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REPARATIONS: IT’S NOT ABOUT MONEY, IT’S ABOUT RESPECT To the editor: I have just finished reading Allen G. Siegel’s letter to the editor ” Reparations Claims Just Don’t Add Up” ["Letters," March 17, 2003, Page 53], and I was compelled to respond to his comments. Most African-Americans are not looking for a handout when seeking reparations. A large number of African-Americans would be satisfied with the recognition of what price our ancestors paid in building America. Reparations can nevermend what was wrenched from my people. Stating that the “suffering occasioned by slavery was indeed horrendous” trivializes the institution of slavery. Slavery was not an accident, it was an established system contrived to build up America and its resources using human muscles. Mr. Siegel appears to be using Hollywood’s interpretation of slavery as the basis for his ideas about slavery. Obviously, he does not know that like the Holocaust victims, African children were slaughtered, thrown off the ships into the ocean, placed in troughs they could not climb out of and covered with water until they drowned. This will probably offend Mr. Siegel, but African women and children were raped and brutalized just as some of the Holocaust women were. The men were castrated and used as if they were animals — the Africans and the Holocaust victims were dehumanized daily — they were forced to walk around with little or no clothes on to further strip them of their self-respect. Again, I reiterate with an addition, reparations can nevermend what was wrenched from my people or the Holocaust survivors, the Native Americans, or any groups of people who have been victimized because they are “different.” Now I must take offense to Mr. Siegel’s statement about the value of the property losses of my ancestors from Africa. It is sad the history books during Mr. Siegel’s time did not let him know about the riches contained in Africa’s continent. Diamonds and precious stones were strewn about the land like rocks and pebbles, so the property losses of the African slaves were priceless, as were those of the Holocaust victims. No amount of reparations will ever replace the material losses these groups endured. I will not and cannot downplay the atrocities suffered by anyone who has been enslaved against their will. I believe all Holocaust survivors and their descendants should receive reparations. I also believe this should be true for the Native Americans and their descendants, African-Americans and their descendants, and Japanese-Americans and their descendants. Mr. Siegel offended me further by implying that African-Americans should express “some expression of gratitude.” OK . . . here it is: Thank you for going to Africa and placing my ancestors in ships where they were manacled and unable to move from the stench and remnants of human excrement while connected to others dying or who had died. Thank you for the subjection of rape endured by women and children. Thank you for the sustained beatings because of attempts to be free (a God-given right). Thank you for acts of castration without benefit of medicinal assistance. Thank you for the hangings. Most importantly, maybe we should say thanks for what you call “the sad mistakes of the past” still being present today. Do you know what it is like to be unable to get a cab because of the color of your skin? How about this . . . the cab driver stops for you, rolls down his window, and asks, “Where are you going?” And he quickly pulls off when you mention Southeast or Northeast. There is something African-Americans can be grateful for . . . the fact that America is changing and narrow-minded people are diminishing. African-Americans do more harm to our culture when we do not speak up. For when we do speak up other Americans and survivors of victimization join us in our cry for the plight of our ancestors and the desires for their walks to be recognized for what it was — a time when others thought they were better than those they enslaved. By the way, Mr. Siegel, it appears you have missed the boat (pun intended) of progress — African-Americans are rising in wealth and in power, particularly in this area. We are rising because we are speaking up, standing up for ourselves, staying away from “the negatives of our past” and limited thinkers, and embracing any and all who respect others for their merits and not the color of their skin. If you think it is about reparations, ask someone who has received them, and you will learn it is not — it is about long overdue respect. Rita Simmons Capitol Heights, Md. ARTICLE ON VACCINE BILL OMITTED DARK PAST To the editor: I read the article about the vaccine bill [" Vaccine Bill Becomes Big Headache," March 3, 2003, Page 1]. Thank you for giving it the attention it deserves. Thimerosal is as dangerous as any mercury poisoning. It should be eliminated from vaccines without any delay. One thing you neglected to mention is that Thimerosal, a product added to vaccines in the early ’30s, has not been tested according to FDA standards. As a matter of fact, when it was purported to have been tested, in the form of what was then called merthiolate, the test subjects were 22 meningitis patients, many of whom died at the hospital where these tests were performed. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Associationon the tests did not elaborate on whether merthiolate was injected or sprayed into the nose. Either way, testing any substance on moribund patients is unethical. Birgit Calhoun Stanford Law Library Stanford, Calif.

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