[sixties-l] [BRC-NEWS] Slavery and the Genocide Treaty

From: Ron Jacobs (rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 16 2001 - 10:00:10 EDT

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    >From: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz <rdunbaro@pacbell.net>
    >Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Slavery and the Genocide Treaty
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    >Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 04:54:54 -0500 (EST)
    >The Pioneer (CSU Hayward)
    >April 12, 2001
    >Slavery and the Genocide Treaty
    >By Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz <rdunbaro@pacbell.net>
    >In addition to my academic research and teaching during the
    >past 27 years at Cal State Hayward, I have researched,
    >lobbied government representatives, and assisted in writing
    >international human rights law, particularly as it applies
    >to indigenous peoples, ethnic groups, and migrant workers
    >all over the world. Currently, I am involved in preparations
    >for the United Nations sponsored World Conference Against
    >Racism, to be held in Durban, South Africa, in September
    >this year. The issue of reparations for the enslavement of
    >Africans in the United States certainly will be central.
    >In looking at questions of reparations for slavery, one
    >cannot begin with the conclusion, that is determining the
    >remedy; rather the question arises from social movements of
    >the aggrieved group and an objective investigation into the
    >harm alleged must take place. Before the US Congress, there
    >is legislation that calls for such an investigation that
    >should be supported by all without prejudice to the
    >conclusions and recommendations.
    >My own thinking is that the issue of African slavery in the
    >United States falls within the 1948 Genocide Convention, an
    >international treaty that has no statute of limitations and
    >is retroactive. Here are the provisions of Genocide
    >Article 1. The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide,
    >whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a
    >crime under international law which they undertake to
    >prevent and to punish.
    >Article 2. In the present Convention, genocide means any of
    >the following Acts committed with intent to destroy, in
    >whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious
    >group, as such:
    >(a) Killing members of the group;
    >(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the
    > group;
    >(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
    > calculated to bring about its physical destruction in
    > whole or in part;
    >(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the
    > group;
    >(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another
    > group.
    >Article 3. The following acts shall be punishable:
    >(a) Genocide;
    >(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
    >(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
    >(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
    >(e) Complicity in genocide.
    >Ordinarily, a nation-state that has committed historical
    >acts that might be construed as constituting genocide would
    >distance itself from former regimes that held power when the
    >acts were committed. For instance the present Republic of
    >Turkey eschews its responsibility for the Armenian genocide
    >by claiming a break in the "succession of states," meaning
    >that the acts (which in fact the contemporary government of
    >Turkey denies as having occurred) took place under a former
    >and now discredited regime, the Ottoman Empire that no
    >longer exists.
    >The contemporary United States government could also
    >preclude charges of genocide by breaking its ties with
    >regimes that existed before the Civil War. Although the
    >introduction of Jim Crow laws in the former Confederate
    >states and their legitimization by the US Supreme Court on
    >the basis of "states rights" would possibly require severing
    >the succession of states up to the 1954 Brown decision in
    >the Supreme Court.
    >In order to implement a break in the succession of states,
    >the United States, among other things, would have to cease
    >honoring its "founding fathers" and the founding documents,
    >as well as each and everyone of the administrations that
    >maintained the legality and constitutionality of slavery.
    >Such revisions would have to be accompanied by apologies to
    >the descendants of the aggrieved and possibly include damage
    >awards or reparations. Certainly, the severance of
    >succession of states would require the revision of approved
    >US history textbooks, national monuments, and government
    >rhetoric in much the same manner that Germany and Austria
    >were required to do after World War II.
    >In terms of reparations, the question arises as to who would
    >receive and who would pay. That question should not arise
    >until after an investigation that would recommend
    >reparations. The recent example of the 1921 destruction of
    >the African-American Rosewood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
    >by a white riot that included Oklahoma National Guardsmen
    >assisting the rioters, is a good example of procedure. After
    >a thorough investigation, the investigative committee made
    >its recommendations, including calling for reparations for
    >the heirs of those who were killed or lost their property.
    >It is now in the hands of the state legislature to determine
    >whether to pay reparations and if so, how to do so and how
    >In the case of Nazi genocide against the Jewish people of
    >Europe, the anti-Nazi governments of Germany have been and
    >continue to be required to pay reparations to the state of
    >Israel. Paying to an institutional body, such as a
    >trusteeship for African-Americans, rather than individual,
    >per capita payments as in the Japanese-American
    >incarceration reparations, would be the most likely solution
    >regarding reparations for slavery.
    >A great deal of extraneous questions and hypotheses (such as
    >those voiced by David Horowitz in his infamous paid
    >advertisements opposing reparations for slavery) get thrown
    >into the discussions of the issue and cloud the matter.
    >Questions of who captured and sold slaves, who transported
    >them, who owned them, and the existence of European
    >indentured servants in colonial North America, are
    >historically interesting but irrelevant questions for
    >determining United States genocide against enslaved
    >African-Americans. Because a few Jews collaborated with
    >Nazis does not invalidate the reality of genocide against
    >the Jews.
    >However the African slave trade and enslavement of Africans
    >began, functioned, and proceeded, the fact is that the
    >United States was founded on not only the legalization of
    >African slavery but also on the sanctity of "property."
    >African slaves were by far the most valuable property at the
    >time of the founding of the United States. For those who
    >argue that "in those times" everyone accepted slavery, they
    >surely cannot mean the Africans who were enslaved, nor can
    >they ignore the fact that slavery was debated, was opposed
    >by most Quakers, and the international slave trade had been
    >outlawed two decades earlier by the British under pressure
    >by the British Anti-Slavery Society.
    >Another indisputable fact pertinent to the Genocide
    >Convention is that ONLY persons of African descent were
    >enslaved in the United States. That fact does not diminish
    >the horrors of Chinese contract laborers or Irish famine
    >victims building canals and railroads, nor any other
    >oppression that occurred historically. The question should
    >not be "where will it all end?" but rather "when will it all
    >begin?" When will we as citizens of the United States
    >confront the fact that unpaid labor of African slaves (and
    >the land stolen from Native Americans) produced the
    >accumulation of capital necessary for the United States to
    >become the richest and most powerful country in the history
    >of humankind?
    >[Anyone interested in reparations for slavery would be
    >advised to read Randall Robinson's The Debt.]
    >Copyright (c) 2001 Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. All Rights Reserved.
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