I’m for reparations.
Most people would read my Libertarian blogs and assume that the government paying reparations to the descendants of slaves, would be something I am against. But I’m not.
I’ve always been in favor of reparations. Aside from turning every black person in America into an instant Republican (depositing seven figures in someone’s account makes them instantly and acutely interested in tax policy), I think there’s a case to be made for it…as long as it’s done correctly.
Unfortunately, doing it correctly, is complicated …
There’s a road in Burma that was built by British prisoners of war, for the Empire of Japan, during WWII. Some of the surviving prisoners have tried to sue the current government of Japan for damages. I’m on their side.
Keep in mind, these are ACTUAL people who were forced to build this road against their will. Not descendants of those people – not great, great, great grandchildren – these are the ACTUAL people. And even given that, they have yet to see any justice in their claim. Why?
Well, things get complex when the government you are petitioning for damages isn’t the government that was in place when those damages occurred.
Japan now, isn’t anything close to what Japan was then. It’s literally a different thing completely. What is was then, was pretty much wiped off the face of the Earth by the United States Marine Corps and two atomic bombs. The country of Japan didn’t force those men to do anything. The EMPIRE of Japan did.
You might as well try to sue the country of Italy for something that happened under Julius Caesar. It’s simply a non-starter.
The country of Germany was ordered to pay reparations, after WWI, for all the damage and death they caused. And that pretty much led to WWII.
After WWII, rather than asking the living to pay for the sins of the dead, we decided on something called “The Marshal Plan,” that pretty much had the winners cleaning up the mess and paying for the rebuild. A lot of people didn’t find it fair. But hey, we’re 20 years into the new century and Germany hasn’t started any world wars yet. That’s WAY better than last century.
The case for reparations in America, for those who are descendants of slaves, is a pretty good one. It goes something like this: 250 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crowe laws, 60 years of separate but equal, 35 years of state sanctioned red-lining, has created a debt that must be paid to people of color by the United States.
I’m not gonna lie – that’s a strong case. And yes, the United States, by and large, did not hold up its end of the bargain to provide former slaves with 40 acres and a mule, after the Civil War.
This is called “Critical Theory,” and it asserts that there is literally no way for a black person to achieve what a white person can achieve in America, because the deck has been so stacked against them for so long, everything must be uprooted and re-formed. It’s a theory not completely without merit. Although we could argue over the hundreds and thousands of black people who have risen above that type of base line thinking.
All of those arguments aside, when it comes down to reparations, let’s make sure the math is right …
Did the United States even have slavery for 250 years? No. Not even half that time. How do I know? This information can be found in our most famous speech, The Gettysburg Address:
“Four score and seven years ago (87 years ago), our fathers brought forth on this continent a NEW nation …”
When Lincoln gave that speech, The United States was 87 years old. Two years later, slavery was abolished with a constitutional amendment.
That means The United States only dealt in slavery for 89 years.
So, who bought and sold all those slaves in America, prior to that? The British Empire.
People somehow conveniently forget that prior to 1776, America was under British rule. They just leave out the American Revolution completely. Several of the major slave trading companies, that brought millions of black-skinned immigrants to this continent against their will, were set up by British royalty.
The largest and most profitable was The Royal (yes – ROYAL) African Trading Company, set up by the Duke of York, in 1660. We named New York city after him, for Pete’s sake.
If you’re going after reparations, the British Crown is responsible for 157 years of the 250 years cited in the claim. That’s over half. Why is no one petitioning Buckingham Palace for anything?
But wait, there’s more …
The Dutch were the largest slave traders in the world for about a hundred years or so. They brought more slaves to America than any other country. So, in the reparations quest, Holland has to be on the list. How could they not be?
But wait, there’s more …
The African slave trade had 6 different tiers. And by the 16th century, it was so streamlined that doing business with African trading companies became the easiest way to import slaves around the world. I would like to tell you when slavery in Africa ended…but it hasn’t yet.
