Joan Cartwright

"When you mention the word slave ... in 2004, it's almost a shocking, unbelievable notion that in this country we wrote slavery into our Constitution before we wrote it out," Mr. Kerry said.

Yes, it is a shock to young white Americans. But it's old news to young black Americans who have to deal with the scars suffered by their parents and grandparents in the evidence of lackluster when it comes to building businesses [outside of churches and bars]. Joan Cartwright

Mr. Kerry added that because 40 million people are infected with HIV or AIDS and officials predict the apex of AIDS deaths some 25 years away, the United States and the world shouldn't be "dillydallying" with the money.

Especially, since it was U.S. biological warfare that gave them AIDS in the first place. See, The History of the Development of AIDS
Joan Cartwright

During the hour-long town hall session, Mr. Kerry emphasized several times that there are issues in the country unique to blacks — affirmative action, racial profiling, small-business contracts with the government — which he plans to discuss and work with black elected leaders and activists to improve.

What about 80% of blacks in the prison INDUSTRIAL population, high rate of unemployment, school drop outs among black youth, etc. etc. etc???
Joan Cartwright


Life expectancy in Sudan is just 58 years. In the United States, the average person can expect to live to the age of 77.

Of every 1,000 babies born alive in Sudan, 94 will die before their fifth birthdays -- compared to only 8 out of 1,000 in the United States.

Safe water is accessible to just 75% of the people of Sudan. Almost everyone in the United States has access to safe water.

Illiteracy is a major problem in Africa, as is the disparity between men's and women's education. In Sudan, 72% of the men and just 51% of the women are literate. In the United States, nearly all adults -- 97% of both men and women -- can read and write.

Annual per capita income in Sudan is $1,970 (real GDP per capita, ppp$). It is $34,320 in the United States.

 Some Solutions


From the issue dated February 3, 2006 - TELEVISION

Deep Roots and Tangled Branches

People who know their biological parents and grandparents typically take the information for granted. Some have a difficult time empathizing with the passionate genealogical quests of adoptees and, increasingly, products of anonymous sperm banks and other new technologies where one or both genetic contributors are unknown. In recent years, new legislation has enabled people to search for information about genetic progenitors — even in cases where there had been a signed agreement of nondisclosure. The laser-like focus of that search can be as relentless as Ahab's hunt for the white whale.

Mystery of lineage is the stuff of great literature. Mark Twain made use of it for biting social commentary in his Pudd'nhead Wilson, a story about the mix-up of babies born to a slave and a free person. Sophocles, Shakespeare, Moliθre, and Dickens built grand tragedy and enduring comedy on the theme. In England in 2002, a white Englishwoman gave birth to mixed-race twins after a mix-up at an in vitro fertilization clinic. Imagine what Shakespeare would have done with that!

If one person's passions can be so riled by such a puzzle, imagine the emotions involved when the uncertainty applies to a whole group — say, of 12 million people. The middle passage did just that to Americans of recent African descent. Names were obliterated from record books, and slaves were typically anointed with a new single first name. Sometimes no names were recorded, just the slaves' numbers, ages, and genders. Some African-Americans have deliberately and actively participated in the erasure, showing no desire to pursue a genealogical trail. For others, fragments of oral history generate a fierce longing to do the detective work.

That is the case among the prominent subjects featured in "African American Lives," a two-night, four-part PBS series scheduled for February 1 and 8. The host and executive co-producer is Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the department of African and African-American studies at Harvard. Gates has assembled eight notably successful African-Americans, among them the media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, the legendary music producer Quincy Jones, and the film star Whoopi Goldberg. Each participant, along with Gates, is the subject of some serious professional family-tree tracing. There are surprises for each of them, and the series has undeniable human-interest appeal.

But there are other reasons why it is likely to be a staple for courses on history, family and kinship, and African-American studies for years to come. Who knew that before the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 250,000 free blacks lived below the Mason-Dixon line? We learn that the kinds of fears that preoccupied them in their daily lives were partially mitigated when they bonded in one place, permitting them to vouch for each other's long-term community standing if a white person came and tried to claim them as slaves.

