'60s Civil Rights Activist Dismisses Reparations: Must Heal Black America, Not Punish US


Robert Woodson — who participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s — argued the Black Lives Matter movement’s push for reparations is misplaced and does not address the true challenges that many African-Americans face.

“You cannot monetize that problem,” Woodson told The Western Journal.

Some of the deeper issues he identified include black-on-black violence and out-of-wedlock births, resulting in single-parent households.

Woodson further questioned what the purpose of reparations would be.

“Is the answer to punish America or to heal black America?” he wondered.

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“If the goal is to punish America, reparations are fine but it’s not going to have any effect at all on the challenges facing a lot of black Americans.”

“If you have millionaire NBA and NFL players who make millions playing sports and less than five years [after] they leave the league, they are broke or filing for bankruptcy, how would reparations work?” Woodson asked.

The Philadelphia native has spent much of his life studying and working on issues related to lifting people out of poverty and into productive, rewarding lives, which has included stints at the National Urban League and the American Enterprise Institute.

In 1981, he founded the Woodson Center to help residents in low-income neighborhoods succeed.

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Woodson is troubled by the message Black Lives Matter sends to struggling African-Americans — that their best hope lies with more government programs based on a victimhood status.

“For Blacks Lives Matter or anyone to say to those folks that, ‘You don’t have the capacity to be agents of your own uplift or deliverance and until white people change, we cannot expect you to change,’ that’s the most insulting message that I can think anyone could give to a people,” he said.

“There’s nothing more lethal than giving people a good excuse for failure.”

Woodson added the message actually runs contrary to the path African-Americans have taken to succeed throughout U.S. history.

“Black America has never been defined by oppression. In fact, it is defined by its resistance to oppression and its ability to pursue excellence in the face of oppression,” he said.

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Woodson noted that black Americans in the first half of the 20th century responded to prejudice by building their own infrastructure of hotels, banks and prosperous neighborhoods like Bronzeville in Chicago, known as the “Black Wall Street.”

“So if blacks were able to achieve these great economic and social improvements in the face of segregation, how can you say that we cannot do it today?” the African-American scholar asked.

The types of programs that Black Lives Matter is promoting now had a devastating impact on African-American families and communities when enacted during the Great Society “War on Poverty” push in the 1960s, Woodson said.

“For a whole century [following the Civil War], the nuclear family stood as a safeguard for the preservation of that community,” he observed.

But the 1960s saw the separation of “work from income and welfare replaced the man in the house,” Woodson added.

Asked what he would change to help strengthen African-African communities, Woodson said first he would “like to see the government stop helping people.”

Next, he “would like to see black America stop talking about white people for two years and turn their attention to addressing the enemy within the way we were compelled to do during segregation.”

Earlier this year, Woodson helped launch 1776 Unites, an initiative which is in direct response to The New York Times 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project — a curriculum that makes the claim that a primary cause of the Revolutionary War was the colonists’ desire to protect slavery — has been adopted in 3,500 classrooms across all 50 states.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead writer for the project, said in a radio interview with the “Karen Hunter Show” in December that “my ultimate goal is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed.”

Working against Hannah-Jones’ claim that the American colonies declared independence to protect slavery is the fact that the British did not abolish the institution in their empire until 1833, over a half-century after the Revolutionary War began.

Additionally, almost all the states north of the Mason-Dixon Line had voted to abolish slavery by the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783.

By 1804, all the Northern states had passed legislation ending slavery.

There were no other governments in the world taking such action at that time. In other words, Americans led the way in the abolition movement.

“We’re the only [country] that fought a war to end slavery,” Woodson further pointed out, referring to the Civil War in the 1860s.

“That’s why people of color are risking their lives from all over the world to get here.”

His group, 1776 Unites, is in the process of putting together its own curriculum.

“We want to recount all of the ways blacks have achieved against the odds so that our children can be motivated to have something competitive to the defeatist curriculum of 1619,” Woodson said.

He added: “1619 is like a coach showing teams videos of every game they lost and then encouraging them to go out and win.”

“What we want to do is show videos from the past of victories that blacks achieved in the face of segregation and oppression, because we think people are more motivated to change when they see victories that are possible, not injuries to be avoided.”

Contrary to what the 1619 Project and Black Lives Matter are preaching, Woodson believes America’s founding ideals, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, are sound, even “divinely inspired,” but what they promise is an opportunity, not a cash payment.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith