Robinson (Defending the Spirit, 1998), influential chief of the lobbying group TransAfrica, presents the long overdue bill, on behalf of America's blacks, for centuries of social and economic abuse. With the angry fervor of a street preacher and the artful rhetoric of a talented polemicist, Robinson's impassioned brief offers a sampling of little-known black history and the somewhat better-known story of slavery perpetrated by profiteering whites. (Little is said about Muslim influence or black participation in the evil trade.) That the ancient Egyptians were Africans as dark as any others is a given. Zipporah, wife of Moses, was black, too, claims Robinson. Such statements are beside the point. African-Americans are history's orphans, deprived of what is rightfully theirs: a proud and vital heritage. Like Shakespeare's Moor, they too have been of service to the state, from chopping cotton to helping build the Capitol. Still, despite their contributions, blacks continue to be abused and insulted. White journalists are blind to what blacks see clearly. US policy, says Robinson, blithely destroys Caribbean economies at the behest of Chiquita Brands and demands that the IMF impoverish African nations. Blacks are imprisoned for using crack cocaine while whites sniffing powder cocaine stay free. Socioeconomic gaps remain undisturbed by prejudice or conditioned expectations; those who do not expect better do no better. "Many blacks—most, perhaps, though I can't be sure—don't like America,— notes Robinson. Affirmative action isn't enough, he says. Since the legacy of slavery is poverty, America must pay for what it has cost the descendants of those who were stolen from their homes and deprived of their culture. Not since Malcolm X has there been such outraged discussion of white domination. Robinson is not optimistic that his message will be heard, but if the nation is to endure honorably, candid debate must begin on his jeremiad, whether or not cash reparations result.
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