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I just read through a number of early threads and posts about reparations on AA.org. Although the topic has not been raised recently, in my opinion, it represents a particularly important subject for us to consider and debate. I thought I'd copy a number of my posts and responses here as a means of capturing the over-all essence of my thoughts on the issue and perhaps stimulating further discussion about it.

quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

I enjoy getting into arguments with people who dismiss the idea of reparations 'on its face' as an absurd idea. The usual knee-jerk responses tend to revolve around current white America's personal complicity in slavery (i.e. no one alive today owned slaves, so who is going to pay reparations?), as well as logistics (how, and how much, and to whom do reparations get paid?). While I agree that, for a variety of reasons, this is not an easy issue to solve - I nevertheless believe that it is one that merits a thoughtful solution.

I think that one way for us to make progress on this issue is perhaps to focus on the economic aspects of the Peculiar Institution, and (for a moment) not the human. The emotions run high all around on this. Slavery clearly ranks as one of the worst 'crimes against humanity' ever. For tactical reasons though, a "colder" analysis focusing on compensating the descendants of slaves for their forebears' economic contributions to this country may be the more effective way to move this issue forward.

I frame the issue as follows:

* America is one of the richest nations on earth.

* America's current economic standing is, in large part, a function of the 'head start' that it got in it's formative early years as a result of over 300 years of free labor (i.e. unjust enrichment) from slaves.

* This free labor represents an investment that African America made in this country - to which we deserve a return.

Slavery was sanctioned by the government. That same government is in a position now to redress its' past actions through the payment of reparations.

This is my basic take.


quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

In general, another way to look at reparations is that the United States of America is one of the wealthiest countries on earth. The standard of living that we all enjoy today is largely as a result of the "investment" of labor that African American slaves made in the U.S. economy during the founding and pivotal years of this country's development. Without the input of labor made by slaves, we would not be where we are today. That is clear. Reparations represents an opportunity for this country to repay that investment of "sweat equity".

I wholeheartedly agree that you cannot adequately quantify the impact of the human cost of slavery. Nevertheless, economic analysis provides a rational means to begin deriving appropriate valuations.

I also agree that the logistics of determining how to administer a reparations movement will be quite difficult. With all due respect though, I think it will be far less difficult to figure reparations out than the effort involved in creating and perpetuating a global slave trade. Just because it is a difficult and divisive issue doesn't disqualify it from thoughtful consideration.

Our forefathers made an extraordinary investment in this country. They sacrificed their lives and every ounce of their human productivity. In addition, white America today enjoys the fruits of those very labors. I think it's time to begin thinking about cashing in that investment.



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

MBM: In addition, white America today enjoys the fruits of those very labors.

So does Black America!!!...


Agreed, to a point. The U.S. government created a set of laws (Jim Crow et al) that prevented former slaves from fully engaging in the American Dream or American society. With corporate America, the institution of redlining prevented former slaves from participating in the single activity that does the most to create wealth in America: the purchase of homes and property. Think of how our wealth as a community would be enhanced today had we had the benefit of generations of equity passing down the generations?

Yes, African America is better off, but because of our efforts. White America has been living off the "handout" of 300 years of free labor. That debt should be repaid. (BTW - if America has other debts that deserve to be repaid, then those should be "squared" as well.)



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

Originally posted by Whoopie:

Will the Black leadership in the U.S. as well as your own voice be added to the call for reparations against these African Nations




First, thanks for a great post and dialogue!

In my opinion, while African governments may have been complicit in fomenting the slave trade, they did so under the broader framework of an institution that was driven by American and European interests/governments. Certainly they could be seen as exploited pawns in this as well. The particular government where African Americans have any measure of legal standing, naturally, is these United States of America. Hence, the attention directed here.

With all due respect though, how does the fact that others may have participated in the slave trade, or whether slavery exists in other parts of the world today, impact the current discussion of reparations for descendants of American slavery? I do not see a connection.



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

First, yes this is clearly about money. I think I read some measure of cynicism from you suggesting that the motives of those who support reparations are somehow less than 'pure' because financial recompense is the objective. Personally, I make no apologies about this point.

Slavery was about one thing: money.

Therefore, IMHO, the way to pay this debt is, naturally, by one way: money.

For the moment let's put aside the concept of compensation for "pain and suffering"; reparations is largely about balancing the ledger with regard to value that African Americans invested in the American economy and have yet to be compensated for. Generations of whites have benefited from this value that has passed from great grandfather to grandfather to father to son. African Americans were robbed of the advantages of this same legacy. Current net worth disparity between whites and blacks can be traced to this, as well as to the effects of Jim Crow and other discriminatory laws that followed slavery preventing African Americans from fully participating in American society. Reparations is a way of addressing this issue.

Second, in my opinion, it is misleading to suggest that African countries stand on par with slaveholding nations (the USA in our example) in responsibility for the 400 years of slavery and oppression that followed. They didn't build the slave ships. They didn't create the global market in African slaves. Most historians suggest that they did not have a clear understanding of what exactly they were a party to. Certainly American slavery was quite unique in its barbarity and inhumanity. Over-all, as I said previously, African nations were pawns in this, they were certainly exploited as well.

Even if they were not pawns, however, this issue has no bearing on the case for reparations in this country. Without regard to how we got here, through our labor, African Americans "bought stock" in the 'ole "red, white and blue". Descendants of slaves have equity in this nation. We deserve to have the right to cash in that investment if we so choose!



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

Originally posted by Whoopie:
We can debate the validity of paying reparations all day and all night and no ones mind will be changed...





Well, not that anyone is looking to "sell" anyone on anything, but hopefully an end-product of healthy debate is growth - in whatever form that growth occurs. People at first, naturally, see things from their unique perspective. It seems that part of being an active member of the human community, though, is to strive to understand perspectives broader than our own.


quote:

Originally posted by Whoopie:

I feel that it's an interesting topic, but nearly a waste of energy and time... For neither you nor I will have any part in the final decision making concerning the outcome of this upcoming National debate...




