Over the Hill

America has historical wrongs it should acknowledge as well

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

Our state assemblyman, Katcho Achadjian, wants California to send a “strong message” to Turkey. He wants Turkey to admit causing the deaths of 1.5 million of its Armenian residents between 1915 and 1923.

He said the Legislature’s Armenian Caucus has introduced a bill. It would prohibit California state retirement systems from investing in Turkish government bonds.

An Assembly hearing was scheduled for this week. The state retirement systems now hold several million dollars worth of those bonds. The ban would last until Turkey admits the genocide and agrees to pay reparations to survivors and descendants.

This reminds me of an article in the June 2014 Atlantic magazine titled “The Case for Reparations.” It advocated reparations for black Americans who suffered damage and pain from “250 years of slavery. 90 years of Jim Crow. 60 years of separate but equal. 35 years of state-sanctioned redlining.”

That makes me think we would have more success influencing Turkey if we Americans admitted having inflicted pain and damage on black Americans, and if we agreed to pay reparations.

The Atlantic article says Congressman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., has proposed a bill to have Congress study the “lingering effects” of slavery and also “appropriate remedies.” The bill has never made it to the House floor in 25 years.

I don’t personally know much about the lingering effects of slavery. But a black friend did tell me about trying to rent an apartment.

He responded by phone to an apartment-for-rent ad. The landlady told him it was still available. (He didn’t have a “black” accent.) When he got there and she saw him, she said she had just rented it. He was embarrassed, angry and hurt.

Former President Jimmy Carter did have personal knowledge. He wrote a book called “An Hour Before Daylight” about his boyhood in rural Georgia in the late 1920s and 1930s. He said all the white children attended Plains High School from first grade through 11th.

“Black children,” he wrote, “had classes in more than a dozen churches and private homes, often all grades crowded into a single room.”

History has other, worse examples of white Americans neglecting and repressing black Americans.

And since we’re talking about acknowledging faults and offering reparations, we mustn’t forget America’s armed conquests of Native American and Mexican territory.

The Armenian genocide was terrible, but Turkey might be more willing to acknowledge it and pay for it if we Americans acknowledged our own historical wrongs and offered reparations.

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