Skip to comments.Tillman isn't helping debate over slave reparations
Posted on 12/08/2003 5:01:11 AM PST by Holly_P
While the debate over slave reparations has merit, it will never be taken seriously with advocates like Dorothy Tillman at the helm.
As is her wont, Tillman's antics undermine her own causes. Take her reaction to the admission by the international investment firm Lehman Brothers. The firm announced last month that the three brothers who founded the firm's predecessor purchased a slave named Martha in the 1850s. Lehman 'fessed up, thanks to an ordinance, championed by Tillman, that mandates all city contractors attest to whether they ever participated in America's slave trade.
Of the 2,000 companies that have filed affidavits, Lehman Brothers is the first to disclose a slavery connection. Lehman, which co-manages a $145 million O'Hare Airport bond issue, said historical records do not indicate that the brothers owned any other slaves or used them in their business.
Tillman and other reparations activists rightly argue that America was built on the backs of black slaves. The landmark ordinance has opened up a vital debate over whether today's society should be accountable for slavery, and its meaning in the context of American history.
From my perch, that's a good start.
Enter Tillman, the 3rd Ward alderman who, in a tumultuous two decades in the Chicago City Council, has become best known for pronouncements as colorful as her copious collection of hats.
Once again, ''The Hat'' did not disappoint. She attacked Carole Brown, an African-American senior vice president at Lehman, for saying that ''the Lehman Brothers in the 1850s is not the company that it is today.''
''She should have kept her mouth shut and said, 'I'm not going to speak against my people,'" she told Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman.
''Who is she to say that things have changed?'' Tillman ranted. ''Things have not changed. The economy for blacks in this country is just as bad as it was under Jim Crow.''
Tillman is demanding that Brown either apologize to the black community for her grave insult or resign from her position as chairwoman of the CTA board. ''If she's that insensitive as an African-American woman not to understand the effects and residues of slavery, she certainly can't represent us on the CTA board.'' In other words, Brown is a lackey for whitey.
Brown has wisely stayed mum. The Harvard-educated executive is by all accounts a sharp and savvy professional. While I have never met her, anyone on the receiving end of Tillman's vacuous rhetoric can't be all bad.
A good thing about the reparations discussion is that it forces us to confront our legacy of slavery, America's dirtiest laundry.
But Tillman is not interested in productive debate, only in grandstanding and name calling. It's always been her way or no way. You are either with her or a traitor to the race.
And it's intellectually dishonest to say that the economic realities for black folks haven't improved since the 1850s. The scars of slavery persist today, but the fact that a Carole Brown exists says volumes about how far we have come.
Tillman is not alone. During the debate over the reparations law, 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin voiced her support by declaring, ''I want 40 acres and a Lexus. You can keep the mule.''
These kinds of remarks make African Americans look like a bunch of operators trying to hustle our way into making an easy buck out of a national tragedy.
Perhaps Tillman could instead turn her short attention span to the needs of her own ward, one of the poorest in the city.
The racial wounds of slavery are real. But as long as the reparations debate is framed around pointless posturing and pandering, they will never be redressed.
Guaranteed. Or I'll eat Tillman's hat.
Wonder if I could get Jesse to take up my cause.
What a crock - Name one bridge, building, mine, factory, industry or invention that was built on the backs of slaves. They were used mostly in agriculture and partly because it was alot cheaper if an Irish mic fell off a bridge to his death than if a slave you own died on "the job".
After reading your profile page I suspect that you should qualify for something, but I suspect that it's not reparations.
The racial wounds of slavery are real. But as long as the reparations debate is framed around pointless posturing and pandering, they will never be redressed."
Those "wounds" were first begun in Africa, where those "ancestors" sold their brothers and sisters into slavery and murdered those who wouldn't submit. Racism and slavery's evils were far more vicious there than anywhere else on the globe. Reparations - if any - should begin in Africa, but then, that wouldn't afford an easy hustle, would it?
Possibly a B.S. award of some sort?
My only flaw - forgetfulness.
(I am joking folks, don't flame my butt today, I aint in the mood for it - Catch me tomorrow)
Who is going to tell the Hispanics that they will have to pay for the Blacks reparations.
In no other country do balcks have the opportunity that they receive in the United States.
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