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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Demand Apology for Slavery, Reparations for Descendants

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

About 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in the United States can expect to die at the hands of police, according to a study published in August 2019 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That makes them 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with police. “If it’s not you being killed by police, it’s someone you know or someone in your community, said Justin Feldman, a social epidemiologist at the New York University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, said the Los Angeles Times.


My tall, strapping teenaged son and I took a crowded train from Nice, France to Monte Carlo a couple of years ago. We were on vacation from our home in Portugal.

I was sitting, and he was standing when two middle-aged Italian women asked him for directions. He answered them.

It made me smile. Why?

Because my son is black. I am a black American, who was born and raised in New York City. I have lived all over the country, where he would not have been approached in this manner. He would not have been approached at all. His presence would have instilled fear, simply, because of the color of his skin.

My son did not realize this because he has not lived in the United States. He expects to be treated as a human being, which is unimaginable in the U.S. Yet, Americans have to imagine that. All of us have to be able to imagine it in order for it to come true.

Demand for justice in the killing by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, of George Floyd, a black man, on May 25 must not be restricted to demand for change in police policy or the criminal justice system.

We have been here before . . . so many times. I am 65. I cannot remember the names of everyone who has fallen to the hands of the police. I can remember dozens of rebellions in the country.

This time, we must take a step toward systemic change, and it is not singing the black spiritual “Kumbaya” with open arms, or educating people about racism and the history of African Americans. We are past this.

First, the national government has to make a heartfelt and formal apology to African Americans. It codified slavery in the Constitution. Therefore, it is only right that it recognizes its complicity and apologizes for it.

A sincere apology would be a morally redemptive act for the descendants of slaves and owners, and all Americans who have inherited a country built by slaves and an unequal socioeconomic structure biased against blacks.

Second, in an effort to reduce the egregious wealth gap, there must be economic reparations, specifically, funds earmarked for education and housing, and savings for children, accessible when they reach age 17, for the same purposes.

Only after an apology and reparations can the United States begin to shed its racist heritage and embrace African Americans as first-class citizens like everyone else.

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