I, respectfully, could not disagree with you more. In my opinion this is such a "green" topic that it deserves a tremendous amount of consideration and debate. There are so many nuances of this issue that need to be sorted through. Thoughtful and honest debate is exactly what this topic does need.

Despite the brilliance in this forum , I've not met many people who can be articulate about their positions on reparations beyond those driven by emotional or superficial reflexes. This is clearly one of those issues that polarizes and strikes at the core of emotions. Earnest debate is what can help to flesh this out for many.

Also, I think you greatly understate the potential of this forum and the people in it. I don't have an inflated view of things, I just understand the potential impact that mediums like this can have. It is debates just like the ones we are starting here that form the basis of whole political movements (hey, they've got to start somewhere, right? ). Further, I do personally hope to somehow be a part of the broader debate on this issue when it's time! I doubt I am alone here on this point as well.



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

1- I am curious as to _how_ do you think the final outcome will be decided!!!... Will the final decision come via the _court system_ or via the _legislative system_???... Or is there another possible way to come to a final decision???...



Great question. With the current composition of the Supreme Court it is very hard to see this issue getting much light there. (That's where I think many of the individual law suits will end up.) I think that if there is any progress it will come on the political front. Perhaps you'll think I'm crazy, but I actually see the issue of reparations having the potential to be a key element to over-all healing and growth between white and black America. Positioned in as dispassionate a way as possible, and as a means to heal our nation's racial divide, I think reparations could gain some broader footing as a positive thing throughout the country.


quote:

2- How much of role will foreign Governments and International Courts play???... Will they have _any_ bearing on the final outcome???... _Can_ they have any kind of effect, or place a form of pressure, in the resolving of this dilemma???... Or should they stay out of "our" business completely???...



I don't see a role for any foreign entities in this issue. This is strictly an internal issue as I see it now.


quote:

3- If we assume that a "final decision" totally dismisses all reparation's demands against the United States Government what happens next???... If the outcome finally ends up with _no_ reparations being paid what will be the Black communities reaction???... What happens next???... Will their be riots in the streets???... How will the Non Black folks react if the decision ends up being _yes_ to the payment???...



Again, I think reparations can be a healing force. For once, as a nation, we will face up to a history that we have yet to really even acknowledge. (This is at the core of our racial problems in this country in my opinion.) Let's deal with all of the issues, make reparations (and apologize), and therefore cleanse the American conscience on this point forever.

If not presented in this healing and positive way, I'm not sure how the issue will be able to gain much traction. Reparations is far to divisive an issue otherwise. Bungled, the reparations debate could have the effect of making things much worse.


quote:

4- Whether reparations are paid or not, one side or the other will be angry!!!... Do you believe that it will have a long term effect on the interaction and relationships between Black folks and Non Black folks???...



Again - positioned the right way - this can be an issue that brings us all together. Sure, there will be people on both sides of the fringes that will never be happy whatever happens. For the majority, however, I think there's a chance.



quote:

Originally posted by alpine:

From an ethical standpoint, I still find it hard to accept or take something that belongs to someone else and claim that I have a right to it. Slave reparations are owed to former slaves and their immediate next of kin by the Confederacy and former slave owners. I have tried, but I cannot bring myself to believe for one moment that I, a black American citizen of the year 2002 who has no known ties with slavery (although I know way way back, someone that I evolved from was a slave) am entitled to any slave reparation. I was not a slave or either an immediate descendant of former slaves, so how could I justifiably lay claim to this type of compensation.


quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

Take something that belongs to someone else??? Friend, slaves "gave" their blood, sweat, tears, and lives to build this great country we live in. You know, there is a reason that America is one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Don't you think a 300+ year head start in building its economy as a result of free slave labor had anything to do with that?

For the sake of decorum and progress, let's be charitable in how we characterize this. It was an "investment". We "gave" it to America. Do you think it appropriate for America to ever repay that investment? Maybe just a little dividend every now and then? Smile

Some questions:

  • Are you equally outraged by the generations of white Americans that have immorally benefited from over 300 years of free labor (in legal terms: unjust enrichment)?

  • Are you outraged that white America enjoyed an economic free ride in the most critical, formative years of its growth and has never even made a gesture to repay that?

  • Are you outraged that generations of white Americans have been passing down wealth and privilege - not based upon the value of their efforts, but by the creation and maintenance of an evil system that immorally "stacks the deck" for them, and against all others?

  • Are you outraged that blacks have been in America for 400 years and it has only been in the last 35 or so that we have been able to meaningfully participate in the single greatest wealth creation practice here - buying property? (You remember that redlining prevented us from buying property until the Civil Rights laws of the '60s outlawed it.)All the while whites were filling their coffers off of the labor of African Americans and then passing that down from generation to generation.

  • Are you outraged that we have to have a law like affirmative action on the books that blatantly acknowledges that white males cannot be trusted to act without respect to race and gender in hiring decisions, so there has to be a law put in place to compensate for their patently illegal behavior?


Sir - reparations has been established globally as a legitimate means of rectifying past injustice. This country (as recently as during the Clinton administration) paid reparations to descendants of aggrieved parties that suffered from acts committed generations ago. Based upon the above, in what way would African American slave descendants be somehow ineligible from being considered for reparations?



quote:
Originally posted by MBM:

Let me respond to pieces of your post.

quote:
Originally posted by Factoid:

All of the above helped blacks get to where we are now,so slavery benefited blacks as well.


Where are we now exactly? Confused Where would we be had we received our rightful share in the value we created for this country? Where would we be had we gotten the value that we created for others over an almost 400 year period? Where would we be had we had the opportunity to create wealth for ourselves hundreds of years ago and pass that down to our children over the generations?

Look - let's be clear about this. Slavery was about greed and money. White America's greed. They thirsted for money so deeply that they subjected a race of people to the horror and immorality of slavery just to fill their pockets.

