World Human Rights Day, December 10th, 2021
Honorable President Joseph R. Biden, we applaud your recognition of the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire, where over 1.5 million people were killed in mass and forced to erase their religious identity in 1915. Who better to make this acknowledgement than the United States under your leadership considering how honorably you carried the torch for Senator William Proxmire on the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, best known as the Proxmire Act. We are calling on you and the Department of Justice to utilize the Proxmire Act for applicable crimes committed against descendants of enslaved Africans and Africans enslaved in the United States of America.
During the antebellum period, over 12 million Africans were kidnapped, and transported to the Americas without their consent or contract. Two to four million were dumped in the ocean during the Transatlantic voyage. Many were dumped alive due to rules that required death at sea for collection on insurance policies by companies like Lloyds of London. Many other companies exist today that played a role in the slave trade and these early acts of genocide. Some of them violated United States and State slave trade laws and have never been held accountable. Included in this group is Bank of America due to acts engaged in by its predecessor bank, the Providence Bank of Rhode Island.
We are grateful that you understand the seriousness and significance of a genocide declaration and recognize that there is no statute of limitation on such crimes against humanity. For example, with respect to the Ottoman Empire or even Germany, the debts for genocide must be paid in full regardless of when the crimes were committed.
You may recognize that descendants of enslaved Africans have consistently been subjected to acts of genocide since we were brought to the shores of this county. Enslaved Africans were members of African ethnic and national groups prior to enslavement, hence, their descendants should be members of these same groups. However, unlike the detailed documentation of European immigrants who journeyed across the Atlantic to the Americas, no records of origin or surnames were documented for enslaved Africans. Ship records only listed African humans as “cargo” moved from ports of export and import as “chattle”.
As a consequence of this deliberate exclusion of detail, each descendant of an enslaved African born in America suffers the direct injury of genocide — deliberate destruction of their ethnic and national identity. We are virtually untraceble to our specific families in Africa. We stand as the only Americans that can only identify with a continent rather than an actual nation or ethnic group of origin.
With the magic of modern DNA technology, this injury can be repaired. In fact, our organization, the Restitution Study Group, is undertaking a modest effort to reunite families separated by the Transatlantic Slave Trade using DNA testing. These reunions are critical in managing health, religious, and legacy/land matters but they are expensive and require major resources to be effective.
Many Americans get dual citizenship using data collected during their ancestors’ immigration to the colonies or to the United States. Descendants of enslaved Africans get nothing.
There are other forms of genocide we suffer from in the United States at the hands of police and vigilante/militia groups as well as corporate and government entities — race based violence and disparate treatment carried out to kill or destroy us in whole or part. Discrimination in all areas of our lives not only deprives us of basic resources and rights needed for survival, but it results in stress and other health disorders that cause our premature death and destruction.
In spite of various laws passed to protect us, the crimes have been continuous since we were carried here by force. Some examples of the genocide of the past include pattyroller actions against the enslaved including mass killings of freedom seeking enslaved Africans; dismemberment of our bodily parts and branding to physically and mentally control our mobility; and rapes, forced breeding and sale of our offspring. During Jim Crow, genocide included Black codes that facilitated peonage, sharecropping, jury nullification, and lynchings. Today the genocide includes housing discrimination and gentrification that leaves us disproportionately homeless, employment discrimination that leaves us chronically unemployed, education discrimination that leaves us disproportionately untrained and unemployable, and healthcare inequity and disparity that results in suffering and premature death; police and vigilante/militia slayings of unarmed and innocent Black people; and disproportionate incarceration rates. These actions were and still are designed to kill or destroy us in whole or part.
Descendants of enslaved Africans are specifically targeted with these crimes and conditions. It is the life we live because of our race and African origin. None of us can fully escape these crimes and conditions. Indeed, even those of us who accomplish wealth and career success will still be subjected to mentally or physically stressful discriminatory action, by police or others, designed to bring about our death or destruction.
On this World Human Rights Day, we are calling on you and the Department of Justice to recognize these crimes against us as genocide and to apply Proxmire accordingly. To view these acts any other way is to deny us our humanity.
While we support HR40, a bill to develop a Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African Americans, Proxmire can accomplish some of the goals of potential proposals. This is largely because many of the injuries requiring reparations are due to genocide against descendants of enslaved Africans. HR40 crawls its way through Congress, but Proxmire is already the law of the land. It can and should be utilized!
Proxmire fines of $500k to $1 million per act of genocide would penalize perpetrators of genocide as well as help victims with the cost of repairing their injuries. The Proxmire imprisonment clauses of 5 to 20 years will help send a message that the continuous and systematic violence against slave descendants is serious and will not go unpunished.
We use the convenient label “African American” rather than “descendant of enslaved African”. In doing so, it is easy to forget how we arrived here and that this group of people have always been subjected to pain, death, and destruction in this country. It is critical that as a nation we engage in acts of justice that ensure that, like the Armenians and other groups of persecuted humans (including Jewish, Japanese, Aleutian and other Native Americans), descendants of enslaved Africans are protected from genocide — in our case, one of the longest continuous and unacknowledged genocidal campaigns in world history!
- that the Department of Justice utilize Proxmire causes of action in pending and future cases against police and vigilante/militia groups where acts of genocide are committed against descendants of enslaved Africans.
- application of Proxmire in cases where corporate or State entities subject descendants of enslaved Africans to actions that result in our death or destruction in whole or part.
- that a private right of action be established to enforce Proxmire ourselves in civil actions when applicable. This could be established through Administrative rules.
- Lastly, we understand that not all Black people in America are descended from enslaved Africans. However, those who commit acts of genocide against Black people typically assume the enslaved heritage applies to us all. Hence, application of Proxmire should be extended to all Black people of African descent subjected to acts of genocide in the United States.
We thank you for your attention to this matter and welcome a meeting with you for further discussion.
Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, JD, MA, Executive Director, Restitution Study Group
Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, Founder and President, Harlem Women International – NFF and Queen Mother of the Transatlantic Slave Trade of North America
Dr. Antoinette Harrell, Founder of Nuturing Our Root Media
Sister Empress Phile’ Chinesu Architect, Convenor, and President General, National Million Woman March & MWM Universal Movements and Founder & CEO: WE CHARGE GENOCIDE “21” Project