The first three segments are very much driven by traditional genealogical research, the hard work of ferreting through archival materials, birth and death certificates, deeds, trusts, estates and wills, church records, and, inevitably, the sale of slaves. One of the patterns discernible at the outset is the speed of some tales of rags to riches and meteoric ascendancy from modest circumstance to extraordinary accomplishment. The Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, who performed pioneering work in separating twins joined at the head, is the son of a domestic. Winfrey's story is fairly well known — as a child, she was sexually abused and shuttled between homes until finally becoming more settled as a late teenager.

Gates deserves special praise for the way in which he weaves biographies into the larger social and historical context. Reconstruction comes to life in the form of Winfrey's grandfather, Constantine Winfrey, who was illiterate as slavery ended. He taught himself how to read and write, then sponsored a new school, all the while raising a family and tilling the soil. The comedian Chris Tucker's great-grandfather was a beneficent church minister who purchased a large plot of land upon which the sanctuary was built. To keep his congregation together, he sold small plots to members. The Harvard sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot's ancestors left New England to start a trade school in the South to help the newly freed slaves find employment.

None of the participants knew the rich details of these histories, and the "only in America" element is compelling.

At another level, however, the series performs a disturbing sleight of hand. Conventional wisdom has it that we can choose our friends, but that our families are a given. But with long-term genealogical work, there is a sense in which this can be inverted. We each have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc. As Gates points out in the fourth segment, current technology permits us to link via DNA analysis to only two specific lines. On the Y chromosome, one's father's father's DNA, going back as far as we can locate the genetic material, can be determined with a high degree of certainty. (That is how Thomas Jefferson — or one of his brothers — was definitively linked to Sally Hemmings's offspring.) On the female side, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can link one's mother's mother's mother going back as far as we can garner the DNA. So, while we have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents, the technology allows us to locate only two of those 64, if we're going back six generations, as our real legacy and genetic link to the past. But what of the other 62? Those links are equal contributors to our genetic makeup, and we ignore them only because we do not have access to them.

What an arbitrary "choice" of a branch on the family tree!

At one point, upon learning that 50 percent of his ancestry has been traced by DNA analysis to Europe, and that both his maternal and paternal lines are also "European," Gates jokingly asks if he still qualifies to be chairman of African-American studies at Harvard.

But for many, that is no laughing matter. The Black Seminoles are struggling with this very question — whether to use DNA analysis to "authenticate" their relationship to the Seminoles. The reason is straightforward and serious: money. The federal government, pursuant to a land-settlement claim, made an award to Seminole Indians in 1976 and is poised to distribute upward of $60-million.

In 2000 the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma amended its constitution so that members needed to show "one-eighth Seminole blood." The Black Seminoles could use either Y-chromosome analysis or mitochondrial DNA to link themselves through very thin chains back on two edges of the genealogical axis (mother's mother's mother, etc.; or father's father's father, etc.), but that would miss all other grandparents (14 of 16, 30 of 32, 62 of 64).

One attempt to fill in the blanks is the use of a technology called admixture mapping through ancestry-informative markers, or AIM's. Unlike Y DNA or mtDNA tests, this technology examines groups' relative sharedness of genetic markers found on the autosomes — the nonsex chromosomes inherited from both parents.

In the last segment of the series, each of the nine subjects, including Gates, is given information using molecular genetics and computer-assisted analysis of all three kinds of DNA markers. Each of the subjects accepts the ostensibly scientific news of his or her percentage ancestry, deduced by AIM's — that is, African or European or Native American — as if it were of the same certainty as a clerk's entry of a birth date on a certificate. Oprah is crestfallen when she is told that she is not Zulu.

Gates has no match to Africa at all using the conventional tests — so he deploys Mark D. Shriver, a Pennsylvania State University geneticist at the forefront of admixture mapping, to conduct a special test for him. Gates's autosomes are compared to the small set of African samples Shriver has in his database, from no more than six West African regions. When compared against those few, Gates is closest to the Mende people of Sierra Leone.

Shriver himself seems wary of these results. He surely knows the clusters of DNA are at best crude approximations completely contingent on available samples. Africa has over 700 million inhabitants, and among them it has the greatest amount of human genetic variation found on any of the seven continents. Depending on methods, some regions will be completely missed, while others will be oversampled. The scientists who do the analysis will freely admit that when pressed, but the seekers' eagerness to know spurs a willingness to accept as definitive these artifacts of sampling contingencies.

