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Hope and the Central Contradiction

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Message Ida Hakim

A Message to Our Fellow 'Whites' upon the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.


From the Executive Board of Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation.


People of all races, ages, ethnicities and nationalities are celebrating today with high hopes for the Obama Administration. They look for their own best selves within the Illinois Senator, asking him to change what is wrong with America and rescue a way of life they believe was founded upon worthy ideals.


In our own lifetimes, we've seen that those who work for a more just future do sometimes experience a step forward. When we come together, resolute in putting our lives on the line to effect change, change has been possible. Many now see the election of Barack Obama as one of those successes. It is a bold step, one that many of us did not imagine we would live to see.


However bold, it's not the arrival of the 'post-racial world' as our TVs would have us believe. The ideology of white supremacy -- the idea that white people are 'more human' than others -- was built into our Constitution, and continues to be part of our lives. It is as blatant as the untimely deaths of African-Americans years before their white counterparts, and as insidious as subtle images in the media. It is as powerful as the tenfold difference in wealth between black families and white ones.


Yet many of us 'whites' cannot imagine what step we could take to end this legacy -- just as once most of us could not imagine an end to Jim Crow, or even an end to slavery, that did not seem to invite chaos and social disorder.


As we have in the past, we can look to the black community for an idea of how to proceed. When no one could see an end to slavery, enslaved Africans found their own ways to undermine it and bring it to crisis. When Jim Crow seemed like a permanent fixture, the black-led Freedom Movement brought it down.


The long-standing movement for slavery reparations, deeply rooted in Black America, is a next step that directly reflects the noble ideals of liberty and equality. Reparations can bring the change that so many hunger for to complete our unfinished American Revolution.


The financial institutions that today clamor for $700+ billion bailouts are heirs of those that financed slaving ships and plantations and insured the human 'property'. The desire of the landed to increase their family wealth framed the desire of children of peasants to enslave Africans and 'settle' Native people from their land. It seems that every issue we face today, if we do so honestly, returns us to the central contradiction: a country that values freedom and liberty has been built on stolen land by enslaved peoples.


The reality is that we cannot save ourselves by saving only our family or 'our kind.'  Facing global risks, we must learn we are one humanity sharing one planet, and act with the morality and mutual respect that requires.


The good feeling that many enjoy as we watch Barack Obama take office is only a taste of what we could know if we worked to transform not just today's changing of the guard, but the underlying direction of the nation over which he now presides.


The righteous demand for reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans is key to this re-direction. It deserves our support, not our dismissal. Indeed, it would be far better to dismiss the propaganda of those made fat by exploitation, and seek instead a path for redeeming the soul of our nation.


We call on young people, particularly, to make this the challenge of your generation.  Just as generations before you ended Jim Crow and the war on the Vietnamese people, now you can end this nation's war on people of color, both at home and abroad. Real repair of the damage done by the system of white supremacy would inaugurate not just one man, but a transformed world.


Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation is an organization of white Americans and their allies, which supports and advocates reparations proposals put forward by Black leaders. In the organization's Statement of Beliefs, the group calls "upon the families of the white American aristocracy that directly benefited from slavery to voluntarily pay their fair share of the reparations debt with wealth gained from slavery, the slave trade, and slavery related enterprises." The organization is led by Ida Hakim, CEO. Your comments are welcome at

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Ida Hakim is the founder and CEO of Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation (CURE). Ms. Hakim co-authored and edited CURE's latest anthology, "The Debtors: Whites Respond to the Call for Black Reparations." She also co-authored and edited (more...)
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