue” — citing concerns of the conference becoming an anti-Israel forum — to avoid conference themes of racism and slavery. With slavery being such a painful part of this country’s past, many wondered how the United States could not send a high-level delegation.
However, events in South Africa and more recently the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, have not discouraged people such as former TransAfrica leader and author-activist Randall Robinson and scholars such as Columbia’s Dr. Manning Marable, Harvard’s Charles Ogletree and Fisk University’s Dr. Ray Winbush from moving the reparations debate forward. Senior writer Ronald Roach talks with these scholars, Robinson, and several others in his article “Moving Toward Reparations,” (see pg. 20).
It is appropriate that this edition of Black Issues coincides with International Education Week Nov. 12-16. It is supposed to be an opportunity to celebrate and promote foreign exchanges and study abroad programs. And although many campuses have celebratory events planned, as Karen Jenkins, president of Brethren Colleges Abroad, writes in her article, the attacks “could call into question the validity of welcoming foreign students and scholars to study at colleges and universities across the nation and our ability to attract students to study and travel abroad.”
Karen talks to two professors who are more determined than ever to encourage students to go abroad even post Sept. 11. These professors realize that perhaps the only way to eliminate acts of racism, ignorance, hatred and feelings of disenfranchisement is for people to truly understand and appreciate people and cultures other than their own.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com