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Against Reparations

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In Mid September of this year, throngs gathered at the United Nations to rally for slavery reparations from the United States government. International guests harking from such law-abiding and justice-seeking nations as Zimbabwe, Libya, Angola, Cuba, Namibia, and Nigeria were in attendance at the event. Speakers included Ron Walters, Louis Farrakhan, and NYC Councilman Charles Barron. Dozens of fringe groups like the Friends of Zimbabwe and The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) sponsored the rally. Thousands also attended last year’s Millions For Reparations Mass Rally, held on August 17, 2002, in Washington, D. C.

It is, perhaps, high time to stop marginalizing this increasingly influential grassroots movement, which is gaining considerable strength and support, and rather meet it head on, resolving the issue once and for all, with zest, and not letting it linger on in our national consciousness unresolved.

President Bush has made an effort to indirectly tackle the difficult aftermath of slavery. The President’s speech on Goree Island in Senegal, a stirring example of democracy working in Africa, was one of the great and noble moments of reckoning in his career thus far. Despite being caught in the crossfire of Africa’s most popular statesman, Nelson Mandela, President Bush made his way to the continent with a relatively small retinue. As reported by the Arizona Republic’s Don Melvin, a cartoon appeared on the front page of The Star, the largest newspaper in Johannesburg, on the day that the President delivered his historic speech. The cartoon showed President Bush in tourist dress being greeted by South African President, Thabo Mbeki:

“Wow!” Bush says in the cartoon. “What a beautiful country.”

“No, you can’t have it!” Mbeki replies.

Those skeptical sentiments notwithstanding, the President’s speech exhibited characteristic courage in accepting America’s role in the immoral institution of slavery:

“At this place (Goree Island, Senegal), liberty and life were stolen and sold. Human beings were delivered and sorted and weighed and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return … One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history.”

Little ado was made of this principled and monumental speech delivered by the leader of the free world. There was nothing “peculiar” about his assessment: slavery was evil. The press was more concerned, alas, with calibrating the amount of time the President spent on the continent in relation to the amount of time he spent on air travel.

As a first generation Ugandan immigrant, I must say at the outset of this piece that I would not qualify for any form of legal reparations payout based upon US slavery. I mention my background here because motive is the key to understanding the growing momentum of this movement. During this year’s Millions For Reparations rally, speakers stirred the slow fires of resentment by skillfully rendering the sorrowful image of the slave martyr – raped, beaten, humiliated – in lurid detail, carefully tailored to the crowded attendees inciting … what? Well, primarily, the image was directed at resentment, and not the cause of distributive justice towards which the crowd was purportedly gathered. Therein lies the difficulty: the strength of the reparations movement is generated not by an appeal to the law, as their strategy suggests, but rather to the smoldering fires of resentment.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the king of resentment, in On the Genealogy of Morals sketches his theory of resentment, or, as he calls it, “ressentiment.” Nietzsche always went in for the French word. In the Genealogy, Nietzsche recounts how the self-esteem and pride of the conquered is subverted by the conquering physical might of the conquerors. As a result, the conquered resent their status, but are powerless to openly retaliate. Rather than resign themselves to humility, the conquered appropriate and sanction strategies of coping with perceived injustice, impotence and envy. Always with Nietzsche the relationship between the conqueror and the conquered was paramount: as if nothing else in life mattered. At this point in the reparations debate, the legal argument enters onto the world stage.

The Reparations Movement in its current incarnation seeks legal redress through International Law. The Bush Administration opted out of the chaotic 2001 U N World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, which, ultimately decided that the Tran Atlantic Slave Trade Was A Crime Against Humanity. From that decision, the current Reparations movement draws its steam.

Comparisons are also being made to the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, but those are not valid. At Nuremberg, justice was speedily brought against the direct participants responsible for crimes against humanity. Nuremberg, moreover, was an anomalous situation. The Reparations Movement also brings up Japanese Internment during WWII and American reparations paid. In the case of Japanese reparations payments, again, direct participants in that historical moment were involved. The case of slavery reaches back into the recesses of history for its claims.