As far as we can tell, a lot of slave business was being done between the Africans and the Europeans. In fact, the FIRST bone fide slave owner on the continent of America was from Africa (Angola, to be exact). His name was Anthony Johnson. If you’re going for reparations based on slavery, Africa simply has to be on your list.
But wait, there’s more …
If you think Slavery in America was just about Americans hating black people or some micro-aggression informed view of what the world was prior to the industrial revolution, remember one thing: slavery wasn’t just about racism. It was about economics.
Nations kept providing slaves not only to the Americas, but all around thew world, not because they were just a bunch of red necks, who drank beer and watched NASCAR, but because slave labor was how the entire world worked for many thousands of years.
And on the American continent, particularly in the southern part of the United States, things grow that the world needs and wants.
Cotton, tobacco, corn and sugar cane were being consumed by the ENTIRE WORLD. So, if you want to really get into reparations….I mean really get into it, you have to do a deep dive into who all bought and used those goods grown by the hands of slaves.
A Christmas Carol was written in 1847 – 18 years before slavery in America was abolished. Charles Dickens was no doubt wearing clothes made from cotton, grown by American slaves, when he wrote that classic piece of literature.
Maybe his estate could be petitioned for some reparations. Maybe the publishers who have published his works could be petitioned.
I’ve always said, participation perpetuates. And slavery would’ve ended in less than a year, if all those crops had stopped being purchased, all around the globe.
When it comes to slavery, is anybody really clean?
The numbers are heart-breaking. But there are more slaves on planet Earth today, than there were during the hight of American slavery.
If you’re reading this on a computer or a smart phone, keep in mind that the device you hold in your hand was probably made by some kid in China, who is on the verge of suicide because he’s being worked to death pretty much against his will.
If you think the xenophobic neanderthal screaming “Buy American” is the racist, ask yourself how comfortable you are with slave labor. Because your comfort level perpetuates it.
This is why anyone truly concerned with slavery is paying close attention to places like Hong Kong and Taiwan and any Muslim country where it’s still an accepted practice.
Although the United States tolerated slavery for less time than any other developed nation in history, is it some blameless beacon of perfection? Of course not. There are those other claims to think about. Jim Crowe laws existed – but only in the south. Do we divide the reparations for that among only the southern states?
Segregation definitely existed. But how do you quantify that in terms of dollars and cents?
If all of the complication could be unravelled, I would be all for paying reparations to people who have been at a constant disadvantage based on “first sin.”
So what’s the answer? Personally, I think the answers in the now are things like prison reform, the de-criminalization of drug possession and reversing the ghetto-to-gang-to-incarceration cycle so many black men are trapped in, that has a ripple affect throughout the black community. And I think that’s actually doable.
But when it comes to pure reparations, maybe the Royal family should be put on some kind of notice and sent an invoice.
Maybe Holland should be asked to divert funds from its free healthcare system, that benefits mainly the white descendants of their slave trading grandparents, to an international reparations fund.
Maybe France and Italy should sharpen the pencil and do some research on how the cotton bought from the U.S. (farmed by slaves) for all those centuries, paved the way for their lucrative fashion industries. And a reparations tax could be levied on all the clothes they sell. You won’t mind paying an extra $15 dollars for that shirt, will you?
Maybe African countries that participated in the slave trade should shut down their building programs and infrastructure projects and cough up some long overdue payback. Their citizens will be happy to do that, I’m sure.
And yes, maybe The United States should pony up 89 years worth of cash. Although, there’s also a case to be made for the descendants of soldiers who were sent off to die in places like Shiloh and Gettysburg, to free those slaves, being exempt from the process. How do you reimburse for that? Do you deduct their tax dollars from the total?
Like I said, it gets really complicated if you’re going to do it right.
Because it basically comes down to this: if we’re going to start charging people for the sins of their fathers…everybody is going to get a bill.
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