Reparations: Deserved Repayment.
(ThyBlackMan.com) In recent years, there has been considerable furore regarding individuals or groups within American society, demanding reparations for the descendants of slaves, aka African Americans. Compensation is in the form of Government funded monetary sums, land ownership, or housing commissions. The US Government has previously agreed to repay several groups, organisations and individuals, in accordance with the legal stipulations of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act and other legal measures. However, debate continues to rage in relation to passing legislation allowing reparations to be rewarded to the descendants of African Americans who were enslaved and forced to work for ‘White Americans’ during the early years of America’s history. America has a divisive history when it comes to unjustly enriching certain groups of people through the impoverishment of others. If we cannot agree on a suitable method of reparations, the United States will forever be tarnished by a history and economy built upon the repression of the Jim Crow Laws and immorality of slavery. The White House occupied by our current president: Donald Trump; was constructed by unadulterated slave labour.
The concept of reparations is a familiar one within the United States judiciary system. Recently, a group of plaintiffs have filed claims for reparation against several large corporations that are allegedly built upon the labours of the largely African American Trans-Atlantic slave workforce. These assertions have been defaced and decried yet the underlying reasoning behind them conforms to an oppressive and prejudicial foundation for America’s wealth and prosperity. The primary industries associated with these exploitative enterprises include: financial, railroad, tobacco, insurance, and textile companies. Even today, many companies in this field are operating in a moral grey area in relation to underpaying workers, unsustainable usage of resources and general corruption. However, these issues pale in comparison to the multitude of horrors our country’s forefathers visited upon the African American workforce.
One simple rationale that supports the idea of reparations is the fact that millions of hours of labour were simply stolen from African American workers without a second thought for the ethical consequences. In this case, compensation for the descendants of these enslaved people shouldn’t be an issue that requires debate. A malicious and unjust act has been perpetrated against a group of people within the United States of America. It is within our power to attempt to right the wrongs of our forefathers yet we are hamstrung by indecisiveness and bureaucracy. Our inability to right this wrong is a source of countrywide moral bankruptcy and wilful ignorance that cannot be allowed to characterise us as a responsible people or a compassionate country.
The forced labour endured by African American slaves is only one example of the permeating rot within America’s moral identity. Other examples include: the stripping of land, possessions and assets by American establishments. This is often through over fabricated claims regarding tax avoidance. Current investigations into these kinds of actions have brought about an astounding amount of theft with as many as 406 victims and 24,000 acres of land valued at tens of millions of dollars being lost through the abuse of power by our authorities. Clyde Ross, a descendant of one of these victims compares it to living ‘under the heel of a regime that elevated armed robbery to a governing principle’.
The moral obligation to provide recompense to the descendants of African American slaves is not the only driving force behind this action. It is possible that a meaningful demonstration of sympathy, guilt and empathy for the plight of the African American’s past and present, might be swept aside along with the ingrained prejudices still plaguing a large proportion of the African populace. This could create a heightened degree of social awareness within the American people regarding the disparity between the ‘per capita’ income of ‘white’ and ‘black’ neighbourhoods. There is dramatically large incarceration statistics for African Americans, predominantly male, and a distressing prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse within this stratum of African American culture. The American upper class largely holds to the belief that they cannot be held accountable for the sins of their forefathers. However, they are ignorant or uncaring to the fact that their wealth and respect are derived from the scourge of slave labour. It is a sickening fact that the social and monetary wealth of America is concentrated amongst the beneficiaries of the trade and usage of other human beings.
It is undeniable that there is a myriad of arguments against reparations. The primary issue raised by politicians and committee groups is that any kind of monetary reparations would be a burden on the average US taxpayer, men and women who had no part in the persecution and enslavement of African Americans. Moreover, there would be tremendous logistical difficulties associated with identifying the appropriate people who are eligible for reparations and whether a system should be introduced to separate different levels of victimization. These concerns can be rebutted in several ways. Firstly, the lion’s share of reparations funding must come from the industries which have built their wealth upon a foundation of human suffering and enslavement. Checks and counter balances should be built into the system to ensure that the average American is not adversely affected by price hikes or product shortages.
It’s possible that a large influx of new capital into a population of people with a percentage who are typically living at a lower socio-economic level might have unexpectedly positive results. These may include reduced unemployment rates, increased low-level entrepreneurial thinking, decreased crime rates and stable investment in developmental community projects. The people benefiting from reparations payments will be able to take steps to remove the handicaps brought about by lack of wealth and perilous living conditions. Race motivated crime and segregation can begin to finally dissipate if effects of poverty and all of its shortcomings are spread uniformly throughout the entirety of America, rather than largely consigned to the African American population. Additionally, I’d like to point out that the issues associated with establishing a system of victimisation and identification of eligibility for reparations is inherent in a huge number of social welfare arrangements already supported by the US Government. Not only is there a bureaucratic framework to support a reparations structure for the descendants of victimised African Americans, there is also a precedent for reparations of this nature. An example of such a pattern is the US government’s decision to provide reparations of $20,000 to each Japanese American interned during the Second World War, to compensate for loss of property and liberty during that period. Restitution has also been achieved by several tribes of American Indians who receive regular monetary payments in reparation for the loss of land, life and culture experienced by their descendants.
The actions of our white forefathers are damning. Individuals and groups of people were backed by federal institutions to turn human labour into a business where a disproportionately small group of people came out as winners. It is too late for us to fully right these wrongs and help the people personally affected find justice. However, there remains time enough to give assistance to the descendants of the African Americans who gave up their lives funding the creation of a corporate and industrial empire. The notion that African American lives, culture and human rights mean less than the average ‘White American’ is something that can at long last be banished from the American psyche and reputation. This can only happen if we take a stand and kick-start the process of repaying our debts, both fiscal and moral to the decedents of those that have America the greatest nation on earth.
Staff Writer; Stanley G. Buford