Slavery benefited blacks? That's like saying that a person whose paycheck is unfairly garnished $ .99 on the dollar is being benefited by that process. Hey, they still get their penny right? Smile We are benefited by the over-all wealth/standard of living in this country that we had a large part in creating. All we seek is our fair share of that.


quote:
Slavery was the worst chapter in american history,but in those days,it was accepted.


Many of our Founding Fathers recognized that slavery was morally wrong and evil. They sacrificed the issue politically in order to bring together a bunch of disparate states and form a union. They knew what they were doing though.

That said, we evaluate past actions based upon current morality. Without regard to what was considered right and wrong then, if a current read of something suggests that wrongs were committed, then it is incumbent upon people to correct those wrongs wherever and whenever they can.

quote:
If reparations are in order,I believe that those who lost their lives fighting the south for the rights of blacks should get reparations as well.


_PLEASE. NO ONE WAS FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHTS OF BLACKS. Lincoln was fighting to keep this nation together. BIG DIFFERENCE._

BTW - Union soldiers should be honored. They are honored. But their relative claims against the US are no greater than any other veteran who lost their life in the protection of US interests throughout history.



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

Whether Union soldiers are due reparations has NO BEARING on whether African Americans do. Union soldiers fought for their country against an insurgent group of (terrorist) states that sought to overthrow the United States of America. If they have a grievance, it is the same as every other American soldier who lost their lives in any conflict throughout history.

All that said, this has nothing to do with reparations for descendants of slaves. If you think there is an issue here, then I support your efforts to receive justice.

Further:

quote:

Originally posted by Factoid:

You said "white americas greed" I am white,I am American. I had nothing to do with slavery,why should I have to pay?


The easy answer is because you are a citizen of a country that has to repay a debt. The US sanctioned slavery and incurred a debt that should be repaid. We personally don't always agree with what our government does, and we often have little choice about where our tax dollars go. This is perhaps less a personal obligation of yours, as much as it is an obligation of our country.



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

Originally posted by Wally:

I suppose everybody on the planet might be owed reparations of some sort if they knew the details of their family history.


Just because injustice seems to be endemic to humanity does not disqualify particular acts of injustice from scrutiny, or release those on the offending side of the equation from responsibility for their actions.

Friend, as I have said to many others here, I encourage and support you in your effort to seek justice. You seem to suggest that because you personally do not believe that you have a particular claim against whomever mistreated your family, that a nation of African Americans does not have a right to seek justice. With all due respect, the two are not connected.



quote:

Originally posted by Factoid:

"that a nation of African Americans does not have a right to seek justice" with all do respect also,not all african americans where slaves,so not all african americans "deserve" reparations.


quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

Factoid, black folks had no Ellis Island. The VAST majority of us came here in chains in the stinking bowels of slave ships. Those that were not direct descendants of slaves would obviously not have access to reparations in the way we have been discussing this. But since 99%+ of all black folks here came via that auspicious route, I'm not worried about it. Smile



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

Originally posted by Jazhawk:

Now, how much and who pays?


I saw an economist quoted in The Economist magazine that researched the value of slave labor and its impact on the American economy. With interest, the dollar figure came out in the low (15?) trillions. I'll say $7.5 trillion for reparations.

Reparations is a debt of the US Government, hence the obligation is paid by it.



quote:
Also as an aside, how is it that non slave owners are to pay non slaves?



"Non slave owners" are the direct beneficiary of the value that slaves "invested" in the American economy in the form of their labor. Direct wealth has been passed down over the generations. The indirect value of slave labor has boosted our standard of living for all. White America disproportionately enjoys the fruits of that "investment".

Similarly, the "non slaves" you refer to continue to suffer from the legacy of slavery and the discrimination that followed. Example, there is an extraordinary gap between the average net worth of white and black Americans. Home ownership is the single greatest vehicle for creating and preserving wealth. While whites have obviously been buying and passing down homes since the start of this nation, because of slavery and redlining - it has only been the last 40+ years that blacks have even been allowed to buy property in significant numbers.

How much different would our community be had we had the benefit of home and property ownership for the last 400+ years as opposed to the last 40? Reparations would seem to be a uniquely appropriate tool to address this disparity.



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

Originally posted by Jazhawk:

So that would mean I would be paying reparations to me wouldn't it?

-Jazhawk


Think of it like Social Security. Whenever you and I start collecting payments, the actual dollars that we collect will be paid by the workforce in place at that time. Our dollars will have paid for previous generations of SS recipients. African Americans invested in this country in the most critical phase of its growth - at the very start. Our labor gave this country the head start that put it where it is today. I think America's free ride should be over.

Black folks love this country. I love this country. At the same time I think it's time for America to repay the debt that she owes us. Isn't it time that we should be able to enjoy just a bit of all that we've given?

Again, think of slave labor as an investment in this country. Think of it as if we bought U.S. Savings bonds. Well, now we're saying that we want to cash those bonds in. Yes, we invested a long time ago. Yes, the numbers are large. But the 'full faith and credit' of the U.S. Government must stand behind that investment.

Look, there are all sorts of ways to structure reparations. Some component can be cash. Others can be in the form of tax breaks, low interest business loans, creating more economic empowerment zones, investing in schools, college scholarships etc. A great way to close the home ownership gap might be to create a fund that isn't ever meant to be spent, but that collateralizes the down payment of first time mortgages. Since the down payment is often the greatest obstacle to getting a mortgage, perhaps this is a way to meaningfully counter that.

Anyway - there are significant political and logistical obstacles with reparations. As I've said before though, I am of a mind that reparations _can be_ a healing element in America. You know, this country has never ever dealt with its race issues. I know this sounds crazy, but done correctly, I can see reparations being a part of a broader effort that brings greater understanding and harmony being whites and blacks. Much more on that later . . .

Also, for my more conservative friends, this is nothing about looking to government for a hand-out. This is everything about having the government repay the hand-out that it took from our ancestors. The government will not solve our problems. But it is the governments responsibility to satisfy its obligations.



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

You may be right, but I paraphrase a quote that I heard recently, _"Injustice is easy. Justice is what's hard."_

Aren't you at all moved by the fact that white America has been unjustly enriched by "stolen property"? Conservatives often bemoan liberal policies as "wealth redistribution" schemes. This when white America was on the receiving end of the greatest wealth redistribution in modern history - over 300 years of free labor!! How can anyone argue against that?

So what if people complain? So what if they're pissed off? So what if people don't want to pay? What about the fact that they've had something, that was illegally gained, for generations. Ask yourself is that right? Is that just?



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

Are you not troubled by the significant net worth disparity between whites and blacks that flows directly from slavery and the government sanctioned discrimination that followed? Black family NW = lower. White family NW = higher. Why? U.S. Slavery and discrimination that unfairly hurt blacks and unfairly helped whites.

Vox - to what degree are you who you are today because of who your parents are? I know that for better and for worse I am a direct product of my folks. Apply that logic to our parents, and then to their parents.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is running for Governor in Maryland. Any benefit to her from being a Kennedy? From her father being Attorney General and U.S. Senator? Her uncle being President? Other uncle being Senator? Other being a WW2 war hero? Grandfather being an ambassador to Great Britain? A number of siblings/cousins (e.g. Bobby's son Joe in MA, Ted's son in RI) in Congress? Others in various other positions of public service? Any impact on her at all? What if Papa Joe got caught running liquor and was thrown in jail back during prohibition. Think Kathleen would be running for governor now? John F. would have been a school teacher (maybe) in Southie making $4,000 a year, not POTUS. Wink Their legacy would be VERY different.

I'm being facetious, but trying to make a serious point. Generations are not discrete, disconnected pockets of people. They are connected - connected by genetics as well as by environment. Just as the youngest Kennedy is heir to that family's legacy, every African American is heir to ours. And our legacy has been largely a product of laws that damaged us.

I know that you don't believe that there are genetic differences (a la The Bell Curve) that create the net worth difference mentioned above. The fact that whites have been accruing value over the generations, much of it due to slavery, while African Americans have been (at best) prevented from doing so, is at the root of the disparity. Redlining had the effect of preventing our forefathers from building wealth that could have made an extraordinary difference to our lives, and to our children's' lives. While whites were investing in tobacco and textile companies, black folks were barred by law from even being taught to read. Those government sanctioned actions caused multi-generational harm that is at the root of much our difficulties today. Reparations is not a panacea. It just could be a significant factor in closing the various gaps that exist in this country.

Also, to your quote:

quote:

Originally posted by Vox:

But the argument about what white people think is a little different with slave reparations. This is about taking a huge group of people and saying, "here, by virtue of your race, YOU deserve $X-amount from US."


This is what I meant earlier about race being irrelevant. I am _not_ saying that by virtue of race you deserve $X from US. I am suggesting that by virtue of the negative impact that generations of one's forefathers endured by actions of the US government, that it is appropriate that that same government now provide some measure of recompense to those that suffered the effects of its actions. Race is 100% inconsequential to that argument. The fact that we are black, originally from Africa, generally have darker skin, like chicken, neo-soul music, flashy cars, bling bling etc., etc. is completely inconsequential to that. Smile It has no bearing.

There is an aggrieved party. There is lasting impact from the government's actions. The government now has an opportunity to redress that.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it! Wink



quote:

Originally posted by MBM:

quote:

Originally posted by Vox:

But I think there's only so far we can go with this argument about the past placing us in our situations justifying reparations.



You're right, to a point. Reparations could never give back the very deep and painful "soft costs" of slavery. There are no reparations for that! Our ancestors can never be repaid for the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" that was denied them for generations. BUT, since slavery was about greed. Since African Americans capitalized this nation with hundreds of years of our free labor. Since slavery was all about money, then money (and other mechanisms to allow slave descendants to become economically whole) seems to be the logical means to close the book on this chapter of American history.



quote:
For example: think of how your parents met, or how each of their parents met, etc., and you'll see that if it weren't for slavery & its successor injustices, we wouldn't have been born, you or I.


But the fact is that we were stolen from our lands, we survived the Middle Passage, lived through slavery and Jim Crow etc. and we _are _here - whether we like it or not.

A woman can suffer the terrible crime of rape. From that rape a wonderful child can be born. Just because the woman loves that child does not eliminate the crime that created it. Just because the mother loves that child doesn't somehow mean that the rapist's debt to society can automatically be wiped clean and he be set free.

quote:
In other words, if it hadn't been for slavery, MBM would not have been in a better situation; Vox wouldn't be middle class somewhere raised in some 2-parent suburban household. My great-great-great grands, even if they all were born, never would've met, and I personally would not exist.


DISAGREE. Who knows where we'd be, what we'd be doing, what our family legacies would be at this point. Perhaps we'd be where we are today X 10 or 100, who knows. Generations of our ancestors were ground into the dirt and told they were less than nothing. All of a sudden we're supposed to shake that off and compete head to head with whites who have been coddled and pampered and given every benefit for generations?

quote:
Am I entitled to reparations to place me in a better situation, even though I wouldn't have been born to exist in that situation had it not been for the very injustices that put me the position I was born in?


The fact is that you _were_ born. Your ancestors suffered a great injustice. You now have the opportunity to be made partially whole by the party that created the crime.

Again, if you were the child of the rapist - you would probably be thankful that you were brought into this world. Presuming you love your mother though, I can't see how you would be able to ignore or excuse the horror inflicted upon her, despite the fact that you are the product of that horror.

quote:
As you see, you have to be very careful about the "if it weren't for A, I'd be at B" argument. You'd B nonexistent, is what you'd B.


Answered above. No one is talking about whether or not blacks should be here. We're here. We're talking about what happened since we got here. Remember, theoretically, the slave trade could have been ended hundreds of years before it did. We could have been warmly welcomed into American society and thanked for all of the contributions that we made to this country. The playing field could have been leveled completely. That didn't happen.

quote:
We probably wouldn't believe that we should all be where the Kennedy's are economically, but where should we be under this argument? Should EVERYBODY, black, white, etc., who's below the per capita mean income by virtue of historical realities pre-birth, be brought to that given level?


Great question. Don't know the answer. Here's a reasonable shot at it though. There is a huge gap between white and black average net worth. The Business Week article said we're at 10%. Since most of us have been in the country much longer than most of the white folks here, one could reasonably assume that the impact of "immigration" and acclimatization would have long been smoothed out. Let's bring all African American families up to the mean white family net worth. Give them the cash difference. Over time, what we do with that cash will determine who will be on par with the Kennedy's and who will not. (The funny thing about this example though, is that the Kennedy's made their money from illegal activities!!)

Another way to quantify a reparations award is to identify a value for the labor produced through slavery - add interest - and then divy it up among descendants.

Not sure I understand your question about whites.



Regarding your malpractice example:

quote:
Assuming he has living grandchildren today, are they entitled to "reparations" from the doctor's grandchildren? If there hadn't been any monetary award at all, would that change the equation?


I don't know anything about malpractice law or insurance law so I can't really respond. A smoker just got $28 billion from Phillip Morris. Is that an adequate reparation? My point is that I think you're trying to argue the value of the concept by looking at a specific outcome. Was $20,000 enough for Japanese Americans for being sent to concentration camps here during WW2? I don't know. I doubt it. Does the amount of the award justify or not justify the fact that an award was appropriate? If all I'm due is $1, that's perfectly fine. For principle's sake, I want that dollar.

quote:
Their economic situations are not proximately linked to his.


With all due respect and humor, I'm not sure how this example is "proximately linked" to our discussion! Smile In your example you raise the concept of the _potential_ loss that might be created due to the malpractice. The boy _might_ have gone on to become the next Joe DiMaggio or Marcus Welby or whomever. I agree that guesstimating an award based upon highly speculative future earning potential is a crazy game to play.

On the other hand in slavery, hard cold economic value was created for hundreds of years. We contributed tangible economic value to this country in the form of our labor. During the most critical years of our nations founding, we provided the economic head start that has propelled us to our leadership position in the world today. Period. There is no projected future earnings that need to be calculated here.

We built this country. Period.

We ain't got paid yet. Period.

I'm still waiting on mah check! Wink

quote:
intuitively I know there's a line to be drawn somewhere, as to the chain of causation and the chain of succession. And I'll admit that under my philosophy, a rule as to how and where to draw the necessary "lines" is hard to decide upon.


I think you're thinking about this too much. This is less philosophy and more business, economics etc. We "invested" of our labor in this country. There was a tangible conveyance of value. We continue to hold those original notes (it was some of only things that our ancestors could pass down to us!), and seek a liquid and fair market to "cash out" should we choose.


quote:
I think we can agree that today's living descendants of that doctor, or Jack the Ripper, can't be held liable to the living descendants of the kid with the hand, or to Jack's victims.


Again, I respectfully submit that you are personalizing this argument in a way that is not helpful in digesting this thing. This isn't about what whites did to blacks. This isn't about what the whites of today have to repay to the blacks of today for crimes of past generations. This about what our government sanctioned and supported, and how today that very same government can right its past wrong. EXACT SAME GOVERNMENT. The fact that many of the whites here today may not have a connection to slavery is absolutely irrelevant. Our government created a debt which it must pay.

Examples:

  • A few years back we paid each Japanese person interred in camps during WW2 a bit over $20,000. What was black America's role in putting them away? NONE. Yet our tax dollars helped to fund that award, along with everyone else's.

  • Our government has paid cash awards to Native Americans for the atrocities committed against them by our government. Did black folks have any hand in what happened to them in this country? Nevertheless our dollars went to fund that program as well.

  • We're about to spend billions (perhaps trillions) of dollars on a war in the Middle East. Does every American agree with the war? Heck no. Will a piece of every taxpayers' check go to fund that war? Absolutely.

    quote:
    Applying these same principles to the period of enslavement, I can't see how anything other than a racial argument for reparations is the least bit tenable.


    I hope some of my examples and responses have shed light on this question. The fact that slaveholders were white and slaves were black - as it relates to how I am framing the reparations discussion - is immaterial. This is a debt of the U.S. government. It doesn't matter.



  • quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by Vox:

    But reparations would help it ONLY if the money were directed toward a workable plan of action. Affirmative action initiatives and education, especially some form of business/financial education, sound to me like more workable solutions. To the extent that they haven't worked where tried, you see the likelihood that reparations payment would fail to help as well.


    Listen, I believe in what you've said above. I think education and financial planning, and entrepreneurial guidance will all be extremely important to help grow our community. But, on the other hand, if someone wanted to buy Twinkies with their reparations awards I'd say more power to 'em! It's OK that some folks will do more productive things with their money than others. That's OK. We would have done so had we been able to invest in property hundreds of years ago. Look at all the white folks who blow millions of dollars on nothing. Certainly while we would hope for better, shouldn't black folks have that same opportunity? I know enough of us would do the "right thing" to make a real difference!



    quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    I'm not arguing about the crimes that brought us here. If it matters, I seek no reparations for that. I am isolating the element of our forced labor/"investment" in this nation. That's it. Our labor was the original "venture capital" that got this nation off the ground. Reparations is just a means to provide liquidity to that investment!

    I'll personalize this too! You bring up my appearance. For better or for worse, I appreciate who I am and how I look. (If nothing else it's a great coping mechanism, huh? Wink ) I love rich, dark brown complexions in our people. My Dad is a rich brown from the heartland of South Carolina! I married a similarly complected sister. On the other hand, my mother and sister are more on my fairer side of the complexion spectrum. And I have one son that I'm not sure where his genes came from, but he was so fair when he was born that he scared the shit out of me! Big Grin Anyway, my maternal great great great grandmother was raped by her master. As far as I know that's the last white blood that was infused in me personally. Now, despite the fact that I enjoy how I look, I am still deeply hurt by how I came to look this way. I cannot condone the "event" that took place that made me look as I do. I despise it, in fact. I see no contradictions in feeling this way.

    I am pleased to be who I am. I am very grateful to be an American. I love this country. I am extremely proud of both my family's , as well as my race's, contributions to this nation. I look forward to serving my country in some manner or another before it's all over for me. That said, I also feel the pain of slavery. I recognize the wrong that has been done my people here and seek redress for it. Again, I feel no inconsistencies between those positions.

    I affectionately embrace this nation. I am a proud African American, but I also have high expectations of my nation as well. I take Jefferson for his word that "All men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; of these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Emotionally I have always resonated with MLK's line: "Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy". I just think reparations can be a tool to help get us closer to Jefferson's vision of America. I have no illusions that it will be easy. But I am focused on it because I think it is right.



    quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by Lofton:

    The killing of Black people by other Black people over the years, has consumed as many if not more innocent lives than all the Black people who have died as a result of slavery within the U.S.


    Combining those lost in the middle passage and here, some estimate that 100,000,000 of our people lost their lives through slavery. Although your point about crime within our community is well taken, I'm not sure, respectfully, whether it is true or how it is relevant to a discussion of reparations.

    quote:
    In addition, Black people have been enslaved by other Black people, both in the U.S. and within the continent of Africa.


    How does this impact the conversation about the injury that former slaves received here in America, and whether reparations is an appropriate redress?

    quote:
    This being said the perpetrators of wrongdoing to enlave Black people include more than just Caucasian America, which make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to hold Caucasian America solely responsible for this very serious set of human violations.


    As you may have read in the past, my view of reparations is strictly about paying the families of former slaves for the lost wages of their forebears. It's not about getting an award because of maltreatment. In this way, race (both white and black) is merely an inconsequential fact of trivia. I don't hold white America responsible for slavery. I hold the United States Government responsible. Big Difference.

    The United States economy and government received the benefit of illegal/free labor for hundreds of years. Slavery and it's legacy continue to unfairly subsidize the American standard of living. The government caused severe injury and damage to a specific group of American families and now is in a position to make amends for that injury. The very same government that caused the injury can now, at least partially, "make it up to" the very same families that were injured.

    Why is this wrong?



    quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by jazzdog:

    We have supposely highly educated people blaming all the ills of our community on the past legacy of slavery, yet the very existence of these highly educated people with various degrees invalidates the very notion that slavery has crippled us from moving forward, that we will continue to be victims of our past.


    Jazzdog - this is not a black or white (pardon the pun) issue. It is not a discrete, binary equation that says that there are only either two states: success or failure - and that the presence of any success definitively rules out any conditions that could in any way cause failure. Of course there is achievement in our community. Can you deny that this is DESPITE the hostile environment that we live in as opposed to because we live in a warm and fuzzy one? Think what our community would have achieved had we not had to "swim upstream" for generations. White folks surf with the current. We swim upstream. It makes a big difference.

    For me, reparations is about replacing what we would have earned/built had we not had to face the legal/cultural/societal "drag" that white America put in front of us. No one is blaming anyone for anything. Please reread that sentence. I do have a problem with white America for what they have at others' expense, not of their own efforts or talents, and because they either crafted the law, or broke it, to suit their ends. _When is white America going to stop looking to the societal "handouts" that they've created for themselves and just compete and win or lose based upon their merits?_

    Robert Johnson is a billionaire. Good for him. If as a result of racism and discrimination he, in reality _should_ be a trillionaire as a result of his talents and efforts - then I think he deserves what he is due. Our forbears were denied their earnings and the right to the American dream for hundreds of years. Had we had the right to education, to earn a living, to buy property, to pass wealth down to our children - since 1619 when we were dragged here - don't you think our community would be in a different place now?



    quote:

    Originally posted by IndependentMan:

    MBM, the question about reparations is, how will you convince the TAXPAYER that they have to pay for this. You can talk about the government will pay which is what most people do, but where does the government get all of it's money??


    quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    Do you agree with everything that your tax dollars fund? Did you have anything to do with putting the Japanese in camps during WW2? Your tax dollars paid for that. Do you agree with the impending war on Iraq? I'd venture to say that very little of what the government spends money on would be resoundly supported by all of America.

    This isn't about personal accountability or responsibility. It's about the government stepping up to plate, acknowledging that it committed grievous crimes, and doing the right thing about it. Now - the "right thing" is usually not the popular thing. It's easy to be unethical and immoral. It's much harder to stand for something and to discipline yourself based upon principle.

    Re: your point about the Japanese. IM - you've talked about your proud family history. We all have family histories. The very same families that were aggrieved in slavery are here in 2002. The very same families. The very same government.



    quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by jazzdog:

    I was trying to get across was that the ills of slavery are not one of those factors, and if one wanted to prove that there were, they would also have to demonstrate why alot of us have not fallen victim to that legacy.



    Here's something to think about. Africans came to this country in 1619. Up until 30 or so years ago, we were largely prevented from owning property - which is the single greatest vehicle for wealth creation in this country. Whites, of course, have been earning and investing and buying property freely. They have also been passing property and other wealth down to successive generations for hundreds of years. We have not.

    Today, there is a significant average family net worth disparity between white families and black families. A good portion of this comes from the fact that black home ownership, while rising, is significantly below that of white families. Even after slavery, red lining - which was a part of the Black Codes and other laws that denied blacks rights after reconstruction, was a major factor at keeping blacks from the very tool that can pull the poor up into the middle class.

    I post this as an illustration of how slavery and discrimination have had a direct economic impact on black America today. With greater wealth comes greater access to health care and education and entrepreneurial and investment opportunity. We own more of our neighborhoods and our over-all standard of living and health is higher and crime rates are lower, disease and health problems are lower etc., etc., etc.

