Rep. John Conyers, a civil rights activist and longtime congressman, co-sponsored the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act. (Courtesy photo)
**FILE** John Conyers (Courtesy photo) Credit: Courtesy photo

Ask blacks about the best ways to reduce racial inequality, and you’ll get a plethora of answers based on approaches for reducing racism, but nary a word about getting paid debts owe us from slavery.

Everybody is talking about racism in America, but it’s rare anyone says a word about slavery and debts due us from that crime against humanity. The only man saying anything about the damages incurred on Blacks by slavery was Rep. John Conyers — 30 years ago.

Take a look at the truth: The best approach to reducing racial inequality is to get paid debts owed us from slavery and its aftermath. Advocates of reparations are bidding Conyers farewell and seeking new and vibrant leadership regarding an apology and reparations due us for slavery.

Beginning with more than two centuries of slavery, Black Americans have been deliberately abused in this nation. It’s time for the nation to pay restitution. Conyers was supposed to get “proper payback” for descendants of slaves, but he and other entrenched members of the Congressional Black Caucus spent more time enriching themselves than taking care of their neglected constituents. Conyers pushed civil rights early on, but as he grew older, he fumbled and bumbled on the issue.

Slavery existed in North America for 245 years. Its aftermath is in force to this day; however, contemporary blacks are more enthralled with assimilating in America than justice. Now, let’s say that for generations, your family and families like yours have been damaged by this country’s prejudiced political and economic system — by law and widespread practice, with the intent of benefiting families not like yours — those are the “white privileged” that should pay for slavery and harm it’s done.

Conyers didn’t do a masterful job enabling reparations. Blacks must coalesce around leadership that seeks justice. While most members of the Congressional Black Caucus shy away of legislating and advocating for Blacks’ interests, Rep. Steve Cohen — a white man — is the one most likely to pick up the gauntlet for reparations.

Representing Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District, which includes the western three-fourths of Memphis, Cohen has served that overwhelmingly Black district since 2007 and is Tennessee’s first Jewish congressman. It was not Conyers, but Cohen, that got the House to pass a resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow.

The Black Caucus’ leadership has got America into the shape it’s in. The CBC seeks mainstream district members like Reps. Mia Love from Utah and Will Hurd from the majority-white 23rd District of Texas, while rebuffing Cohen’s attempts to join, though more than 60 percent of the people in his Memphis-based district are black. After Cohen replaced Harold Ford Sr. and Jr. in Congress, he took on more Black issues than the father and son ever had.

Why are blacks resistant to pursue reparations justice? In their political alliances, Blacks dance on heads of snakes, while they eschew legislation to secure reparations. When it comes to pursuing justice and leadership, many blacks are more consumed with seeking affirmation and social acceptance in mainstream America. They should step away from partisan ideologies and tune into more focused activities to get just due.

Sources of prejudice and discrimination are often rooted in particular historical and social contexts, and are shaped by institutional structures and practices. Blacks have bought into the American way of life and its values and traditions. Instead of seeking to be paid, Blacks have bought into “big government” ideologies and tangent.

Forget marches for government funding and assistance. We can get it all — between $6 and $14 trillion — if we organize for proper reparations.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via

William Reed

William Reed is President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Press International. He has been a Media Entrepreneur for over two decades. A well-trained marketing and communications professional, Reed...

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