*This series is now the basis of a short book entitled “New America: The case for a different form of reparations.” All proceeds will be donated to East Cleveland schools or a similar cause.
We all saw the homicide. Eight minutes and 46 seconds. Officer Derek Chauvin, with his hands in his pockets and looking into a camera, calmly and coldly pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck until his life was gone.
Almost everyone agrees it was a horrific and unjustified killing. Almost everyone agrees it was correct to arrest the officers involved and bring criminal charges, including murder charges for Chauvin.
So why is our nation completely divided, one half arguing with the other? Why is the country convulsing over the issue of race and racism? How do we even begin to reach common ground? And what can we really do about it all?
The “right” says Floyd’s killing doesn’t prove racism in the system. They say it was a criminal act by a bad officer who is facing the justice process. They also point out the Black crime and homicide rates, showing that Black people are being killed at an alarming rate. They refer to this as “Black on Black” crime. If the movement is led by Black Lives Matter, they say, then what about all the Black lives lost to homicide every day across the country?
The “left” says Floyd’s killing was just one example of the racism and violence Black people continually suffer at the hands of police. They say that pointing out the Black homicide rates is an effort to distract from the real issue of police violence, that pointing it out is essentially a racist trope, and that the crime rates are not materially disproportionate. They further explain that the reason for the outrage in the context of police killing Black people is that, unlike regular citizens, the police rarely have to face any consequences.
These arguments go in circles over and over every day on tv, in the news, and every second on facebook and twitter.
They are going nowhere because neither side acknowledges the whole truth.
It’s a shameful truth.
The truth is America is a post-slavery state. Slavery and the post-slavery state are at the root of disparities for Black people in America with regard to essentially every basic category of life, including homicide rates. The “right” needs to acknowledge this, and acknowledge the devastating impact this history has when police continue to kill Black people. The “left” needs to acknowledge that the disparities include homicide rates.
Only then can we have common ground on some basic but critical points, including that something has to be done about the disparities and about Black people getting killed in America. Yes, reforms in policing and the justice system are needed. But we need a solution that goes to the heart of it all: The utter theft and prevention of Black wealth throughout our history, including governmentally endorsed “redlining” of Black communities where we continue to see the greatest poverty and crime rates today. (The value of successive generations of enslaved Black people has been estimated at $16 trillion.)
The real solution is reparations — but not the type you think. Not just checks to Black people. We need community-focused reparations in the form of billions of dollars in funds, grants, and incentivized private investment into the very areas that were redlined (and areas like them) that have such high rates of poverty and crime. We have to fix the wealth disparity that arose from our history of slavery and our post-slavery state. Wealth affects other disparities — education, health, and crime. We can eliminate the disparities that are rooted in our post-slavery state and make these areas safe and prosperous, just as they should have been all along. That benefits all of society.
It’s time for a new, prosperous, and unified America.
Summary of Contents
This series is divided into two main parts: The Facts and The Discussion. Both sections have three chapters. Chapters 1–3 (the facts) present the history of our country, with an emphasis on Black wealth throughout. Chapters 4–6 (the discussion) show the truth about our nation today, how we can recognize that truth to reach common ground, and how we should move forward together to a new, prosperous America.
Facts (Chapters 1–3)
Floyd’s America — Chapter 1: The United States of Slavery (1619–1865).
A nation built on the enslavement and theft of Black people.
Floyd’s America — Chapter 2: The Post-Slavery State (1865–2020).
A nation of violence and prevention of Black wealth.
Floyd’s America — Chapter 3: Disparity & Homicide in Our Post-Slavery State.
Black people are getting killed.
Discussion (Chapters 4–6)
Floyd’s America — Chapter 4: Links in the Chain from Slavery to Disparity & Homicide Today.
Slavery is at the root of disparity and symbolized in police brutality.
Floyd’s America — Chapter 5: Recognition of the Post-Slavery State and Common Ground.
We can recognize the truth and move past the distractions.