And just what are the limits of Reparations claims? How long, or through how many successive generations, should such claims for reparations survive? Since there is no statute of limitations which limits claims for murder and genocide, does this mean that Mexico could ostensibly sue Spain for reparations over the excesses of Hernan Cortez in the Sixteenth Century? Here we enter into the realm of Sophistry couched in legal arguments: reason is twisted to suit historical hurts at the expense of true justice.

Surprisingly, as recently as Spring 2002, a significant number of African Americans in the region surrounding the aforementioned UN rally were against reparations. In a March 2002 Eyewitness News(ABC)/Survey USA poll of 500 (NY area) asked if respondents thought “the government should use taxpayer money to compensate the descendants of former slaves, and an overwhelming majority (74 percent) said no. Only 19 percent said the government should.” Broken down racially, less than half of the black poll respondents (49 percent) felt that the reparations should come from federal taxpayer money. That less than half of the black respondents supported reparations is significant; does this regional poll suggest a national trend?

Flyers distributed for the rally by Millions For Reparations (http://www.millionsforreparations.com) were emblazoned with the incendiary “They Owe Us!” But who are “us” and who are “they”? Correct documentation is nearly impossible in most cases of ancestral slavery. Just how does one calibrate the reparations for ancestral slavery? How would pain and suffering be converted into dollar amounts? Further, it seems reasonable to argue that any calibrated amount would meet with significant opposition as being a low figure. Would any dollar amount in the settlement be subject to further arbitration at a later date or would the case be closed forever?

Who would be the parties arbitrating the sum between the African American descendants and the United States? The International Criminal Court? The United States Congress? Can a consensus be reached about the arbitrator? Would the Southern nations be responsible for a larger allotment of the reparations because they benefited more as an agrarian geographical region? If so, how much more responsible would they be?

Would this Trust be paid out from tax revenues? Would this Trust be paid out in Scholarships? Would the reparations be paid out with tax credits? Would the reparations be paid in government bonds? Would the Reparations be paid in cash?

Would affluent African Americans also be included in the trust? Would immigrants who arrived in the United States after the repeal of slavery be exempt from contributing to these payments via their tax dollars? Would the tax revenues come primarily from white descendants of slave owners or from everyone in the United States? Would non descendants of slave owners be allowed to protest the spending of their tax dollars on a Reparations Trust? Would descendants of African slaves in America living abroad for generations be eligible for the Trust?

On the morning of January 3, 1889, while visiting Turin, Friedrich Nietzsche, the greatest exponent of resentment, suffered a mental breakdown, leaving him an invalid for the rest of his short life. Upon witnessing a horse being whipped by a coachman at the Piazza Carlo Alberto, Nietzsche threw his arms around the horse’s neck, collapsing, mad: Nietzsche’s final meditation on the relationship of conqueror and conquered.

Now, even more than ever, after the solidarity after September 11th, after generations of gains in moving towards true equality of man before the eyes of the law, this is a time for unity. There are no “usses and thems,” only we, one nation, the United States of America. That is why I am against reparations.

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About Ron Mwangaguhunga

  • mike

    Well, thank you, this was very provocative! Reparations are a very divisive issue and I’m wishy-washy on it myself. But your argument is very persuasive. In my opinion, the best way to repair the damage of slavery would be to increase social investment in health and education for all races. Why set blacks and whites off against one another and give the GOP yet another excuse to race bait?

  • As someone who is a descendant of slaves, I find your claims disingenuous, Ron. In fact, they strike me as all too typical of the brown-nosing of white people that comes so easily to many nonwhite immigrants. You know this is what Right Wingers want to hear about reparations (a much more complex issue than you describe it as), so you are happy to serve it up. You will probably get the pats on your head from white conservatives you are courting, but be aware there is at least one blogger who has your number.

    As for Shrub grasping the history of slavery, he doesn’t . . . not even a little bit. So, he read a rote remark in Senegal without mispronouncing too many of the words. His more telling remark was when he expressed astonishment that there are black people in Brazil. Anyone who knew anything about the slave trade would know that.

    Furthermore, as a former member of the Critical Legal Studies Movement, the Harvard Law School-based group that initiated legal analysis of the reparations movement, I can assure you none of your naive and inflated rhetoric here is relevant to the actual issues involved. Reparations, if they occur, would likely be meted out in special programs to close the gap between the descendants of slaves and white Americans in health, education and other measures of welfare — not direct payments. Since American law would apply, reparations paid elsewhere would not matter except perhaps as a frameworks. Cortez has absolutely nothing to do with this.

