Randall Robinson, the founder and president of TransAfrica (a lobbying organization dedicated to influencing U.S. policy toward Africa and the Caribbean), recounted his heroic struggle to fight and overcome racism in the magnificent Defending the Spirit
. In his triumphant follow-up, The Debt
, he goes further than any previous black public figure in calling for reparations to African-Americans for the present-day racism that stems from 246 years of slavery. Citing compensation that Jews and Japanese Americans have received, he writes, "No race, ethnic or religious group has suffered as much over so long a span as blacks have and do still, at the hands of those who benefited ... from slavery and the century of legalized American racial hostility that followed it." In making his case, Robinson utilizes facts and figures that highlight the disparity between African-Americans and whites. While fully recognizing the monumental odds of this movement's success, Robinson feels that the push for reparations will also greatly benefit African-Americans in nonmaterial ways: "Even the making of a well-reasoned case for restitution will do wonders for the spirit of African-Americans," he argues. "It will cause them to at long last understand the genesis of their history--before, during, and after slavery--into one story of themselves." --Eugene Holley Jr.
From Publishers Weekly
As founder and president of TransAfrica, an organization aimed at influencing U.S. policies toward Africa and the Caribbean, Robinson can be said to have contributed to the antiapartheid movement and the restoration of democracy in Haiti. Having vividly outlined the pervasiveness of American racism in his previous work, Defending the Spirit, he now summons America to acknowledge what he casts as its financial obligation to blacks for centuries of slavery and continued subjugation. Substantiating his analysis of America's ignorance of African history and the agenda of the Clinton administration with personal stories that illustrate the impact of de facto discrimination, he reveals slavery's legacy not only in our social and political lives, but also in the American psyche. In Robinson's view, the incessant deification of the founding fathers (many of whom owned slaves) and the denial of the benefits gained from centuries of slave labor are, in effect, an attempt to pretend "that America's racial holocaust never occurred." Juxtaposing domestic racism with the sufferings of people abroad, he contends that America's dubious foreign policy initiatives in Cuba and throughout the black world should be mitigated through debt relief. Methodically tackling one issue at a time, Robinson suggests the creation of a trust to assist in the educational and economic empowerment of African-Americans. Whether readers agree or disagree with his views, Robinson has made a definitive step in presenting these controversial and still unresolved issues. Book club rights sold to Doubleday/Black Expressions; author tour. (Jan.)
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