REPARATIONS AND U. S. CORPORATIONS

By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (February 4, 2000)

It is important that we place the issue of the current discussion of racial profiling in its proper historical context. Racial profiling started in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade where Europeans nations captured millions of Africans in one of the most brutal crimes against humanity in the history of the world.

The issue of racial profiling is an updated use of language that has been part of the western white supremacy system for over four hundred years. That is, target African people whenever, wherever, and for whatever reasons that the white power system deems it necessary at a particular time in history. Now the targeting is centered on "driving while Black."

In Nkombo Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1975 in an article titled, "Black Capital," explained that African peoples "introduced to the West was in the form of a commodity raped from Africa to be used as labor, capital, chattel and currency to build a nation for someone else." In fact, we became the property of the Western Hemisphere, which is the foundation for "racial profiling."

Not only were African people used to build nations such as Portugal, Spain, France, England, and the United States, we were used, in many instances, to build the economic foundations of those countries.

This has been recently documented in the ground breaking research of New York based Attorney Deadria Farmer–Paellman who has added a "new prong to the reparations agenda— political pursuit of corporations and private estates that have been unjustly enriched by slavery."

Attorney Farmer–Paellman completed her law degree in January 1999 when she earned her Jurist Doctorate degree from New England School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts.

Over the past fourteen years, Farmer–Paellman has received significant training as intern law clerk for various community organizations and agencies such as the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Edolphus Towns, State Assemblyman Roger Green, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America / N`COBRA, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

As she describes, "I began my restitution research in the winter of 1997 while a student at the New England School of Law under the supervision of Professor Robert Ward. As an African American descended from slaves, I learned from my grandparents of the nation’s broken promise of forty acres and a mule to emancipated slaves."

Farmer–Paellman said, "I was determined to see delivery on that promise and that prompted me to begin research on the legal case for Black reparations."

Continuing, she said, " I recognized that litigation attempts against the government were being frustrated by procedural hurdles like sovereign immunity and statutes of limitation, and legislative efforts are being blocked by the tabling of bills, I realized a fresh approach was required. That’s when I decided to design a political strategy to encourage corporations and individuals who benefited from slavery to apologize for their role in slavery and pay restitution into a trust fund to benefit the heirs of Africans enslaved in America."

Those of us in the Reparations Movement have always discussed developing a strategy to focus on the private sector side of the reparations issue, but we lacked the resources to focus our research collectively in this area.

Attorney Farmer–Paellman has helped open up new doors for the Reparations Movement. Her research has successfully exposed Aetna Inc., the number one United States life and health insurer in challenging the company to make and unprecedented public apology and restitution payment over profits it made from insuring slaves in America 150 years ago.

Her research reveals that "The life insurance policies, issued in the 1850’s, were one of the first lines of business underwritten by the Hartford, Connecticut— based insurer, which now has 47 million customers worldwide and annual revenues of $26 billion. Payments on the policies were due to slave owners, not the slave’s families."

Further, she says that, "These profits (from slave policies) have helped Aetna to become a multibillion dollar corporation today— they have a moral obligation to apologize and share that wealth with the heirs of the Africans they helped maintain in slavery.

In talking with Farmer–Paellman she indicated that her research has identified at least forty other United States corporations that benefited and are still benefiting from their unjust practices during the slave era.

Thus far, Aetna, Inc. has only chose to deliver on part of their promise by making an unprecedented apology for their role in slavery. However, at this time the official position of Aetna, Inc. is that "they have no plans to pay restitution."

As we continue our work in the Reparations Movement to initiate legislation like the Tulsa 1921 Riot Commission, the East St. Louis Riot of 1917, the Chicago Riot of 1919, and other significant attacks by whites against African people in America, we should now also join forces with researchers like Attorney Farmer–Paellman and demand Aetna, Inc. and other corporations that benefited from the slave trade industry, pay restitution.

At the same time, we must continue our struggle to get Congressman Conyers HR40 Study Reparations Bill passed, while we develop expanding strategies in the Reparations Movement.

It is obvious that we have only scratched the surface of our organizing efforts in the Reparations Movement. Stay tuned!

 
National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)


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