One 50th Anniversary Commemoration Speaker Missed His Mark in Arguing for Reparations
There were many fine and inspiring speakers among the legions of speakers commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, but at least one speaker missed his mark.
In making the case for Blacks to be paid reparations for being enslaved, one of the speakers said, "If Indians got reservations, African Americans need reparations." Excuse me? Come again? I wanted to believe that I had not heard correctly, but research has confirmed that the statement indeed was made. What an ignorant, painful statement. The pain and shame of the statement were exacerbated by the fact that the statement was made at a commemoration that was designed to seek justice and jobs for all, irrespective or ethnic background.
Indians/Native Americans are on reservations because their land was stolen from them, and they were herded like cattle onto reservations. Many, if not most, Indians/Native Americans do not view living on reservations as a cause for celebration or consider their being forced onto reservations as just compensation for the taking of their land. There is an abundance of research and commentaries that demonstrate there is little reason to celebrate living on reservations. Indians/Native Americans living on reservations have been described as impoverished and living in conditions that create distress among tribe members. In fact, living conditions on reservations have been described as comparable to the conditions in Third World countries. An article in Forbes Magazine in 2011, examining why Indian reservations are so poor, noted that many of America's poorest one percent live on reservations (http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoppisch/2011/1213/why-are-indian-reservations-so-poor-a-look-at-the-bottom-1). Among other articles addressing the current living conditions on reservations are: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/03/33/1759661/sequestration-indian-reservations-schools/; http://www.nrcprograms.org (discussion by the American Indian Relief Council on living conditions on reservations).
In seeking to make the case for payment of reparations to Blacks, one must be careful not to make totally inappropriate comparisons. The grievous wrong done to an entire nation of people is not a sound basis to argue for paying reparations to Blacks. I am one of many Blacks who believe Indians/Native Americans have not been treated fairly, and that they deserve reparations. It pains me to have heard a statement, simplistic though it is, that attempts to justify the payment of reparations to Blacks by saying, "Indians got reservations." More is expected of speakers who have a national platform, especially when that platform is all about universal justice.