    Also - re: success within our community - no one people are equal in all aspects. Some blacks have had greater historic opportunity, some greater resources, some greater innate skills and ability. All these naturally impact "success". IMO - slavery and discrimination have held all of us back, but to varying degrees based upon our personal circumstances. Again, we're all swimming up stream. Some of us are just stronger swimmers than others, but we are all faced with an oncoming current. The house slave who was taught to read and earned a few dollars here and there before EP entered freedom in a far better place than the slave who did not have those advantages. It makes a difference.



    quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by JuneBug:

    But, what about other issues, we have so many systemic matters to work on as a community, regarding family, education, economic development, political representation, cultural enhancements.


    You're absolutely right. But, do you think:

  • a home mortgage fund designed to collateralize the down payments of first time mortgages

  • a fund creating scholarships for private schools, colleges, and vocational training

  • creating more and more valuable economic empowerment zones encouraging the start of new businesses

  • a venture capital fund designed to capitalize new businesses

  • a fund devoted to investing in the development of neighborhoods and communities

  • a fund designed to create more localized and better quality health care

  • individual payments - in the form of cash or special bonds that might encourage long-term investment to maximize their appreciation

    Wouldn't something like this (admittedly off the top of my head) directly address quite a few of the issues that we face?



  • quote:

    Originally posted by MBM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by Lofton:

    Those who choose to continue this pursuit of receiving so much as a dime for reparations will only waste time and effort that could or should be spent achieving the possible over the impossible.



    I have yet to hear an argument that refutes the specifics of a position in favor of reparations in compensation for past unpaid wages to families that suffered from slavery and discrimination from the U.S. government.

    I have also never suggested that reparations is a panacea.





    Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.

    © MBM

    Last edited {1}
    Original Post

    Replies sorted oldest to newest

    MBM...

    Forgive me for not reading all of your post just yet but I can tell that you have as always a sharp, concise, well articulated, cogent view/take on this issues as others.

    I just want to say that as far as the logistics and who, where and what... without a doubt the emphasis should be on institutions which have the greater potential to reach the greatest amount of our people. That's what's missing, independent or significantly African American influenced institutions for us to "DO FOR SELF".

    I believe we can build new and/or support existing institutions that will do exactly what we determine as our Liberation Imperatives. As far as higher education, we can subsidize colleges that are willing to provide special programs - remedial or in special fields - to uplift our people. Junior colleges or City colleges can be extensions of HBCU's that we would fortify as well as broadening their reach into areas of the country where they are not concentrated (I'm from the Mid-West - ILL.)

    The same for K-12 but we would want to work towards and build our own unique academies to install discipline, pride, and character into our kids like many of our parents got under segregated Black schools.

    Also...
    As I have said before, I am a major proponent of a more National gov't structure for us as a people. It will consolidate our leadership, promote unity and I would even exchange my concept of BLACK CONTROL OF BLACK TAXES - via a Black governing apparatus; pluralistic, 'consociated' democratic set-up -(a misnomer because it is not an original idea, just one I have advocated with my own articulation) for sole U.S. gov't reimbursement for the obvious perpertual self-determination focus of such an approach.

    To me that seems like a more than fair compromise, though I wouldn't necessarily completely abandon U.S. gov't direct redress. I see that as one way to avoid the "Why Do I Have To Pay" complaints... But if you access my debates on BET.com that doesn't at all end the debates with Whites...BUT... I think it really exposes their entrenched bias.

    As always, I appreciate your perspectives...

    """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
    If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man." - MALCOLM X
      A good academic exercise would be to develop a plan for how reparations could be used collectively to enable the African community to become independent from racist institutions and economically self-sufficient for at least seven generations.

      Payment may include all of the following:
    • land, equipment, factories, licenses,
    • banks, ships, airplanes,
    • various forms of tax relief,
    • education and [technical] training...

      From: "How would reparations be paid?"

      >> http://www.ncobra.com/ncobra_info.htm <<
    I cite that for the thrust on or focus on working towards INDEPENDENCE and the great forward looking perspective.
    Thank you for "hanging in there" so long with the various slants on reparations.

    I agree, again, with Nmaginate. There has to be some structure that oversees the "best interests" of African America. I am even receptive to some kind of entity liason between the United States and African America. You may have see my "suzerain" logic. I firmly believe the relationship already exists. In fact, I know so.

    Issues of distribution, individual and otherwise, should be far down the "to do" list.

    Getting to my bottom line: The entity that would ultimately handle the administration of the award from reparations MUST HAVE AN IDENTITY. AND AS YOU SAID IN ONE OF YOUR POSTINGS, WHO IS IN-AND-OF THAT IDENTITY MUST BE DEFINED.

    Without the identity,and the assignment of "in and out" it will be complete and utter chaos!!

    PEACE

    Jim Chester

    JWC
    Last edited {1}
    Folks, I fear I've made a mistake in my calculations about reparations. I think I almost shortchanged us considerably! Smile I had been thinking about calculating the amount of a reparation as simply unpaid wages plus interest. As you've read I characterize slave labor as an "investment" in America. I've also described it as America's 'start-up capital'. To continue that analogy a more appropriate way to think about this would be to calculate the total unpaid wages and think of it as an actual investment in the United States. Doing so would create a equity (ownership) percentage in the United States' economy. That gives slave descendants ownership in the current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of our economy. So, for the sake of argument, 250 years of slavery for 5 million or so slaves generates a one third equity stake in our economy. Naturally, economists and historians would produce the appropriate numbers to create a more precise figure. First quarter 2003 U.S. GDP was $10.7 trillion. Let's guess that 2003 total GDP will be $45 trillion. 33% of that is $14.85 trillion. Following the logic of this thinking, descendants of slaves would have an equity interest in almost $15 trillion!

    I'll have to think about this further. At least this is a start at creating a way of thinking about a number.



    Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.
    Last edited {1}
    OK for the sake of this discussion let's pretend that reparations are paid TOMORROW.

    You are of the position, are you not, that EVERY black person in America suffered because of slavery, regardless of whether they or their ancestors were or were not actually slaves?

