WASHINGTON – The Los Angeles City Council's latest move to force companies seeking contracts with the city to disclose whether they ever earned profits from slavery (search) has reparations opponents sounding off.
On May 16, the city council unanimously voted to have the city attorney draft a new ordinance dictating full disclosure by companies doing business with the city.
Opponents to the measure argue the move is the next step toward forcing modern corporations to pay out for events that occurred more than 150 years ago. They also argue it will further fracture the already fragile race relations in the region.
“It’s idiotic,” said David Horowitz, a California-based author and anti-reparations (search) advocate who said reparations (search) will do nothing to alleviate the real problems in the black community, such as poverty and failing schools.
“It’s a left-wing extortion racket that’s going to hurt Los Angeles and not going to help anybody. You have a school system in Los Angeles where black and Hispanic kids are learning nothing — you should be concentrating on that,” he said.
According to L.A. Mayor James Hahn’s (search) office, the drafted ordinance could be voted on as early as mid-summer. It is expected to pass and the mayor has promised to sign it. The ordinance comes three years after the state passed a law requiring insurance companies to disclose whether they sold policies on slaves. Since then, eight companies have reported such policies.
While the ordinance does not call for punitive measures against companies that disclose past ties to slavery, L.A. councilman Nate Holden said the information will help when reparations seekers head down the road toward financial restitution, whether directly to descendants of slaves or to the black community in general.
If enacted, it would be the second city ordinance of its kind since Chicago’s disclosure law went into effect Jan. 1. And, according to reparations activists across the country, it won’t be the last.
“This is the whole idea — to encourage other cities to do what we did,” said Robin Brown, a co-chair of the National Reparations Convention Committee (search) and chief of staff for Chicago Alderwoman Dorothy Tillman, who was the force behind the Chicago ordinance.
“Black people are still behind in almost every social and economic category in this country,” Brown added. “The catch–up has not happened and will not happen without reparations.”
Chicago officials say no company has yet disclosed ties to slavery.
Brown's group has targeted the issue at the local level after finding little interest at the federal level to address slavery reparations. Besides ordinances, reparation supporters have also filed private lawsuits against corporations, including one in 2002 for $1.4 trillion.
“It’s the civil rights movement of the 21st century,” Brown said.
Several cities are considering ordinances, and a number, including Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Philadelphia, have passed resolutions supporting a bill by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D- Mich. (search), calling for a federal commission on slavery, with the goal of making recommendations on reparations.
Asked if he supports the Los Angeles and Chicago ordinances, Conyers told Foxnews.com that “this is an interesting and important step in educating the public about the economic impact of slavery,” he said.
“Implementation of such legislation is a step towards enlightening the public on the need for economic reparations,” Conyers said.
Ron Walters, a member of the Reparations Coordinating Council (search), said financial restitution to individual descendents of slaves may not be feasible, but money can help the black community at large, which he said has been devastated by years of oppression.
“The presumption that the wealth of the country was built up by slavery has never been fully acknowledged,” charged Ron Walters, who also directs the African American Institute at the University of Maryland (search). “There needs to be extraordinary measures” to close the financial gaps between the white and black communities.
Phil Kent, director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation and author of The Dark Side of Liberalism: Unchaining the Truth (search), said reparations is another example of “political correctness run amok."
“These radical reparationists seem to forget that the North went to war against the South and as a result a lot of white people fought to end slavery and suffered to end slavery,” he said. “Let’s not have the radical reparationists rewrite history.”