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  • Paying for sins of the past

    Proponents of reparations look at America - from George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, from the textile barons to the ivory cutters, from Yale University to The Hartford Courant - and see a land whose individuals, industries and institutions got rich off the exploited labor of their kidnapped ancestors.

    Now, they say, it's payback time.

    Even as public sentiment seems to turn against decades of affirmative action, the reparations question has curiously elbowed its way out of the shadows and struck a chord with mainstream black America.

    Studies suggest that about two-thirds of blacks favor reparations in some form while, in another stark example of the yawning racial divide in this country, nearly 90 percent of whites oppose them.

    Even proponents of reparations lack unanimity, with vastly different arguments, approaches and solutions. Some want a recommitment to education and employment programs for blacks. Some want a slave museum and an airing of the nation's complicity in the slave trade and the repression of black advancement. Others want money, measuring the debt in the millions, billions, even trillions of dollars.

    But virtually all agree that simply provoking a debate on the merits of reparations will help the country, if not to come to terms with, then at least to face a shameful past...

  • The continuing slave toll

    While the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, blacks were treated by law as second-class citizens for most of the next century - deprived of political power, denied quality schooling and excluded from the suburban housing boom. Slaves may have helped build the nation - serving as currency in the Triangle Trade and working vast plantations as close by as Salem and Colchester - but government-sanctioned racism prevented generations of free blacks from sharing the wealth.

    In their 1995 book "Black Wealth/White Wealth," professors Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro calculate that discrimination in housing markets will cost the current generation of black Americans $82 billion, mostly in lost home equity. Unabated, that discrimination will cost the next generation $93 billion...

  • The haves and have nots

    Still, even those inclined to see a lasting debt to black America are often stymied by a tricky question: Who would pay, and who would benefit?

    Is a debt owed by whites whose immigrant ancestors arrived in the United States decades after slavery ended, facing poverty and discrimination of their own?

    Do the descendants of the Union Army soldiers who fought and died to defeat the Confederacy owe reparations?

    What about Latinos or Asians or gays or women, who have all been harmed by discrimination? Should they pay?

    And would mixed-race Americans pay reparations, or receive them?

    Supporters of reparations say they aren't looking to heap blame on individuals. Instead, they are seeking reparations from the entire society, through the government, for lingering injustices.

    It was the U.S. government that paid money to Japanese Americans, not the individual internment-camp guards. And the tax money came from all Americans, including, of course, Japanese Americans...

    White immigrants might be free of the stain of slavery, but they also might have faced fewer barriers in education, employment and housing - the cornerstones of wealth in America...

  • Denying America's history

    While many whites are comfortable distancing themselves from slavery and its ill effects, many blacks see white America as deeply in denial about the nation's treatment of blacks.

    The U.S. Capitol was built with slave labor, but you won't find a plaque recognizing the slaves' contribution. Eight of the first 12 presidents owned slaves, but our reverence for them is little diminished. The National Statuary Hall in the Capitol houses life-sized bronze statues of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, and the powerful in Congress are willing to see them as local heroes, rather than traitors to the United States...

    In an essay in "The Wealth of Races," economist Robert Browne writes that the goal of reparations should be to "restore the black community to the economic position it would have had if it had not been subjected to slavery and discrimination."

    An honorable goal, but how would one calculate that?

  • The growing racial divide

    To some, the reparations movement ignores the progress blacks have made since the end of slavery and dismisses governmental efforts to narrow the socioeconomic racial gap. Federal and state governments have enforced civil rights legislation, promoted minority scholarships and spent billions on welfare, low-income housing programs and initiatives to spur minority-owned businesses.

    "For almost 40 years," writes James McWhorter, an African American commentator who opposes reparations, "America has been granting blacks what any outside observer would rightly call reparations."

    ...supporters of reparations say that whatever the nation has done in the past 40 years, it hasn't been nearly enough for the great majority of African Americans. Indeed, the revival of the reparations debate reflects a frustration that nearly four decades after the civil rights heyday, there hasn't been more progress in lifting the black underclass.

  • The pitfalls of reparations

    [Some]... are unsure about reparations, saying any race-based initiative is a setback for those who strive for a colorblind society. Some also say the reparations movement promotes black victimization and fosters the notion that blacks are somehow psychically defective and must be rescued by whites.

    Still others say reparations would backfire because whites would see it as settling the score on the nation's racial divide, forever eliminating the need for laws or programs to help minorities.

    A few note that African Americans have the highest standard of living of any nation's black population. Conservative thinker Dinesh D'Souza writes that if the slave trade had not transplanted their family trees on these shores, modern-day blacks would probably be in worse shape in Africa than in America.

    His critics say that if that's true, it is only because slavery robbed Africa of its most able citizens, hobbling the continent's cultural and economic development for centuries. African nations, they say, are also the victims of the slave trade, owed trillions in reparations from the West.

    One side says it was blacks in Africa who turned over their shackled countrymen to slave traders on the shore. The other side says it was only the greedy businessmen in the United States and Britain who made the trade so irresistibly profitable.

    And the finger-pointing continues.

    But that sort of back-and-forth leaves supporters of reparations undaunted. Some, in fact, are heartened, because any discussion of the drawbacks of reparations necessarily sparks a debate on its merits as well.

