In an article featured in Newsweek, Osborne & Francis, PLLC Attorney Greg Francis discusses the notion of reparations for Black Americans, and clarifies various misconceptions surrounding how that concept is understood, and how it impacts society. The article comments on H.R. 40, a bill that proposes creating a commission on reparation for Black Americans.
According to the reparations bill, the commission would identify three things:
- The role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery
- Forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants; and
- Lingering negative impacts of slavery on living African-Americans and society.
Francis cautions that special care needs to be taken in discussing reparations — a term that is often understood and processed in a simplistic way.
“The connotations that are associated anytime the subject of reparations, or the word ‘reparations,’ is brought up,” Francis told Newsweek, “is that this is going to be some type of money giveaway for past atrocities that people who are currently in America will say that they had no part of. That is not really the reparations that I think I’m interested in, that America is interested in and society should be interested in moving forward.”
Francis states that racism is a highly complex matter that doesn’t only come in widely-recognized symbols like KKK sheets or Confederate flags. Racism is also prevalent in the very government institutions that are intended to protect American ideals; rooting out this systemic racism will be a vital part of the reparations discussion.
“This is not a one-and-done-type fix,” Francis stated. “This is, I think, going to require a constant evaluation, reevaluation, and consideration of the systems that are in place and how they in fact are implemented, and what impact it has on any racial group.”
Healing Begins with a Recognition of Wrongdoing
The starting point for any real change to occur is in a recognition that wrongdoings did in fact occur. Reparations are intended to make amends for past wrongs, and implicit in that is the acknowledgment that there were wrongs being suffered in the first place.
As Francis explains, “So many times, that’s one of the most difficult things in these types of cases, is the acknowledgment of the initial wrong that therefore leads to the rest of the conversation. But you know, it all needs to begin with an acknowledgment of the wrong that occurred and then an evaluation of what impact it had.”
For an illustration of how systemic racism continues to impact Black Americans, Francis points to the Pigford cases or the Black Farmers case, in which he served as legal counsel. This class action lawsuit stemmed from farmers who claimed the U.S. Department of Agriculture racially discriminated against them during the 1980s and 1990s.
As the country’s largest civil rights discrimination settlement, the case ultimately distributed $1.25 billion to thousands of Black farmers. Francis recently decided to gather memories from his experience litigating the lawsuit for a new book, titled Just Harvest, which is due out next month.
Francis hopes the book will help Americans understand the type of systematic discrimination that was allowed to occur against Black farmers, and that the impacts of slavery and Jim Crow laws are still ongoing to this day.
If you or a loved one have been impacted by any type of civil rights violation, contact Osborne & Francis at (561) 293-2600 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our attorneys are on hand to help and have the experience needed to obtain justice and the appropriate remedy for victims.
I think that America is ready for change and you know, a true change of heart. While we wait on legislation from Congress, from our local governments, I think it’s important for us as individuals, as Americans, to become involved in our local communities. It’s important for us to effectuate change in our local communities, and I think that is something that will spread far and wide.”
-Attorney Greg Francis