Ancestry-informative markers (with one exception) are shared across all human groups. It is therefore not their presence or absence, but their rate of incidence, or frequency, that is being analyzed. When taken together, these markers appear to yield certain patterns in people and populations tested. A specific pattern of alleles — corresponding genes on each of a set of chromosomes — that have a high frequency in the "Native Americans" sampled then become established as a "Native American" ancestry result. The problem is that millions of people around the globe will have a similar pattern — that is, they'll share similar base-pair changes at the genomic points under scrutiny. This means that someone from Hungary whose ancestors go back to the 15th century could map as partly "Native American," although no direct ancestry is responsible for the shared genetic material. AIM's, however, arbitrarily reduce all such possibilities of shared genotypes to "inherited direct ancestry." In so doing, the process relies excessively on the idea of 100-percent purity, a condition that could never have existed in human populations.

To make claims about how a test subject's patterns of genetic variation map to continents of origin and to populations where particular genetic variants arose, the researchers need reference populations. The public needs to understand that these reference populations comprise relatively small groups of contemporary people. Moreover, researchers must make many untested assumptions in using these contemporary groups to stand in for populations from centuries ago representing a continent or an ethnic or tribal group. To construct tractable mathematical models and computer programs, researchers make many assumptions about ancient migrations, reproductive practices, and the demographic effects of historical events such as plagues and famines. Furthermore, in many cases, genetic variants cannot distinguish among tribes or national groups because the groups are too similar, so geneticists are on thin ice telling people that they do or don't have ancestors from a particular people.

Instead of asserting that someone has no Native American ancestry, the most truthful statement would be: "It is possible that while the Native American groups we sampled did not share your pattern of markers, others might since these markers do not exclusively belong to any one group of our existing racial, ethnic, linguistic, or tribal typologies." But computer-generated data provide an appearance of precision that is dangerously seductive.

There is a yet more ominous and troubling element of the reliance upon DNA analysis to determine who we are in terms of lineage, identity, and identification. The very technology that tells us what proportion of our ancestry can be linked, proportionately, to sub-Saharan Africa (ancestry-informative markers) is the same being offered to police stations around the country to "predict" or "estimate" whether the DNA left at a crime scene belongs to a white or black person. This "ethnic estimation" using DNA relies on a social definition of the phenotype. That is, in order to say that someone is 85 percent African, we must know who is 100 percent African. Any molecular, population, or behavioral geneticist is obliged to disclose that this "purity" is a statistical artifact that begins not with the DNA, but with a researcher's adopting the folk categories of race and ethnicity. With the demonstrable skew of the incarcerated population over the last few decades along social categories of race, African-Americans need to be particularly sensitive to the use of phenotype as the starting point for understanding genotype.

The fourth part of "African American Lives" would have benefited from a lot more scientific humility about just how much we can know about our "percentage ancestry." Oprah may have some Zulu (among the "other 62") in her lineage that current technology can neither tap nor exclude. And since nothing in the current state of scientific knowledge can rule that out, we should be so informed by an otherwise enlightening series. The Bantu migration entailed massive movements of people across the African continent. So it is possible that as a "West African," Oprah could indeed have a Bantu link somewhere in the ancestral pedigree. That this possible link might not be called Zulu is more a function of social definition and historical effect.

So, since the jury is still out, don't resign your post, Professor Gates. And nervous jokes aside, let's all recognize that scientific imprecision on matters of identity and identification have implications far graver than the undermining of a TV program's entertainment value.

Troy Duster is past president of the American Sociological Association and director of the Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge at New York University, where he is a professor of sociology. He is also a chancellor's professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include Backdoor to Eugenics (Routledge, 2003).

Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 52, Issue 22, Page B13

Headshot of John KerryKerry opposes slavery reparations
By Brian DeBose


     John Kerry, yesterday, told students at Howard University that he doesn't support financial reparations for blacks, saying it would only divide the nation and "not heal the wounds."
    "I personally do not believe that America is going to advance if we go backwards and look to reparations in the way that some people are defining them," Mr. Kerry told Aaron Nelson, 20, a junior political science major, who questioned the Democratic presidential hopeful on his stance.
    The senator from Massachusetts said he understood the deep-rooted "scars" blacks still feel in America after slavery, Jim Crow legislation and segregation, but said reparations would divide the nation, not heal wounds.
    "When you mention the word slave ... in 2004, it's almost a shocking, unbelievable notion that in this country we wrote slavery into our Constitution before we wrote it out," Mr. Kerry said.
    His answer received marked applause from the audience in the reading room of the historically black university's Armour J. Blackburn Center in Northwest.
    He also talked about his travels to the South in the 1960s as a student participating in the Mississippi voter-registration drive. The candidate praised Southern states for making great strides to improve race relations, which he said in some ways are outpacing Northern states.
    "The South, in fact, has done quite well and deserves credit for transitioning in many ways that the North hasn't," he said. "The North has been reluctant in some ways, and no one gives them credit for that."
    To win the presidency, Mr. Kerry will need to win a significant portion of the black voting bloc. In 2000, nearly 90 percent of blacks who voted chose Al Gore, as they did Bill Clinton in both of his presidential wins.
    For some civil rights leaders, Mr. Kerry stumbled during an interview with American Urban Radio Networks last month when he said, "President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second."
    That issue wasn't brought up during the town hall meeting yesterday.
    A medical student asked the senator about AIDS relief funding to Africa and the Caribbean. Mr. Kerry said he would "probably double" the $15 billion over five years proposed by President Bush in January 2003. He said that 16 months later, only $2 billion has been appropriated and the creation of a clinic network and a funding disbursement organization continues to be inadequate or nonexistent.
   Mr. Kerry added that because 40 million people are infected with HIV or AIDS and officials predict the apex of AIDS deaths some 25 years away, the United States and the world shouldn't be "dillydallying" with the money.
    On the topic of U.S.-Haiti relations, the candidate said he wouldn't reinstate former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
    "I think Aristide went astray. He was no picnic, but what we should have done was held him accountable. ... I will fight for democracy, but not a particular leader," Mr. Kerry said.
    During the hour-long town hall session, Mr. Kerry emphasized several times that there are issues in the country unique to blacks — affirmative action, racial profiling, small-business contracts with the government — which he plans to discuss and work with black elected leaders and activists to improve.
    "But the main issues of jobs, decent jobs, health care, quality education are the same as everyone else in America," he said.
    Mr. Kerry also committed to the creation of a post for an assistant attorney general for environmental justice.
    He said he was appalled that in Roxbury, a majority black suburb of Boston, there are six toxic-waste dumping sites and that nearly 25 percent of children in Harlem have asthma partly because "all of the trucks" traveling through New York City are routed through the neighborhood.
    The town hall forum was part of Mr. Kerry's "Change Starts with U" college tour, which wraps up today at the University of Pittsburgh.


Hey Joan, I think your various responses to the article on Kerry speak for a whole lot of us.  Had I had more time, at the time I sent it, I probably would have added my own preface to it. 

(Just to give you some context, here, what was forwarded to me was only the web site address with the subject line "Kerry opposes reparations."  Not being one to accept stuff blindly, or to share it without further investigation -- but which I still did in this case without my usual previous careful reading and my own two cents worth of intro -- I did one better by going to the web site and getting the article itself, then sharing it with those who I thought would be interested).

There was/is a kind of a "red herring" element to this story the way I received it.  I get lots of mail from the Reparations community, so to speak, in spite of the fact that I am, to many who are involved in it, on the very fringe of that struggle.  I have made no bones about my concerns with it:  In what court of justice do we plan to bring this case?  (In any case, Exhibits A through Z have been in plain view of millions of witnesses for over 500 years, and counting).  It can't be about money; there is not enough of their money on the planet to "pay" for what was done, and even if there were, the couple of fistfuls we would each get today would be right back in their hands tomorrow.  (I don't have to get into the whole discourse on money being a "controlled substance," or the role of "money-changers" in human history).  There is, however, a real financial aspect to this struggle, which is a demand for all outstanding debt held by African nations to be cancelled (but that too requires some serious fine tuning, not even to mention such nations as African America).  My approach to the question is starting in some real places, like removing all of those land mines from Angola (which leads the world in per-capita amputees, after leading the world for centuries in population loss due to the Atlantic "slave trade"), and while they are at it, remove the mines from all other countries as well. It is no accident, in my mind, that all African political demands -- from abolition to the civil rights struggle to the end of colonialism, etc., etc. -- have always been for the benefit of the whole of humanity.  The only "losers" have been the greedy and the oppressors who saw some of their illegitimately gained wealth slip out of their control to benefit others. 