    As for the questions you pose, I trust the brilliant lawyers working on the cases will be able to answer them quite well. Not one of them goes much beyond the normal concerns involved in developing legal remedies. It may seem like rocket science to you, but it isn’t. Your inability to grasp these issues has more to do with your limitations than the viability of arguments for reparations.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks very much Ron, you are an exceptionally articulate voice. Welcome! it’s hard to argue with mike about health and education being the most important investment and about not fostering divisiveness.

  • this is a thoughtful and provocative post that deserved better than the sneering and condescending analysis offered by our resident racial mccarthyite.

    the democrats are the primary culprits in ensuring that people–disproportionately of color–remain trapped in substandard (often urban) public schools (that are substandard even though funding increases have long outstripped inflation). if democrats dared to cross the teachers unions, schools would improve. as the former NEA or ATF (i forget which) president said, “stop talking about letting kids escape.”

    so one poster can present a divisive leftist idea as a GOP plot to race bait, and another can continue to demonize conservatives and whites and those blacks who stray from her party line (while constantly belittling people of every color as intellectual inferiors)–that will make them feel better, and that’s what it’s all about, how the activist feels.

    i am curious–should the africans, who sold other africans to the people who brought the slaves across, also have to pay reparations?

    i am also curious–the gop was right to demote trent lott, but how come the dems never took action against r. byrd, former klan official who prominently featured the “n” word in remarks in the last 3 years?

  • Chris, you’re not being fair. Referring to Mac Diva’s tirades as “McCarthyite” does an injustice to the late Senator McCarthy. Granted, he was a demagogue, but unlike with Diva’s diatribes in fact many of the people he accused were in fact guilty.

  • I honestly don’t know how I feel about reparations. The one thing that I do know is that with an issue like this, there is no way for me to be right. The color of my skin allegedly keeps me from being anything approaching ignorant let alone above it and it is also a basis for implication of what perspective I am representing before I ever have a chance to explain it. As long as I am going to be written off or “outed” because I may or may not agree with certain people and I don’t fit a proper opinion-having profile, the whole process seems relatively futile. Maybe I will just sit back and wait for someone with the right perspective to tell me how I SHOULD feel.

    Won’t that be productive?

  • It is not a question of ‘feeling,’ but of analysis. The problems left by the vestiges of slavery are real. They will not go away because some people (including a vapid just off the plane immigrant) say to ignore them. Indeed, as history has shown, they will worsen. The only viable solution is to attack those vestiges of slavery with programs that save lives and assure the quality of lives. That is the goal of the reparations movement in the legal community. Programs that close the gap in health, education and economic equity can end the unfinished business of slavery. Nor does Mr. I Must Be a Clever African Because I Can Misquote a Clever German’s basic claim make ten cents worth of sense. Continuing injury is an accepted concept in the American legal system. It is what has occurred with slavery. Slavery ended, but the damage caused by slavery itself and the discrimination that has followed it continues.

    Years ago, I heard a Richard Pryor tape in which he focused on the issue of fresh off the boat immigrants adopting racism against African-Americans as a way to fit in with white Americans. In the scenario, Vietnamese immigrants are being taught English. The lesson? Learning to say ‘Nigger.’ This entry at Blogcritics is Ron Mwangaguhunga’s ‘look at me, I can say nigger, too’ speech.

    If he and other person’s of his ilk don’t want their opinions analyzed, I recommend they not present them publicly. From looking at the friends of Blogcritics list he may have gotten the impression everyone here is a far Right conservative who will pat a black immigrant on the head for adopting racist thinking against the people of color who helped build this country. I am glad to disappoint him. A Ugandan who will hop off a plane in the United States on Monday and dump offal on the heads of its most abused citizens on Tuesday (metaphor, for the learning impaired) reveals something about himself, but that something is nothing to be proud of.

  • Eric Olsen

    Racism is real, the legacy of slavery and racism are real, but I don’t see reparations as the answer. Not agreeing that reparations are the answer is not prima facie racism.

  • I don’t believe reparations, in the sense of payment of actual damages, will occur. There is too much contempt for African-Americans among the general population for most of it to believe the group deserves to be compensated for the injuries of slavery and discrimination. Indeed, if ending de jure segregation had been put to a vote, we would still be living under Jim Crow.

    However, I believe the legal community’s reparations movement (which has little to do with the excesses of Afrocentric activists on the topic) will eventually produce results. Those results will likely come as a response to pressure, not because Congress’ hearts and minds are in the right place. That is the goal of the Crits — to pressure the government into providing meaningful redress in regard to health, education and welfare for African-Americans, who are disproportionately impacted by inequities in those areas. Other disfavored groups, including Chicanos, Indians and the white poor, will also benefit from such programs.

    The author of this entry, who I already know from the ad rag he edited, has greatly underestimated good lawyers, like those studying reparations. A smart lawyer is possibly the least emotional kind of person on Earth. If there were not viable factual reasons for being involved, the Crits would not have devoted more than a decade to developing a legal theory for reparations.

  • Don’t you find it ironic that this is about racism which is lumping people together and then you go about lumping all African immigrants together calling them brown-nosing ass kissers to the right-wing and/or white people?

  • mac, why do sing the praises of an unemotional approach and then fill your posts with emotional malice? can’t you disagree with people without name calling and condescension? do you think your constant proclamations of self-superiority do anything more than advertise your own intellectual insecurity?

    because you ignored my previous post, i’ll infer that you were unable to rebut it.

  • I’ve said nothing about all African immigrants. But, one who shows up hoping to score brownie points by attacking African-Americans deserves the scrutiny of himself and his motives he is getting.

    And, frankly, I’ve yet to encounter anyone at Blogcritics who makes me doubt myself intellectually. Least of all? Chris Arabia.

  • Could have fooled me, quoting Richard Pryor and all.

  • Re: Reparations? Put me down ATM as a “no” vote. I’ve yet to read one compelling “for” argument, but I still have an open mind.

    Re: Resident Troll? I suppose there are some similarities, Craig.

    She must be on some kind of mission to alienate herself from almost everybody here with comments like this:

    And, frankly, I’ve yet to encounter anyone at Blogcritics who makes me doubt myself intellectually. Least of all? Chris Arabia.

    Richard Pryor – freebased cocaine in 1980, seriously burning over half his body.

    Mac Diva – writes in 2003, burning bridges with 99.9% of those who she comes into contact with that frequent Blogcritics.

  • mac, you couldn’t have proven my point any more effectively if you had written, “i agree 100% with what chris arabia wrote.” thank you!


  • debbie

    If you believe that only the guilty should be punished, then how can you be for reparations?

    I’ve never owned slaves, nor have I made any policy concerning minorities. Why should I be punished?

  • That’s kind of a limited world view after X number of generations, certainly none of us, unless we are over 100 years of age were slave owners. That shouldn’t be at the heart of your argument. If you believe in reparations, certainly it would be considered a societal debt that all Americans would have to pay for.

  • I think this is somewhat appropriate:

    Prince Akeem: Sir, I was wondering, did you catch the professional football contest on television last night?

    Cleo McDowell: No, I didn’t.

    Prince Akeem: Oh, it was a most amazing game. The Giants of New York took on the Packers of Green Bay. The Giants triumphed by kicking a pigskin ball through a big “H”. A most ripping victory!

    Cleo McDowell: Son… I’m just going to tell you this one time. If you want to keep working here, stay off the drugs.

  • “there are some people here to see you.”

    “are they with mac diva?”

    “i don’t think so.”

  • debbie

    That is why I don’t agree with reparations…. I don’t think that I should be saddled with the punishment for something that I did not take part in.

    If you do this then how far back should you go? Should you have to pay “now” for something that your great great great grandfather did? What if he comitted a murder, should you be “sued” and forced to pay for something that you were even alive for, let alone responsible for? Don’t kid yourself, if this is allowed, the lawyers will push it even further to allow any kind of suit go forward (their pay is based on a percentage of the award)for any kind of wrong in past generations.
    That’s what scares me!

  • Dew

    The fact of the matter here is that Blacks are still fighting for equal footing in this country as a result of slavery. Monetary reparations may not be the answer but something (even if it is no more than some sort of tax relief) has to be done.

    The problem on the receiving end is there will always exist someone who will abuse the system.

    The problem on the giving end is that, people who share Debbie’s pov will argue it’s not their fault. Why should they have to pay? Is it Charles’s fault he now has to raise his brother’s son because terrorist decided to put a plane thru the twin towers? Is it the mother or father’s fault they have to raise their grandchildren as their own because their daughter is addicted to heroine? No, it is not, although they end up being held responsible.

    If a cousin six times removed died leaving you as the only living relative to accept their inheritance worth millions, would you be so quick to give it back? I mean you never knew them and you certainly took no hand in helping to earn the money, why should you be privileged to spend it? When is it okay to reap benefit with no loss?

    We all want better race relations, less poverty, more education but when it requires too much effort or too much money from us directly those issues become less important. It’s the same as this War situation. I damn sure hate the fact 87 billion is going towards Iraq reform (?) but I want to be assured that I am protected as a citizen. I hate the fact that Social Security is plaguing my pay stub every pay period but I long to help the elderly trying to survive. I realize I can not have it both ways.

    A wrong was done and there should be retribution to make those things right since the waves of those wrongdoings are still in effect. I personally do not agree with monetary reparations, but I do see where it would be a start at repairing 400 years of economic oppression. Unfortunately it is far too late to correct the emotional damage suffered by those who actually lived thru slavery.

  • Just a question, but wouldn’t you consider a lot of the programs in place today to bring up all citizens who have financial hardships similar to reparations? This country put a group of people in situations because of slavery and as a result of that oppression haven’t there been many programs to try and help the poor in order to try and help give everyone, especially those who were knocked backward by slavery? I am not saying that it is proportionate or disproportionate, but what is welfare, food stamps, housing subsidies, etc? Haven’t we been doing these things for a long time? Maybe we need additional programs, but it seems to me that reparations have been paid and received for a long time through programs with no pre-determined length.

  • debbie

    Yes, we have been trying to change things over the years.

    “Is it Charles’s fault he now has to raise his brother’s son because terrorist decided to put a plane thru the twin towers?”

    No it is the terrorists fault. They are the ones that should be punished. Take the money from their estate or from the groups that trained them and sent them over here.

    “Is it the mother or father’s fault they have to raise their grandchildren as their own because their daughter is addicted to heroine?”

    No it isn’t, it is the grandparents choice on whether to raise the grandchildren or not. Most of the time you do because you have a relationship with them and want to take care of them.

    I don’t think that these are very good comparisons.

    “If a cousin six times removed died leaving you as the only living relative to accept their inheritance worth millions, would you be so quick to give it back?”

    Receiving a gift is not the same thing as being saddled with punishment for something that you didn’t do. If I wasn’t left any money I wouldn’t try to sue for any, because I know that I didn’t earn it.

    “When is it okay to reap benefit with no loss?”

    When it is a gift from the rightful owner. The key words being a “gift” and “rightful owner”.

  • But, you benefitted from the discrimination, Debbie. All white people have and do. Even those who immigrated the previous day. (That is what Ron wants to get a piece of, but full white privilege is only available to fully white people. Wannabes aren’t eligible.) It is striking that apparently Dew and I are the only people on the thread who have even considered the continuing injuries of slavery. It is not a hard concept to grasp. Many injuries have longterm consequences, impacting more than the injured party. Consider a major tort such as losing a limb or paralysis, for example. When most people in a society are responsible for or have benefitted from a horrible injury, as with slavery, they all have a stake in it.

    This thread has taken on an interesting bifurcation. There is the usual ranting and name calling from the Blogcritics I think of as the BBBBs (Buffoonish Band of Bigoted Brothers) and a serious discussion of why a legal theory of reparations is not nonsense, as Ron claims. It is the latter that it was my intention to stimulate. However, since they have nothing substantive to contribute to any conversation, I am not surprised to see the BBBBs doing all they can do — blather.