    Most just want to get the discussion going. And if there is any disappointment, it is that the debate has taken so long to flourish.
  • Original Post

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    A continuing discussion on reparations is good when it is generated among African American-Americans.

    It should be good when any American discusses the subject, and I suppose it is.

    I do not have much interest in the opinion of European-Americans on the subject, however. That is primarily because I do not perceive their opinion being important to my conclusion.


    Jim Chester
    When it comes to reparations for black folks America will always come up with some excuse and nonsensical crap about what they don't owe us, etc, etc. Some of these same "white" folks are the survivors or descendants of the survivors of the Holocaust who feel that it is OK for THEM to receive financial renumeration but not for us.

    This attitude is basically the "fruits" of nearly 300 years of slavery- a legacy of devaluing the lives of black people. In other words they simply don't give a damn. However, let one of US commit (or be accused of committing) a crime against one of THEM and see how quickly they can whip out a calculator and figure out the value of their loved ones. Did not the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman win a civil suit against OJ and a financial settlement for their loved ones? Did not the victims (or at least one of the victims) of Michael Jackson's sexual abuse receive millions in compensation? Did not the white female "rape" victim of Kobe Bryant? I don't know if she did or didn't but she sure as hell did try? And not one of them ever says (like some anti-reparationist blacks) that "you can't put a price tag on my pain or my loved one's pain". Hell no! White folks have no problems asking for MONEY for their pain and suffering. They are not going to accept a simple apology from the black evildoer. They want a damn check!

    Even the families of the white victims of 9/11 demanded (and probably got) a financial settlement from the Saudi govt. The families of the black victims were probably sitting back with that same old "you cant put a price tag" crapola. Well we better learn how to start doing so or be forever left behind. A few penny ante AA jobs are not going to compensate us for the billions of dollars in wealth we created for this nation and which everyone including illegal aliens are able to enjoy instead of the ones who were pimped to get it.

    We need to stop buying that "My family never owned slaves" or "I was poor white trash" or even "My family came here after slavery." Most white people and other non-black immigrants have always bought into the racism of this society. When said immigrants get off the boat the first English word they learn is n-gger and they waste no time in learning how to pimp us along with the established white order. How many white and now Asian and Hispanic immigrants have fought us to obtain jobs and privileges based on skin color and keeping us in our place. And some of these same newly arriving immigrants like Mr. Dinesh D-szoua are quick to judge and condemn black folks for laziness and act like they are experts on race relations in this country.

    We have to stop letting them use these excuses. White folks will never take responsiblity for the actions of another white person for crimes against us but if one of us has ever been accused of committing a crime against one of them they burned down the whole town and lynched as many black men they could. If one of us does something then historically we have ALL had to pay the price. During the OJ trial, many white coworkers looked at me accusingly as if OJ was my own brother who had personally injured them. They expect us all to apologize and atone for any crime committed by ANY black person against one of their own. So when they start with that "I didn't, et" and try to get off the hook tell them to squash it.

    They have inherited the wealth of a racist society and most of them play by its rules of discrimination. They can get the job and we can't and nary one of them has ever tried to change the rules of this game. They have perpetuated a system of hatred, racism and terror against us. They are just as many, if not more, neo-Nazi skinhead groups out there today as there were 100 years ago. Of course these same hypocrites cry "foul" when one of those "terrorist Muslims" commit the same crimes and evil against them they have historically committed against us.

    We have to get with the program black folks! We are being left further and further behind as racism goes on unchecked in this country. A few lousy AA jobs will not make up for the billions we have lost over the centuries. With the Hispanics becoming America's fastest growing minority, white people will continue to sweep our problems under the rug hoping one day that we will just disappear from this country.

    America may never apologize or recompense us for these evils since white people have no morals or ethics when it comes to black folks, but as the Rev Al. Sharpton said "I may go to my grave never seeing reparations but I will never cease to tell America that you owe." My sentiments exactly.
    Last edited {1}
    We have to get with the program black folks! We are being left further and further behind as racism goes on unchecked in this country. A few lousy AA jobs will not make up for the billions we have lost over the centuries...
    I'm with you BanjiGirl and I finally found that MLK quote that makes that same observation and echoes that very same sentiment:
      "Justice for black people will not flow into society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory. Nor will a few token change quell all the tempestuous yearning of millions of disadvantaged black people. White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo.

      When millions of people have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly process. Inferior education, poor housing, unemployment, inadequate health care--each is a bitter component of the oppression that has been our heritage. Each will require billions of dollars to correct. Justice so long deferred has accumulated interest and its cost for this society will be substantial in financial as well as human terms. This fact has not been fully grasped, because most of the gains of the past decade were obtained at bargain rates. The desegregation of public facilities cost nothing; neither did the election and appointment of a few black public officials."

    I've had a frank conversation with a fellow brother on this issue. We concluded, on very short order, that any mass-wealth-transfer to african americans on the part of the united state government would not be supported at the outset by tax payers. The conversation ended there.

    It think it's time for both sides of the issue to revisit "slavery" in basic economic terms. It was a business: right or wrong.

    Holocoust vis-a-vis Slavery comparisons insult my intelligence. Do apples taste like oranges? Is grass blue and the sky green? Does money grow on trees? Do pigs fly? Are we talking english or nonsense? Ok?

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