So, in this case, I bought into some complicity with the Reparations hysteria machine by using that as the subject line when I forwarded the article.  I am glad to se that you did what I did after I read the whole thing, which was to go past the one little paragraph on reparations to look at what all was really being said, or not said.  That is why I can say that the questions you raise speak for a whole lot of us, who have a whole lot more questions of this type.

For my part, without being cynical (but I am), I certainly do not see Mr. Kerry as the maker or the breaker of our future.  At best, if anything close to honest elections are held at all, a victory by him (which might be impossible otherwise) represents a kind of negative gain: an end to the disastrous madness going on now, and a prevention of a more complete consolidation of political power by the "Conservative" fanatics with their oppressive elitist agenda. 

You mentioned our only being 13% of the U.S. population, which clearly is not enough to impose our will (even if that made sense), but the great fear in American politics, particularly coming from the aforementioned "Conservatives" (such a euphemism!), is the power of the Black population to "broker" the outcome of elections.

The Black vote has been credited with deciding the victory for Carter and for Clinton, the last two Democrats to ever win the presidency. This is why so much of the "Florida strategy" under Jeb Bush for winning the (s)election of his brother as (p)resident in the White House had to do with such underhanded subterfuge as having State Troopers in Leon County (Tallahassee) stop and detain Black drivers who might have been on their way to the polls and other such machinations.

An even clearer picture of how the "race factor" fits into the scheme for a government which benefits mainly the elite (a group which pays no taxes, is regulated by no laws or restrictions, loses no lives in any war, and has no allegiance whatsoever to any nation) was provided by the "right wing" itself in the 1980 election of Reagan.  Too few of us remember where he launched his campaign after winning his party's nomination.  (The launch site is always symbolically important, like the old Democratic tradition of Cadillac Square in Detroit, which was broken by JFK's launch in Alaska, to symbolize his notion of a "New Frontier").  Reagan and his handlers chose Philadelphia, Mississippi, a place only known of by the outside world for its murder of the three civil rights workers, two Jewish and one Black.  There, Reagan invoked his support of "States' Rights" (here we go again), and won the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, which he politely declined some six weeks later, after it had accomplished its purpose.  Of all the political blocs that the pundits identify in their analysis of election results, the Black population was the ONLY one that solidly and unequivocally rejected the Reagan agenda, about a 98% voting against him.

What was the result?  Not only was bigotry back in fashion (right down to cutesy racist souvenir items depicting grotesque caricatures of lazy, indolent and ugly Negroes, reappearing in gift shops at gas stations in the South, along with that "Can I help YEW?" greeting that says that surely your presence in the establishment is an anomaly and you CAN'T be expecting actual service) but "white" America suffered terribly as well.  The manufacture of the aforementioned souvenir items (which help export racism) was only the tip of the iceberg of jobs by the thousands being stolen and sent off to foreign sweatshops maintained by brutal political regimes.  Health care became a sham and a scam, gutting people's lifetime savings and resources, throwing elders onto th streets homeless if a spouse suffered a catastrophic illness.  Family farms, held for generations, were wiped out by lowball crop prices at the behest of Wall Street speculators on commodities futures.  Air traffic controllers were fired and jailed without due process.  One of the last words recorded by the pilot of the Delta airliner that crashed in Texas, due to the effects of wind shear, was a reference to the "inexperience" of the replacement air traffic controller.  Free from strict regulation, one of Arrow Air's planes, bringing troops home from the Middle East for Christmas crashed in Newfoundland from mechanical failure.  The same lack of stringent quality control led to the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.  (And this is who they name the National Airport in Washington after!).  Workers, instead of receiving raises, got discounted (for their employers) group insurance and such "benefits' as EAP (Employee Assistance Programs, which paid for your drug rehab or psychiatric care, once they drove you crazy enough, while old motels being remodeled as treatment centers became the fad investment for doctors and others with money).  Welfare for the rich became the order of the day.  The privately owned media became cheerleaders instead of reporters, reminding us at every turn that Mr. R. was the "Most popular president in history" and "The  Great Communicator."   The agenda was to undo the social gains of Roosevelt's New Deal and of the Civil Rights struggle.  To hell with the environment.  International Law had no jurisdiction over the U.S.  Racist attacks were launched against Libya and Grenada.  A trillion dollar deficit was working to put the government out of business altogether.  The only compensation for "white" America was a feeling that it was OK to be "white" and racist again.  That's how the "race card" really works.

