Skip to comments.Tillman isn't helping debate over slave reparations "I want 40 acres and a Lexus."
Posted on 12/08/2003 10:34:00 AM PST by Chi-townChief
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.
Gee, ya think?
Not all African Americans though. Just those who keep yammering on like this: "Tillman and other reparations activists rightly argue that America was built on the backs of black slaves."
America was built on the backs of generations of hard-working Americans of all backgrounds. Pretending slaves did all the building while the rest of America sat back and watched is simply a more genteel version of Tillman's silly statements.
(Unless there are any Greeks, Persians, Chinese, Arabs, Babylonians, Egyptians, etc who still haven't been paid, then they should get paid before me)
All these Johny-Come- Lately's can stand in line until everyone is served in the manner their ancestors were enslaved.
I dispute that. If it were not for history books, blacks would never have known they were slaves. Discrimination has essentially ended over 50 years ago. Yet, today Blacks are significatly behind economically, educationally and based upon nationally standardized testing, they are not measuring up while in elementary school. So, instead of blaming 'Whitey' for everything that has gone wrong, why not look within?
Granted, Blacks were abused. No one is disputing that, but let's ask another question. Are the blacks in the USA better off today than the ones left behind? What about their countrymen who hunted them, and sold them into slavery? What about the fact that this behavior is still going on today?
Paying everyone who is black money, by stealing the money from people who are white is wrong. For example, a significant number of caucasion (ie. whitey) people immigrated to the USA after the civil war. Also, a great deal of blacks have arrived well after slavery was eliminated. So, unless you can show me a living slave, and a living slave owner; IMHO this is nothing more than a shakedown ploy put forth by those who feel that they are entitled to money and property because they are too lazy or uneducated to earn it like everyone else.
Paging Rev Al.
No it wasn't.
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