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Uncharted: President Obama helps U.S. Holocaust survivors score millions

In October 2015, The Obama administration awarded $12 million for assistance to Holocaust survivors in an act of humanitarian benevolence.

Japanese internment prisoners and heirs got paid; U. S. Holocaust survivors get relief – first Black president has yet to deliver on an official apology and reparations for Black freed slaves and their descendants

With the end of President Obama’s historic two terms as POTUS coming to an end in nine months, it is appropriate to take a look at one of the seminal appropriations-in-aid that came during the twilight of his presidency.

ComptonHerald.com | Uncharted

“Uncharted” is commentary by Jarrette D. Fellows, Jr.

To paraphrase scholar Michael Eric Dyson, if everybody else has benefited from the president’s policies of benevolence, why haven’t African-Americans?

Oh my! I can hear the dissenters, now — “He’s not just the president of African-Americans, he’s the president of all Americans!”

No one is arguing that point.

President Obama is not just the president of Latinos, either, but undocumented Latinos have benefited from his immigration policies.

Neither is he just the president of General Motors and Chrysler employees, but they benefited from his corporate “bail out” policies in 2008 during his first term!

President Obama is not just the president of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community, either, but that didn’t stop him from formulating policies favorable to them.

As for the 120,000 Japanese-Americans remanded to internment camps between 1942 and 1946, there is no question they suffered the inordinate loss of freedom, businesses, jobs, and homes when they were herded into these camps. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the incarceration in 1942 shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Japanese-Americans were paid the reparations for their suffering to the tune of $1.6 billion. More than 84,000 survivors of the camps and their heirs each received the $20,000 initially signed into law by Reagan.

The most recent show of reparation-type amends involves Jewish victims of Nazi war crimes during the Second World War. The Obama administration awarded $12 million for assistance to Holocaust survivors in October 2015. That was an act of humanitarian benevolence. The allocation from the Department of Health and Human Services according to the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA), will be disbursed over five years, part of an initiative launched in late 2013 by Vice President Joe Biden to address the needs of an estimated 130,000 Holocaust survivors living in the U.S., below the poverty line.

Combined with matching private funds, the approximately $2.5 million per year over the five years, according to JFNA, will support $4.1 million in programming annually for organizations that help Holocaust survivors. The funds will be used to advance innovations in person-centered, trauma-informed supportive services for Holocaust survivors.

According to Mark Wilf, chairman of the JFNA’s National Holocaust Survivor Initiative, and a co-owner of the NFL Minnesota Vikings, the award we will pay to advance efforts to provide crucial services to vulnerable survivors, including those living in poverty, those in the Orthodox Jewish community, and those from the former Soviet Union.

“These are our mothers and our fathers, our teachers and our mentors. They deserve to live their remaining years in dignity, and this award will help make that hope a reality,” Wilf said.

Congressional sponsors of the funding included U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

After Biden launched the initiative in December 2013, the White House in 2014 named a special envoy to the community to coordinate volunteer activities to assist the survivors.

My response to this $12 million disbursement is, what about the dignity of freed slaves who lived in poverty after they were freed and forced to scratch out an existence? Prior to that, their existence was nightmarish, where they were routinely abused, lynched, women raped, untold numbers of families torn apart, separated, with individuals sold to the highest bidder — all the while building America on the spine of their backs without recompense.

Black slaves suffered the indignity of inhumane treatment every day of their lives. They were regarded as lowly as mules, and oxen. They were set free, but without aid of any kind. Our forebears were abandoned to the harsh reality of scraping out an existence without food, shelter, money, ample clothing — they were left to subsist with only hope and prayer.

That was in 1863. Those freed slaves survived through will and wit. The nightmares did not stop. The terror perpetrated against them — lynching, extreme cruelty, and discrimination — continued unabated for the better part of 100 years.

Where are reparations-in-aid to the descendants of slavery? Why does the room become silent whenever this issue is broached?

The $12 million Jewish Holocaust benefit notwithstanding, what of freed slaves whose lives were seared by fiery hate? They never received an official apology from the U.S. government. Not in 1863. Not in 2016. The emotional and psychological damage Black indentured servants had to endure in the aftermath of the Slave Holocaust is incalculable through 153 years of existence. The physical, mental, and psychological scars run deep.

Reparations were never paid to the freed slaves and their heirs? Why is this issue so repulsive — even to an African-American president? The truth that White Americans had such an enormous advantage to amass wealth on the backs of a free-labor force was a damned shame. The fact that most of the nation’s wealth today lies in the hands of White Americans — not because they are smarter or more clever — but because they had an incredible advantage for 153 years, is a damned shame.

And the fact that in 2016, White Americans in control of power in government and business, who decide public policy, dictate the disbursement of business loans, employment practices, higher education, and housing without sensitivity to the needs of a race of people that have been playing “catch-up” from the moment slavery ended in 1863 — is a damned shame!

What principalities and powers exist in America that have etched a policy of “Denial” in the foundation of the nation regarding African-Americans, and why?

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is Publisher and Editor of Compton Herald. He attended junior and senior high school in Compton, and is an alumnus of California State University, Los Angeles.


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