    Okay. So then, if reparations are paid, what about the kids that are born AFTER the reparations are paid? Are they not suffering just as much as those who just got paid? Are they S.O.L.? So what will it be: lump sum, one-time-deal reparations, or is it to be paid in installments in perpetuity so that everyone gets some money to the infinite generation?

    Hmmm now that I follow your reasoning, I think I'll get on the @$$ of the British Government for all its crimes against some of my ancestors...after all, it's only justice...or against the German Government, after all, it's still in existence...or the Italian Government for crimes the Romans committed...(gee I might get paid four or five times out of this! hee hee hee)

    "You liberals with your conspiracy theories are starting to sound like your own version of the John Birch Society"-Rush Limbaugh
    quote:
    Originally posted by Huey:
    Sounds valid, but I don't think it'll fly. I don't remember the Romans making some type of "Jim Crow-nius" laws to reinstate their newly freed slaves back into slavery or some other type of bondage.


    No but they sure as hell threw Christians to the lions and $#**. That's affected Christians! I am Christian and I demaaaaaaand reparations! It's only fair!

    Hell's bells, while we are at it why not demand reparations from the Vatican because of what they tried to do to Lutherans. And the Catholic Church is looooooooaded.

    Oh great, that sets a legal precedent! Does that mean I can sue Dan Fogelberg for turning me into a pussy in the mid-70's, is that possible, huh?
    "Your honor, between him and James Taylor, I didn't get a blowjob until I was 27 years old. I was in Colorado wearing hiking boots eating granola, I want some f***ing money right now!"
    --Denis Leary, "No Cure for Cancer", Track 04--"More Drugs"

    "You liberals with your conspiracy theories are starting to sound like your own version of the John Birch Society"-Rush Limbaugh

    [This message was edited by shebakoby on July 07, 2003 at 02:03 PM.]
    Last edited {1}
    My particular thoughts on reparations have nothing to do with "crimes", etc., and everything to do with repaying families who were denied wages for their work for 300 years.

    Why not read some of the thread above to better understand the argument.



    Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.
    quote:
    Originally posted by MBM:
    My particular thoughts on reparations have nothing to do with "crimes", etc., and everything to do with repaying families who were denied wages for their work for 300 years.

    Why not read some of the thread above to better understand the argument.



    Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.



    Back wages huh? Then why go after the Federal Government? They were not the employers.

    "You liberals with your conspiracy theories are starting to sound like your own version of the John Birch Society"-Rush Limbaugh
    quote:
    Originally posted by shebakoby:
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Huey:
    Sounds valid, but I don't think it'll fly. I don't remember the Romans making some type of "Jim Crow-nius" laws to reinstate their newly freed slaves back into slavery or some other type of bondage.


    "No but they sure as hell threw Christians to the lions and $#**. That's affected Christians! I am Christian and I demaaaaaaand reparations! It's only fair!

    Hell's bells, while we are at it why not demand reparations from the Vatican because of what they tried to do to Lutherans. And the Catholic Church is looooooooaded." shebakoby



    Christians at the lions?? Why don't you blame the Spanish Inquisition? At least the Romans made Christianity their major religion in the 200's AD. What's your point?

    You don't have a point! The thing is that you can't parallel chattel slavery here to Old World slavery in Europe, Africa and Asia.

    Rome had slaves, but they weren't generational. Once they were free they were free. They didn't make laws like Jim Crow, sharecropping or "grandfather clause" in a way to put their newly freed former slaves in some type of bondage.

    You can't deny that after slavery, that the US didn't have a part in denying blacks in completely participating in reaching the American dream. Slaves here (unlike Rome) were forbidden to read or learn how to read, because an educated literate person wouldn't voluntarily REMAIN a slave. Not one immigrant here were told it was against the law for them to read.
    Last edited {1}
    quote:
    Originally posted by Nmaginate:
    MBM...

    Forgive me for not reading all of your post just yet but I can tell that you have as always a sharp, concise, well articulated, cogent view/take on this issues as others.

    I just want to say that as far as the logistics and who, where and what... without a doubt the emphasis should be on institutions which have the greater potential to reach the greatest amount of our people. That's what's missing, independent or significantly African American influenced institutions for us to "DO FOR SELF".

    I believe we can build new and/or support existing institutions that will do exactly what we determine as our Liberation Imperatives. As far as higher education, we can subsidize colleges that are willing to provide special programs - remedial or in special fields - to uplift our people. Junior colleges or City colleges can be extensions of HBCU's that we would fortify as well as broadening their reach into areas of the country where they are not concentrated (I'm from the Mid-West - ILL.)

    The same for K-12 but we would want to work towards and build our own unique academies to install discipline, pride, and character into our kids like many of our parents got under segregated Black schools.

    Also...
    As I have said before, I am a major proponent of a more National gov't structure for us as a people. It will consolidate our leadership, promote unity and I would even exchange my concept of BLACK CONTROL OF BLACK TAXES - via a Black governing apparatus; pluralistic, 'consociated' democratic set-up -(a misnomer because it is not an original idea, just one I have advocated with my own articulation) for sole U.S. gov't reimbursement for the obvious perpertual self-determination focus of such an approach.

    To me that seems like a more than fair compromise, though I wouldn't necessarily completely abandon U.S. gov't direct redress. I see that as one way to avoid the "Why Do I Have To Pay" complaints... But if you access my debates on BET.com that doesn't at all end the debates with Whites...BUT... I think it really exposes their entrenched bias.

    As always, I appreciate your perspectives...

    """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
    If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man." - MALCOLM X


    Interesting ideas, actual plans. I can appreciate that. The jealousy issue may not just be with whites, but also with other minorities who feel they should be entitled to some if not all of the things we gain from this as well. The animosity, right or wrong would be real and unavoidable. How would we work toward reconciliation, does this start before or after implementation of reparations? I think that is often the most overlooked aspect of this topic, many people believe it doesn't matter. But in the real world anomisity between races and cultures has a huge impact on social progress.

    This is the kind of discussion that get's me excited! I can see this happening, real progress. Thank you for your detailed answer.

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