  • mac, i directed several substantive questions to you and you chose to ignore them in favor of demonizing and insulting–and not for the first time. if you are so much smarter than i, why are you unable to answer my questions?

    if i am as stupid and evil as you imply, why did you heartily endorse my suggested resolution of the confederate mascot problem? is the idea that i could share some but not all of your views too profound?

    assuming you are unwilling or unable to address those questions, please address this one: why do you constantly denigrate the intelligence and integrity of people who disagree with you?

    so we can properly assess your endless claims of intellectual superiority, why don’t you tell us more about your intellectual pedigree?

    every argument you sidestep and every opponent you demonize is further confirmation…

  • Eric Olsen

    I said racism is real and the legacy of slavery enduring. This is why I have always favored affirmative action. But it is very difficult to fairly transport guilt and privilege from groups to individuals and vice versa. And fairness is what we are talking about. That is why I think the time has come to move beyond race to address underprivilege in education and health in general in an effort to level the field for individuals rather than classes of people.

  • Not once did I say there was no merit to the long-term negative effects of slavery that are no doubt still in existence today. What I was saying is that maybe we ought to consider a lot of the programs that are already in place today, a part of the reparations, because in my mind, they could already be taking place. It’s not like we don’t have programs. True maybe we need more, but let’s not forget that we have been moving on this to a certain extent for a long time.

  • Mac Diva – One way conversations seem to be your speciality. I really don’t know why I’m bothering to type this because since it makes sense, you’ll probably just blow it off.

    Since you act like you are so enlightened on this subject, but rarely back it up when people challenge you directly (instead you run away and hide claiming that those who oppose you “can’t grasp the subject” or are “bigots”), then please calmly, rationally and without personal attack educate me as to [b]how as a white male, directly or indirectly, I’ve [b]benefitted[/b] from discrimination?[/b]

    I said above that I had an open mind on this reparations thing and I do, but I’d like to hear some facts without BS, and since you continue to write on and on about this, you ought to be able to give me some concise, logical answers with necessary third party, unbiased data that I can verify and validate.

    Today I see lots of reverse discrimination for white males in mid to large contracting jobs where a minority owner (black, woman, asian, hispanic, etc) can get bid preference over a white male. Why should any jobs be bid out this way? I’m not in the contracting business but if I was, I think I’d be a bit miffed about this.

    Discrimination has started to swing back the other direction, IMO, and it is people with a point of view like yourself that seem to keep pushing for more and more from an essentially bankrupt account.

    People expecting hardworking taxpayers like me to fill hands up with $$$ when the dollars are in shorter supply. If I don’t want to do that without receiving a good explanation why, then I’m labeled something awful like a bigot or treated like some terrible, insensitive person. Is that really accurate?

    That’s just an illogical way to deal with an issue — any issue. Especially when the hand is out looking for money, it should first explain why it can’t make its own money and why it’s so necessary for me to add to the charity account.

    I see these reparations as charity and I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it, but sorry, I need more data to understand where this is so necessary.

    So please just for a brief minute try and analyze my question without inserting a bunch of BS opinions and I’ll be happy to listen and respond respectfully. I bet others would too. You act like you never pick fights when in fact in many threads lately, you have clearly been the aggressor.

    The problem with you isn’t always what you say, Mac Diva (though lately it is), it’s usually how you say it. It’s the little things you add to the end of what you are trying to say that get your point lost in a personal attack. For a writer where words are so vital, this seems like a very glaring error on your part.

    Or maybe “why” is just too complicated a question here, and this will be ignored like most good, logical questions that are asked of you seem to be.

    I won’t hold my breath.

    Maybe somebody else can explain this to me in more depth.

    Thank you in advance 🙂

  • Dew

    I would have to disagree since for a long time Blacks were not allowed participation in these programs. Our oppression did not stop when the slaves were freed. The only reason the Civil Rights Movement was so effective was because the Black dollar was recognized as being every bit as green as the White dollar not because we were recognized as human beings.

    This country put a group of people in situations because of slavery and as a result of that oppression haven’t there been many programs to try and help the poor in order to try and help give everyone, especially those who were knocked backward by slavery?

    I am not trying to nitpick here but you can not be knocked backwards from a position you were not ever in. We have not ever had equal footing, therefore all the programs designed to help ‘people’ in general still put us four steps behind. That is why there needs to be programs for those who were directly affected by slavery so they can be allowed to catch up.

    Most of the time you do because you have a relationship with them and want to take care of them.