Racism can trump all other concerns. When things get real enough for the other concerns to be more important for a large enough portion of the population, the Black vote becomes critical, and often becomes the rest of the nation's ticket to ride to better times, often with us being left off the train (again), for fear, on their part, that we might become too conscious of our political power, and too demanding of our just portion, at (what they imagine to be) their expense.

Black America has long been regarded by many others around the world as a beacon of hope.  Who else, on American soil, "in the belly of the Beast," as the saying goes, will raise the questions that you are raising.  Who else will dare to fight with nothing but the weapons of truth and love for humanity?  Who else had felt the injustice and ignominious crimes of slavery by having been there?  Who else can explode the silly myths of capitalism because of having been, not so very long ago, capital ourselves and not much else, and as such, a major factor in the building of the capital wealth that now exists.

We live in a country whose citizens have barely known, from any real experience, how to, live in equality with other peoples.  This is a country that was built on the reality of "Indian Removal" and African slavery, and the enforced presumption   ("You ain't no nigger lover or Injun lover, are you?") that it was OK.  And it is still OK. That's why the scandalous abrogations of democracy that took place with the exclusion of Black voters from the polls in Florida in 2000 are no real scandal, for all of the real and present dangers that they pose to democracy for ALL Americans, because the average white American has been convinced that the routine oppression of darker peoples will never be visited upon him or her.  Historically, it was enough for "white" America to know that they were not actually legally enslaved to believe that they were "free," no matter how exploited and oppressed they were in reality.  And the beat goes on.

By our experience as much as by the cultural traditions that sustained us through the nightmares of the Middle Passage and slavery, and their ongoing aftermath, we have become the truth keepers and the truth tellers in this scenario.  And though we will continue to be marginalized, ignored, omitted, misrepresented, misunderstood or even outrightly "silenced," as much as those in fear of the truth are capable of, we will still be true to who we are.  Some of us anyway, at all times.  (We cannot afford to romanticize or exaggerate our role either, because everything that every one of "us" does ain't cool.  We understand that we are survivors of a hellish shipwreck, but some of us ain't fully recovered from the knocks upside the head: there is still too much domestic abuse, too much ignorant fantasy and selfish individualism, too much collaboration in our own oppression, too many casualties of chemical warfare ("substance abuse"), too many enslaved in prisons, migrant camps and "sharecrop" farms, too few places of real refuge for the soul, too few among us finding time to be supportive of each other, too little collective reverence for our children and our elders, but still we have the strength, as truth keepers, to recognize this.  Having the added strength, will, and desire, with our very limited time and material resources, to actually DO something about our situation is another matter, and that is what makes so many of us heroes and sheroes, even if it is only in scattered moments, and this, without romanticizing, also needs to be recognized).

I come back to my original point.  For all of the reasons I just put out there, I think your questions and concerns speak for the millions of us.   OUR strategy for addressing these concerns is the main issue.  A small part of that strategy is our monitoring of, and participation in, the presidential politics of this nation (of which we ARE a part, and we are not going away). 

Increase the Peace,
Dinizulu Gene Tinnie

A Slave Ship Speaks

Joan Cartwright

Atlanta Has Spoken!

  15. Gullah-Geechee Culture
  23. AIN'T I A WOMAN?
  32. EAGLES