Reparations must be paid to American blacks for centuries of slavery and decades of legalized discrimination, civil rights leader Julian Bond said Tuesday.
Bond's comments came during a question-and-answer session with students at Kansas University.
Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
"If your grandparents owned slaves or not, you are a beneficiary of slavery," Bond told the 47 white people in the audience. "I think there's got to be some restitution for this."
Bond, chairman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the direct victims of slavery are gone, yet blacks still bear the legacy of inferiority inherent in slavery.
"The greatest gift America gave to people who came here was it made them white people," he said. "They weren't white people before they came here from Europe. White like black is defined by the absence of something."
Bond said he supports the position on reparations taken by the NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. The group supports a bill by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., for a commission to study the issue of reparations.
"It's different than payments to Japanese-Americans who lost property in World War II," Bond said. "It's different than payments to Israel. It's different than payments by Switzerland to victims of the Holocaust. In those cases there are identifiable victims. That seems to rule out direct cash payments to blacks.
"I'm the grandson of slaves how do you determine my payment?" he said.
Restitution may come in the form of some "program payment," Bond said.
Bond, who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and was co-founder of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said Bill Clinton is one of the few politicians in America comfortable dealing with people who are "not like him."
Yet Bond, a longtime Georgia state legislator, said he views Clinton's presidency as an "opportunity missed."
He said Clinton did not appoint the most "forward-thinking people" to the Supreme Court. And some of his appointments to lesser federal courts fell far short of his Supreme Court appointments.
Responding to a question about the impact of the coming presidential election on the Supreme Court, Bond warned the people attending that the "far, far right-wing" views of Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia could become the law of the land, if more justices like them are appointed.
"Justice Thomas' appointment, that was a bad, bad day," Bond said. "A bad moment from which we are still suffering."
Bond was in Lawrence to deliver a Tuesday evening lecture at the Lied Center, relating the history of the civil rights movement to the history of popular music.