James Clingman

(NNPA)—A caller on the Carl Nelson Show (WOL 1450AM—Washington, D.C.), at least each time I have heard him, talks about reparations and freedom.  He called again when I was Carl’s guest on July 16, 2014.  The caller’s passion, concern, anger, urgency, and frustration were all woven into his comments. I could not help but empathize with his position, nor could I refute what he was saying, despite his angry tone. He did apologize for the way he spoke, but both Carl and I told him there was no need to apologize. We definitely understood the reasons for his tone.

That brother’s comments stayed on my mind throughout that night, and I kept thinking about the true meaning of freedom for Black people in this country. Notwithstanding the acclaimed piece on reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic, it is time once again to write something on reparations, as I have done many times over the 21 years I have written this column.

Having said for years that the culmination of true freedom, especially for Black people in the U.S., is economic freedom, I often imagine what our enslaved ancestors did when they were told they were “free.”

If all you have ever known are the limits of a plantation, where do you go when you are set free?  If you have never had money and are given none when set free, what do you do?  If you have no land of your own and don’t know any other enslaved person (or free for that matter) who has land, how will you feed yourself and where will you live? Free? That’s a very relative term.

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