Nas – I Can

It’s time for us to invest in our young people! Too many young folk dropping out of school, too many young folk that don’t believe in their own gifts and talents, too many young folk with demoralized and beat down psyches. While I think we must continue to address the wealth disparities that exist, we need to do much work in the psychological and spiritual realm.

How do we begin to restore what was stripped from the black community in America through 400 years of inhumane slavery, jim crow laws, lynching, segregation, brutality, stereotypes, and hatred?


  1. DR · January 16, 2010

    Charity is people giving generously to Haiti. Justice is France paying Haiti for the free slave labor it received & benefited from.

    I’ve been thinking about this allot and now I can ask for help…
    I’m going to write a book.
    Title: “How much do I owe and to whom do I make out the check?”

    I’ve owned a few businesses in my life and in my business life as well as in my private life – My God and my creditors get paid first before I do.

    So, when it comes to reparations – let’s get it down to a personal level for a change.
    Help me with a few of the questions I have:
    – My wife is of French decent on her mother’s side. How much does that effect how much she owes?
    – Since African Americans (AM) are in fact Americans, are they responsible for reparations to the Japanese who were interned during WWII in America by Americans and would that offset what is owed to them?
    – Harry Reid’s comment about Barack Obama rang true. Barack was light skinned enough to be elected. This being the case, if a light skinned AM gets a job when a darker skinned AM was more or equally qualified and denied – how much does the lighter skinned AM owe?
    – How much are lighter skinned AM’s responsible world wide when their darker skinned brothers suffer and they don’t help them?
    – I’ve been paying taxes since I started working back in 1972. Those taxes have been used to pay for the education of many in grammar and high school and college through Pell grants. My taxes have also gone for welfare, food stamps, government sponsored housing, shelters, medicaid, medicare, re-education programs, community services…. How does this affect how much I owe?
    – I’ve volunteered my time to help those less fortunate than me both here and abroad, does this affect how much I owe?
    – I’m part Irish. Am I due anything for my ancestors having suffered at the hands of the British or does the fact that I’m also part English cancel that out?
    – Do AM’s who are part white owe anything if the relationship that created them was consensual?

    I want this book to be able to provide the formula for every person to use in order to figure out how much they owe and to whom because while this argument stays on the level of “us and them” it continues forever. If I can get it to a personal level the world of individuals can know for a fact what they as individuals owe. Help me, please. I know there are some critical thinkers out there who can help me. I’m sure there are others like myself out there who actually want this to be resolved.

  2. BS · January 18, 2010

    I wonder if the “how much do I owe” formula actually loses sight of the concept of justice. The winners and losers in contemporary American society are clearly defined, in fact, the disparity increases daily as the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer. By trying to devise an actual number of reparations owed, one might easily forget that justice is more than just giving someone money, it’s challenging and perhaps overturning the system that allows injustice to occur.

    Let me give an example. I work in a field dominated by white males (in fact, the field is pretty much the study of dead white men). I think part of my role as a champion of justice includes (but is not limited to) promoting people groups traditionally excluded from my field. That’s more than putting a numerical value on how much I owe to women or minorities, it involves actively promoting minorities in my field and pushing for more diversity in the workplace. Might that cost me money in the long run? Sure, but that’s hardly the point.

  3. DR · January 18, 2010

    “… justice is more than just giving someone money, it’s challenging and perhaps overturning the system that allows injustice to occur. ”

    I do not disagree

    In my first note I was dealing with the original quote which was about the money issue . Now that you have expanded the issue I wonder if there are concrete proposals to be had.

    I would just like to say that I don’t agree that a “nation” is to be held responsible for the monetary reparations since nations are made up of people groups who were never responsible for the original infractions. For example: I doubt very much that the East Asian groups prevalent in the US today ever had anything to do with black slavery. It would be as unfair as the original wrong to expect them and others like them to pay.

    That being said, when it comes to challenging or overturning a national system that allows for injustice I am totally on board because it would help everyone in the end.

    So, can I ask that we keep the monetary reparations individualized and allow the policies to be nationalized ?

    • BS · January 19, 2010

      DR, I agree with you, but I would push back just a bit regarding your final question. Your question, at least as far as I understand it, suggests that policies and money are separate entities. Unfortunately, that often isn’t the case. When we look at the disparity in opportunities for good education in this country, money plays a central role, as the middle class moves into “better” neighborhoods and leaves the poor to fend for themselves, as it were. Since the tax base of many cities is shrinking, urban schools have less money to dedicate to education and as a result minority children suffer. I don’t think the answer to this problem is to find out “who’s to blame.” Rather, I think it requires men and women of conscience to stand up and oppose systems like this. Might opposing educational injustice include higher taxes of those who “aren’t to blame”? Sure, it might. Is that unfair? I would suggest it’s unfair only in so far as one views money as the bottom line. I think humanity and justice should trump people’s pension plans.

      I didn’t read Drew’s initial question as primarily about money. He does after all write, “While I think we must continue to address the wealth disparities that exist, we need to do much work in the psychological and spiritual realm.” I’m not qualified to suggest ways to address either the psychological or spiritual needs of oppressed people groups, but I do agree with the statement.

      When it comes to these amazingly complex issues, one of the things I notice is how often the “I gave at work” mentality of justice arises. Such comments make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t think I have thought through the reasons why, but I know that’s how these comments make me feel.

  4. notesalongthepath · January 22, 2010

    It is so NOT about some measurement of dollars. Keeping others down in most, if not every way, is a spiritual issue. Unless we learn to love and respect each other–to be able to see God in EVERY other person–we will remain a sick society. Changing this requires an upgrade in consciousness, an ability to share love through being kind, with encouraging thoughts and words, with bringing out the best in each other, through working to make a difference in others’ lives. We are all God’s children but we cannot truly claim this inheritance for ourselves until every child of God is respected, loved and encouraged to believe in themselves and is given the time and space to find his/her own calling.

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