Emancipation 2013: Who Will Pay Reparations For My Soul?


By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 16 August 8, 2013 

Runaway Slave Advertisements:

“A wealthy man here had a boy named Reuben, almost white, whom he caused to be branded in the face with the words; ‘A slave for life.’”  (St. Louis Gazette 6th November, 1845)

“A negro man who says his name is Josiah, that he belongs to Mr. John Martin, living in Louisiana, twenty miles below Nathchez. Josiah is five feet eight inches high, heavy built, copper colour; his back very much scarred with the whip, and branded on the thigh and hips in three or four places thus: ‘J.M.’ The rim of his right ear has been bitten or cut off. He is about 31 years of age.” (Mississippi Gazette 23rd July, 1836)

On Sunday, March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II, at the Day of Pardon Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, offered an apology for the wrongdoings of the Roman Catholic Church over the past 2000 years.

He told Catholics that though they are not responsible for errors they did not commit, they can seek forgiveness for the Church, for past “sins in the service of truth.”

In other words, the “errors” of the Church; the religiously sanctioned enslavement of Africans and the genocide and slaughter of Indigenous people and appropriation of their land, wealth, books, writings, and sacred and historical artifacts – that facilitated the Church and Europe to wax rich, were not deliberate, but collateral damage in spreading the gospel.

Since believers didn’t have to accept responsibility, I was hoping Pope John Paul II would say who did. Then I’d know who to go to — to seek reparations for my soul. John Paul never did.

The media applauded John Paul, calling his stance brave, and one for the history books — and stayed silent about reparations for my soul. Business got into the act, releasing limited edition collections of stamps featuring John Paul.

Each collection came with an individual numbered Certificate of Authenticity attesting to its special edition status. To give the veneer of legitimacy, some collections were advertised as released by the African Republic of Guinea.

Pope John Paul II “Pardon Mass” was nothing but sham, and pure politics.

Towards the end of 1999, the United Methodist Commission said that it intended to engage in a Liturgical Act of Repentance in 2001, for the rampant racism towards their African American brethren, which led them to break organizational ties and form their own church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1816, and is the oldest Black church in America. If Pope John Paul II was serious about confessing the sin of “compromising the unity of Christ,” he would’ve dealt with doctrinal error, for that is what caused the division of the Church. But his “Pardon Mass” was about reclaiming lost non-white and discriminated against sheep, and to use the established presence of the Church to upstage the Methodists.

Even so, according to Catholic teachings, when one confesses, the wrong-doer has to do some kind of penance for ‘Pardon” to be activated. Penance is the temporal punishment for sin. So what was the penance for the Church in its confessions of “wrongs committed against immigrants, gypsies and the weak?” Nothing!

What did the Church promised to make the people it wronged whole; the millions consigned to the terrors of hell on earth? Absolutely nothing! The Church didn’t care, want to repair — pay restitution — reparations for my soul. For them, the apology was sufficient unto itself.

Montreal Gazette’s Brian Kappler, in attacking the “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,” that was taking place in Durban, South Africa, Aug.31-Sept.7, 2001, extrapolated that it “…is part of the bizarre world-wide movement to demand compensation-from the U.S. government, mainly – for the evils of slavery 200 and even 300 years ago.”

In heaping coals upon the aforementioned conference, George Jonas opinion piece in the September 9, 2001, Gazette, was: “Reparations not warranted for slavery of bygone eras.” In January 2001, David Horowitz’s “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks – and Racist Too” appeared in Front Page Magazine.

Jews have no problems seeking redress – and more redress, even from the “cousins” of anyone or industry involved in the Holocaust.

In November 2007, Israeli Minister for Pensioner Affairs Rafi Eitan issued a statement seeking to reopen and renegotiate the 1952 reparations agreement between Israel and Germany. Israel wanted more money.

In July 2007, thousands of offspring of Holocaust survivors initiated a new lawsuit against Germany, claiming that the trauma suffered by their parents affected them as well. They needed reparations from Germany to pay for their psychiatric treatment.

Jews, in framing the Holocaust as the most heinous crime ever committed against humanity, have white folks so laced with guilt, none dare say: “At what point in time does Germany stop paying for the sins of Hitler?” But, as if a statute of limitations exists for crimes against Black humanity, opposition to paying reparations for my soul remains constant.

In his September 10, 2000, review of Elazar Barkan’s book: “The Guilt Of Nations Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices,” for the New York Times, Michael Ignatieff, the former leader of the Canadian Liberal Party made the point that “the past, however painful, must be faced, and wrongs must be paid for. And societies that do so-and pay the price-are healthier and more decent places for doing so.” A message that went over Kappler, Jonas, and Horowitz heads. The trio are also Jews.

Kappler’s invoking of “bizarre” in regards to reparations is exceedingly offensive. The movement to seek reparations isn’t something new. It didn’t start yesterday, and it wasn’t started by a Black man. The call for Reparations stated when the injury of slavery was still fresh.

The Hon. Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania (Republican) was the person who initiated the move for reparation.

On March 19, 1867, in a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives, Stevens declared that no Southern state should be readmitted into the union until the ex-slaves were treated equally both in law and in practice.

Stevens also introduced the Reparation Bill: Taking land away from plantation owners and giving the former slaves; each adult male or head of family forty acres of land, with $100 to build a dwelling. Thus, the “40 acres and a mule” that African Americans believe is their rightful due.

For all of the perception of Canada’s racial kindness; slavery — the enslavement of Africans and Indians, existed on is shores, and there were never any niceties in its execution. Slavery in Canada was abolished on August 1, 1834.

Colonialism was an evil that shaped, reshaped and damaged the lives of millions of people, as well as the economies of many of countries. Colonialism and African enslavement set in motion crimes against humanity, and its repercussions are still in play today.

African enslavement brought prosperity and industry to nations, wealth, fame and fortune to merchants, planters, bankers, the penniless, industrialists, and others.

The slave business allowed huge numbers of families to obtain wealth, property, titles of nobility, class status, leadership roles, access to the political machinery, and to build political and economic dynasties.

The slave business contributed directly to the industrial revolution in Europe and America and to the rise of capitalism – while it impoverished and devastated Africa, colonies, and lives of non-whites.

Justice is yet to be served. To quote Bob Marley: “Mi no know how me an dem a work it out.” But reparations have to be worked out. Someone has to pay reparations for my soul.


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