    I have not picked the first bail of cotton. I do not know what it is like to have someone take away from me the most innate civil liberties I take for granted. And I agree that for the most part reparations is charity. But this country (not just the South) benefitted from the labor and inventions of African Slaves. No restitution was ever made for these wrongdoings. The effects of that are still trying to be overcome. No it is not fair for you to have to pay for something that is not your fault but its not fair for me to have fight three times as hard just to be on level playing ground. The ramifications of slavery are so wide spread that it can not be trivialized by saying ‘get over it’.

    Does every person who has dark skin deserve a handout? No. But today if I go anywhere and do a job I am compensated for my services. If that company withholds my funds they can be held liable not only for what they owe but for interest on the time it was withheld. Today, if someone was found guilty of enslavement they would be held responsible physically and financially. If they were unaccountable their next of kin would incur the debt. How is this situation any different? The owners of slaves families’ are still spending slave money find them and hold them accountable but something should be done rather than shrugging it off as a goof of yesteryear.

    Debbie does have a point in that a relationship should exist in order to warrant helping those in need. I would have thought being that these are your fellow countrymen that would be enough, but I assume that is too much like right. Imagine if all military personnel looked through those eyes.

  • debbie

    “Today, if someone was found guilty of enslavement they would be held responsible physically and financially. If they were unaccountable their next of kin would incur the debt. How is this situation any different?”

    What state is this in? You cannot force hold the next of kin accountable for any debt let alone criminal debt. The only instance that it might apply is a spouse might be accountable for a debt that his/her spouse incurred before dying. Anything but a spouse and it isn’t happening. Any outstanding debts are paid by the estate of the deceased.

    We have programs in place to give a helping hand to the underprivleged. Those come out of my taxes to help my “fellow countrymen” and I’m ok with that. I want to have a safety net to help out those that need it. We also have laws on the books to prosecute those that practice racial discrimination. I’m fine with these too, I glad that we have them because there will always be the few idiots in society.

    I don’t have a problem with any of that, but I do have a problem with being punished for something that I did not do.

  • debbie raises a good point. The estate tax, for those who pass the wealth threshold/exemption, is the greatest tax gift those that pass for delivery to the rest of the country (this is of course assuming that the government spends these tax dollars responsibly and it is my contention that they do not do). That tax can be as high as 55% of the entire value of the estate and is payable within 9 months after the death — in cash.

    Husband can leave to wife, but wife dies it goes to estate or to trust fund. And there is still a taxable event.

    So to presume that those who die do not give back to others in this country could be flawed, depending on the size of their estate. The exemptions, last time I checked for husband and wife were around 1.2 million dollars.

    Now, before anybody says, wait, most people don’t have that kind of wealth in their estate when they die think about those 1-3% who die with mega millions (or guys like Bill Gates who will die with billions, if he doesn’t give it all away first).

    The estate tax is one of the great equalizers in the tax system between the rich and poor. If they didn’t give all their life, then a significant portion of their wealth will be absorbed after their death.

    Now there are ways for the super rich to buy products like life insurance to pay off the estate tax, but there is no way to escape it if you pass the threshold. Legally, anyway.

    Therefore, it is my position based on this that the government needs to balance the books and run the finances like a business. If we had excess money I’d be all for helping out as many different groups as possible, but we have a debt that continues to grow.

    Someday that debt has to be evaluated. Under the Clinton presidency at least we heard about the debt. The Bush presidency has been on a spending spree. Yes, some of that spending was necessary, but what about the debt.

    The economy is more important than reparations to African Americans. That’s my current position. I’d be happy to discuss how the economy is not more important than reparations?

  • Thank you all for a serious discussion of this very important issue. BTW: I would not be against bringing suit against, say, Aetna Insurance or the Hartford Courant, who benefitted at the corporate level from slavery. If a descendant of slaves were to bring PRIVATE suit against these companies that redress is not incompatible with my beliefs.

  • Diva, could you please elucidate about the “BBBBs (Buffoonish Band of Bigoted Brothers)”? [comment #24] To wit, and what for, and break it on down for a Kentuckian.

    What exactly do you think is the BBBB problem? Are they/we (I assume you consider ME a member) evil White Devils bent on subjugating and re-enslaving dark people?

    Or is it that you think we’re just stupid, too dumb to understand your great elucidations and sophisticated legal perspectives?

    Is it that we’re wicked or merely extraordinarily stupid? Enquiring honkies want to know!

  • sasha

    well so much for the comment policy.