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No Comparing Apples to Oranges

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

February 8, 2010

By Perry Redd

This commentary will do one of two things: it will either open robust and earnest dialogue on matters of great import to Americans or it will draw the ire of self-important people who discount the experiences of others.  Of course, I hope for the former, but expect the latter.

I’m pretty much sick of the concerted attempts to equate the institution of American Slavery with the Holocaust.  When this happens, it does three things: it cheapens the longevity and impact of the American Slavery experience; It distorts the perspective of the American systemic power structure (which lasts to this day), and it mis-educates children who know no better.

I am a black man who still suffers from the residual effects of slavery at the hands of the descendants who enjoyed the benefits of the institution.  I have absolutely no animosity toward the reality for The Holocaust or the Jewish people that suffered—and still suffer—from that era in history.  Blacks have negotiated, demanded, cajoled and even begged the descendants of the Founders of this country for just compensation, or reparations, for the immeasurable pain and suffering that the institution of slavery has wrought upon me, and men and women like me.  I find it highly offensive that Jews have been awarded due reparations, when Blacks—from the land that committed the atrocity of slavery—can’t even gain an audience. 

The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany (German: Luxemburger Abkommen, Hebrew: הסכם השילומים Heskem HaShelomim) was signed on September 10, 1952, and entered in force on March 27, 1953.  According to the Agreement, West Germany was to pay Israel for the slave labor and persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and to compensate for Jewish property that was stolen by the Nazis. What we know is that public debate was among the fiercest in Israeli history. Opposition to the agreement came from both the right (Herut and the General Zionists) and the left (Mapam) of the political spectrum; both sides argued that accepting reparation payments was the equivalent of forgiving the Nazis for their crimes.

That was 1953.  Good for the Jews.  What I know is that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) first introduced bill H.R. 40 in 1989, and has in every congress since, with no results.  I am not surprised—and neither should you.  The disregard for the Black experience is perpetuated from the top echelon of power in America throughout the American civilian psyche.  Whether politics or academia, sports or media, the Black experience has been under attack; co-opted and de-sensitized by the most visible Americans, thus giving the aire of legitimacy to down-playing the severity of “the peculiar institution.”

I am a staunch opponent to any type of historical insults that are either racial, gender-based, national in origin, ethnic or disability-fostered.  Americans should be civil and held to a higher standard than that of other nations—especially the Western ones who embrace racism—in order to eradicate the desensitization of racism.  I have found that Jews, in an attempt to be self-deprecating, insult themselves, which insulates them from being accused of being “overly-sensitive”…then they proceed to insult others.  If you choose to inflict injury upon yourself, then that’s your choice, but it’s MY choice to NOT accept being insulted by you or anyone else.  That is no other person’s determination.

We’ve seen this tactic from radio therapist, Laura Ingram, or from conservative radio talk host, Rush Limbaugh, or from comedienne Joan Rivers.  Once the degradation takes place, Blacks get accused of being too sensitive.  You’ve GOT to be kiddin’ me???  Because I choose not to be insulted is no reason to diminish my position.

What’s even worse is the conscious campaign to equate Slavery to The Holocaust.  Let me give you four reasons why this is erroneous at best, an insult at worst.

  1. the numbers don’t add up-the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II by Nazi Germany (it’s very well more) pales in comparison to the uncountable numbers of Blacks killed via the Middle Passage and other undocumented slave trading routes
  2. the period of suffering is non-comparative-let Jews tell it, they’ve been persecuted for centuries…I believe that, though it’s irrelative to the Holocaust comparison.  I also know that Blacks have been under attack for at least 12 years  and that should always come in the same breath
  3. The Jews have made leadway-The Holocaust has had movement toward repairing the damage, where the sole acts to rectifying slavery was legislation in America—that was later repealed, not honored and is currently under attack
  4. The hue of the skin always makes an unequal argument in America-as we look at the “on-the-ground” reality of Jews and the Israeli state awarded to them by Western powers, the faces are white.  In this country, the very Jews who get to offend others with impunity are white.  You can call them “minority immigrants”, but you and I both know that they’re white…which, in America, amounts to privilege.
  5. Jews weren’t harvested as labor-Blacks were arguably despised as Jews were, but blacks were kept as free labor; aside from the anti-Semetic slurs from time-to-time, Jews have been “let back” into society on equal terms

Unfortunately, Jews lead us to think that the Holocaust was a worse atrocity, positing that “the main purpose of the Holocaust was genocide.”  That is to say that slavery wasn’t.  How erroneous…Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.  If both argue that, then let the comparison begin…

Inversely, I could sit and make all kinds of similarities between the two groups.  They would not equalize these scales.  I said all of that to say this: The Holocaust should not be compared with Slavery…never.  Don’t do it.  They are two separate events with two separate objectives, to two separate people, with two separate—and disparate–outcomes.  Sure, both groups were robbed, but that doesn’t make the theft equal.


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