Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com) - Thousands of blacks rallied in Washington Saturday in support of reparations for past slavery, joining Nation of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan and shouting "They owe us!"
"We're not asking white people [for reparations]," said Farrakhan, who headlined the 'Millions for Reparations Mass Rally'. "We are demanding what is justly ours."
Farrakhan also urged enlisted military personnel to not fight for the U.S. should an armed strike against Iraq be initiated, and called for the ceding of land to black Americans.
The Nation of Islam minister told the predominantly black, pro-reparations crowd that "reparations is a proper theme around which all black America should and must unite."
Farrakhan believes the U.S. government should issue reparations to black Americans as compensation for past slavery in the United States, saying "our pocketbooks" need repair.
By his account, blacks need "payment for the destruction of our minds; the robbery of our language, our culture, our history, our religion, our God, our self-dignity, and our self-worth."
However, Farrakhan said, "We cannot accept a cash payment because a fool and his money will soon part." Instead, he advocated the transfer of "millions" of acres of land from the U.S. government to African Americans.
Farrakhan explained that blacks live in an America that is a "nation within a nation." The America that blacks inhabit, he said, does not enjoy "true freedom, justice and equality" from white America.
"As a nation within a nation, we need land as a basis of economic and political independence," Farrakhan said. "We cannot settle for some little jive token - we need millions of acres of land that black people can build and use for ourselves."
Farrakhan said his "just demand" for building a black nation on American soil would reward blacks for their service in the United States military.
He concluded his brief 15-minute speech urging blacks, Hispanics and "poor whites" enlisted in the military not to support or fight in any military attack that President Bush may unleash upon Iraq.
"I don't think we need to fight in the white man's army," Farrakhan said. "Our fight is in America against the recalcitrance of white supremacy, and we shall win this fight because it's a just struggle."
Socialist Agrees With Farrakhan on Reparations
"There should be restitution for the crimes of slavery," said John Coursey, a representative of Solidarity, a group that describes itself as a "revolutionary, socialist, democratic, feminist, anti-racist organization." He claimed that much of the inequalities that exist in American society today can be traced back to slavery.
Coursey acknowledges that slavery was outlawed in the U.S. more than a century ago, but laws and segregation continued to oppress blacks well into the 1970s and still do so today.
He believes corporations operating in America today should also pay reparations to blacks for the hardships of their ancestors decades and centuries ago.
"Specifically, I think the money should come from corporations that have built their power today from exploiting and oppressing black people," Coursey said. "Look at the people that have wealth who have actually exploited slavery and benefited from it."
Coursey said a reparations payout to blacks would act to balance America's "widely unequal" distribution of wealth.
Green Party Rep Compares Slavery to Holocaust
"If Germany could apologize for its crimes against gypsies and the Jews, why can't this country begin to do some apology and soul searching about what it's done to the American Indians and black people," asked David Barrows, a protestor representing the D.C. Statehood Green Party.
Slavery reparations are an official policy of the Green Party nationwide and the D.C. Statehood Green Party, Barrows said.
Barrows believes that compensating blacks is a great opportunity for the U.S. government to make a "clean break" from its oppressive past. "Reparations is a good start," he said.
"The country has to say, 'We committed crimes against humanity against a major part of our people, and we do not want to be a part of this exploitation,'" Barrows said.
E-mail a news tip to Michael L. Betsch.
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