Volume 7, Number 3                                          December 1, 2003

The Farmer

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"Preparations for Reparations"

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad

The Ministry of Agriculture for the Nation of Islam sponsored a "Preparations for Reparations" conference in Atlanta on November 28, 2003. Representatives from 12 cities and 8 states came together to share experiences of nation building in their respective cities. Each city gave a report on the development of market outlets for Black farmers. Experiences ranged from starting small buyer coops stationed at the local farmers market to door to door sells of produce to the elderly. Some of the cities are preparing to graduate to permanent store front operations, while others are gathering information on the organizational structures to use in their business endeavors. All of these activities go into preparing a nation of people for the eventual responsibilities associated with freedom in deed.

The members of this group represented a wide range of skills and expertise such as agricultural economics, entrepreneurship, farming, food science, agricultural engineering, sales management, distribution, restaurant management, construction, transportation, law enforcement, event logistics, baking, auto mechanics and insurance. This group will be the core group to develop strategies and programs that will build an infrastructure needed for the production, processing and distribution of food and fiber for the 40 million or more Black people in America. Such an infrastructure is needed for the economic development of the black community whether or not the US government decides to fulfill its promise of "40 acres and a mule", or deliver on some other type of reparations scheme.

Reparations is being talked about today more than ever, or at least is getting more attention by the media. Why after all these years is the media finally giving this idea a public hearing? After slavery Blacks were promised "40 acres and a mule" which they never got. Back in the early 1900ís Black people tried to get reparations for income stolen from them through discriminatory wage policies set up with the "Jim Crow" legislation of the 1890ís and early 1900ís, but were shot down, literally. At that time they had over 15 million acres of land and had developed all Black towns and business districts such as "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Okla. where the US government used airplanes to bomb that part of Tulsa.

Almost 400 years after being brought to America as slaves, America finally decided to strike down some of its Jim Crow laws and set up the legal framework for school integration in 1954. Why? The Honorable Elijah Muhammad warned Black people that integration was the last trick of white people to keep Black people from doing for self. Because of segregation, Black people, then called "Negroes", had developed a separate economy with their own schools, businesses and even hospitals. I was born in a "Negro" hospital in 1951 in Winston-Salem, NC.  In the 50ís and 60ís, when we were "Negroes", I used to travel from one side of Winston-Salem to the other on a "Negro" bus line, "Safe Bus Co.".

If we, "Negroes", were given monetary reparations in the 1950ís or 60ís instead of "integration", we could have used that money to expand our businesses so that they could compete in capital development with their white rivals. If we were given land, we could have added that resource into the millions of acres that we already owned at that time. We also had a large pool of experienced farmers to operate such large tracts of land. But instead they offered "Negroes" a false hope of being integrated into the American Dream.

But now we, Black people, who live in the cities are selling off our inherited land because we can not make a profit farming the land. So now many Blacks donít even want land as a part of reparations.

If large sums of money are given to individual Black families, it all will be dissipated in a short period of time. According to 1997 Census data, for every dollar ($1) that goes to Black owned firms $259 goes to mostly white owned firms with a few dollars going to other ethnic groups. This means that if cash reparations are passed out to Blacks, 99.996% of that money will wind up in the hands of other than Black immediately. Blacks would wind up owning some type of depreciable asset, without adding to any wealth producing assets that would generate future income streams.

On the other hand, the white owners of the firms reaping this windfall of sells will have an opportunity to expand their operations here in America or simply take those profits and reinvest them in Europe where many of them are already establishing business relationships and even dual citizenship. And since the US government is already deeply in debt, it would have to borrow money against somebodyís future to pay out such reparations.

Now who will be left to pay off this newly generated debt. Demographers project that black and brown skinned people will eventually be in the majority in the US. This means that the government along with its debt will fall into the hands of this non-white majority. But if white people have successfully relocated the productive assets of America to Europe and now as Europeans are the lien holders on Americaís debt, then the new majority will be stuck with repaying such loans without the economic "engine" to generate the needed capital. America would then be like many "Third World Countries" deeply in debt to international money lenders who force these governments to cut back on services and infrastructure development for its citizens. Get the picture? Please read Engineered Extinction by William F. Jasper to see how America is being sapped of her productive resources.

This is why it is important for Blacks to pool their resources and talents at this time to develop income generating businesses to employ their own and establish a productive base for the inevitability of self-rule and responsibility which awaits us. If this government gives reparations, we need an infrastructure to properly utilize it. If this government does not give reparations, we still need to develop a productive economic infrastructure to replace the white businesses as they move their ownership and income flows back to Europe. According to the demographic trends, balance of trade deficits and migration trends, we will be separated whether we, as Blacks, like it or not. The only question that remains is whether we will be in a separate land of our "own" ready to produce and take care of ourselves, or just poor people piled together in the future America owned by absentee landlords.