A core principle of a Williamson presidency will be focusing on the underlying causes, and not just the symptoms, of America’s problems. In order to do so, we need to address where we, as a nation, have deviated from our democratic and universal human values regarding race relations.
In order to heal a human life, we must do more than address external issues. Healing also comes from within. So it is with a country. When we are out of alignment collectively, we must re-align, collectively. That, to me, is a president’s job. In the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, “The presidency is not merely an administrative office. That's the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership."
The practice of slavery began in this country in the 1600’s, and by the end of the Civil War in 1864, there are believed to have been almost 4 million slaves in America. While it’s important that we not in any way minimize the extraordinary efforts made by those before us, it is our generation’s turn to continue the process of total reconciliation with this evil in America’s past.
Yes, we ended slavery. Yes, we passed Civil Rights legislation – including the Voting Rights Act – in the 1960’s. But no, we have not yet fully done all that it is morally incumbent upon us to do in order to heal this ugly wound. The forty acres and a mule promised to every former slave after the Civil War was not a joke; it was a means by which a formerly enslaved population would have had a chance to integrate economically into life as a freed citizen. While a few were, in fact, given their acreage, the vast majority were not – and most who received them would see the land given back to previous owners over time.
After the Civil War, Black Code Laws were passed in the South to ensure that black Americans (former slaves) would not be able to live economically or socially on par with white Americans (their former masters). Lynching became prevalent by the end of the 1800’s. Jim Crow Laws guaranteed the disenfranchisement of black Americans from voting. White supremacy and segregation were dominant in the American South.
None of this was fundamentally addressed until the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. Finally, serious efforts were made to dismantle the horrors of institutionalized white supremacy.
While some Americans like to believe that our problems ended there, they did not. Over two centuries of slavery – forced, unpaid labor that in essence built the economy of the American South – means that someone owes someone something.
In many ways, America has continued the process of racial reconciliation begun in the 1960’s. Yet in other ways, we have actually slipped backward. Yes, there are no more colored bathrooms and separate drinking fountains. But we now have mass incarceration; racial disparity in criminal sentencing; lost voting rights; outright voter suppression; and police brutality often focused on black populations.
Tepid solutions are not enough for the times in which we live; we need huge, strategized acts of righteousness, now. Just as Germany has paid $89 Billion in reparations to Jewish organizations since WW2, the United States should pay reparations for slavery. A debt unpaid is still a debt unpaid, even if it’s 150 years later. The legacy of that injustice lives on, with racist policies infused into our systems even to this day. From employment and housing discrimination, to equal access to quality education in underserved communities, to police brutality/prejudice, to lack of fair lending practices, to lack of access to quality healthcare, to insecure voting rights, America has not yet completed the task of healing our racial divide.
For that reason, I propose a $200 billion - $500 billion plan of reparations for slavery, the money to be disbursed over a period of twenty years. An esteemed council of African-American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.
As president, I would propose more than a deeper understanding between the races, though we certainly need that, and I believe I could be helpful in making that happen. Racism is an American character defect, for which we must atone, make amends, and be willing to change. I would propose this historic step forward in America’s history, in what I believe would be a deep and abiding gift to future generations of Americans both black and white.