The topic of reparations for Black American descendants of chattel slavery is continuing to gain momentum in state and local legislatures. Louisville, Kentucky is just one place where the discussion is ramping up. Some area leaders are looking to put actions behind their words.
According to the Courier-Journal, Councilwoman Paula McCraney, D-7th District, and Councilman Jecorey Arthur, D-4th District of the Louisville Metro Council proposed a resolution that would officially cite the city’s support for the H.R. 40 federal reparations bill and a relevant program.
As with many other states, there is passionate support and objections to reparations for Black American descendants of slaves. Here are quotes on reparations from five leaders in Louisville, Kentucky given to the Courier-Journal.
1. Raoul Cunningham, president of NAACP Louisville Branch, on reparations
“You can ask 20 different African Americans and you’ll get 20 different opinions about what reparations should be. There is no general consensus,” Cunningham said. “… But I would not object to McCraney and Arthur introducing legislation because if the government gave me 40 acres and a mule, I wouldn’t know what the hell to do with the mule.”
He added that while he knew getting reparations policy approved was “going to be a legislative fight … Just about every aspect of American life could be included in the broad concept of reparations, and I think that’s the reason I lean toward a commission to study it.”
2. Kathleen Parks, Jefferson County commissioner, professor and president of the National Action Network Louisville Chapter
“We’ve got to recognize slavery was a lucrative business. As brutal as it was, it was a business, and it made a lot of corporations and businesses rich, and it made America rich,” Parks said. “We’re not asking for a handout. We’re asking for a leg up that our descendants earned.”
She added, “we want white people to be involved and to support our pathway for economic reparations,” noting cash payments were “useless” unless accompanied by “mechanisms where our community can create a Black Wall Street, so to speak, and create opportunities to build generations of wealth that were lost under slavery.”
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3. Marcus Ray, president of NAACP Kentucky State Conference, on reparations
“The federal government is the only person around today that was in existence when slavery was taking place,” Ray said. “I would not be in favor of looking into your business background. … I think that’s why so many people are hesitant when the term reparations is mentioned. … I think people are less defensive when you’re not pointing the finger at someone but only at the U.S. government.”
4. Pastor James Elliott, founder and chairman of Descendants of American Slaves Ministerial Alliance (DASMA)
“(Slaves) made up the largest single financial asset for the United States,” Elloitt said in an email. “And this asset (was) accomplished by torture, rape, child trafficking and other inhumane acts against the American slaves.
“Our ancestors, American slaves, worked 246 years without a ‘paycheck,’” Elloitt continued. “The debt is owed by America and should be paid to the Descendants of American Slaves as reparations. With reparations to Descendants of American Slaves, America will prove to the world that she is now ready to let ‘Judgement roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream’… so that all of God’s children can sing together: ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty. We are free at last!’”
5. Dereck Barber, vice president of American Slaves Inc., on reparations
“Reparations is not a stimulus package. Reparations is America taking responsibility and cleaning up a lot of the mistakes of the past,” Barber said. “Ultimately what descendants of American slaves need is the opportunity to compete and to grow businesses.
“A lot of times, they give us just enough to fail … and then we’re back to singing the same song that we need more support,” Barber continued. “It’s a matter of we want to be able to function in the American society as real citizens and not as second class or minority citizens. We’ve earned it.”