On Fathers Day the Rochdale Village chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America hosted an informational meeting designed to drum up support for a plan to force the U.S. government to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves. It is a proposal that is morally questionable and practically impossible to execute.
The period of slavery in America was inexcusable, an offense against humanity. Likewise there is no question that all black Americans continue to suffer in some way from the effects of slavery. But slavery in America ended more than 140 years ago and defining who are the descendants of the slaves and which corporations should pay for the reparations is a nearly impossible task.
How will people, some of whom may very well have blond hair and blue eyes, prove that they are the descendants of slaves? What about the black Americans who arrived on Americas shores after the Civil War?
And in fairness, if they find a way to pay the descendants of slaves, should they not also make payment to the descendants of Union soldiers who gave their lives to end slavery? How unfair it would be if the sons of Civil War heroes were asked to pay for slavery.
At one point the organizers of this information meeting actually suggested that the freed slaves were forced to become American citizens against their will. If this is the kind of inane historical revisionism that will inform this debate, the reparations movement is doomed before it begins.
Editorial: Strange justice
Once again we are baffled by what has passed for justice in the courts of Queens County. And once again the district attorney appears overly influenced by the court of public opinion.
Just weeks after cutting a deal that allowed Nicholas Gambino, a young man who stabbed two men outside a College Point nightclub, to walk away without being sentenced to even one day in prison or jail, DA Richard Brown cut another deal that will send a loving father to prison for two to six years and a loving mother to jail for six months.
Brown played hardball with Barry, 56, and Judith Smiley, 55, formerly of 80-51 190th St. in Jamaica Estates. Twenty-two years ago the Smileys tried to adopt the baby boy that they had cared for as a foster child. They thought the adoption was a done deal. But 15 months later the birth mother who had been willing to abandon her baby and her boyfriend had a change of heart. Like children on a playground, they asked the court for a do-over.
At that point, the Smileys made a bad decision. They took baby Matthew on a journey that ended in New Mexico where they acquired fake Social Security numbers enabling them to start a new life. They now admit that what they did was wrong. But Matthew, now an adult, is the first to say that the Smileys were devoted parents.
Brown could have charged the Smileys with a lesser crime and he could have allowed them to walk. Instead he opted to charge Barry Smiley with kidnapping and his wife Judith with custodial interference. Both are now in their 50s and in poor health. Brown ignored the wishes of Matthew, who does not want to see the couple who raised him put behind bars. If they had gone to trial, the Smileys could have faced serious prison time. On the advice of their attorney, they took the deal.
What will be accomplished by putting the Smileys behind bars? The chances that this couple will ever commit another crime are infinitesimally small. They are not hardened criminals, they are a couple driven to a tragic decision by their love for a baby.
Some will say the law is the law and the Smileys must be punished. But how is it possible that the same Supreme Court that let Nicholas Gambino walk is sending the Smileys to jail? Gambino is a hot head who nearly killed two people and was originally charged with attempted murder.
This is what passes for justice in the courtrooms of Queens County.
©2002 Community News Group
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