Sunday, February 19, 2006

Reparations

Just finished Randall N Robinson's The Debt:What America Owes Blacks on reparations on slavery and I have to admit I am a tad bit conflicted and confused on the subject. This could be because of my bias as a white male in America so forgive me if I am just spouting non-sense. I would like to open this up for a discussion if anyone has anything to weight in. Hopefully we can partake in a genuine respectful and open discussion on the topic.

Does America owe its African American population an apology for slavery and compensation for years of abuse and exploitation? The general premise is that Americas great fortunes and institutions were build by and run on slavery causing an unequal disbursement of wealth in this country that persists to this day.
Did this happen?...Yes.
Is there inequality in America?.....Yes
Does this country need to have an open an honest discussion about race?...Yes
Is an apology and cash going to make that right?...No

Can an apology be meaningful today?
I walked away thinking about this. Can I give a meaningful apology for something I didn't take part in even though I may have benefited indirectly from the outcome? I thought about this in the context of my life, I have to make things relevant, it is what I do. Now I am Swedish...Do I owe the Irish monks and there descendants and apology because my ancestors the Viking slaughtered them? Does a problem exist today between the Swedish people and the Irish? (Infull disclosure I am still waiting for a answer to that question having emailed several individuals in both countries who specialize in international relations)But honestly I don't feel bad about it. Even though they plundered the monasteries and looted the villages in order to build wealth and ships for exploration that may or may not have benefited me 8-10 generations later. It took place in historical context.

What happens if we make it official?
What is the big deal about making it official? I think that in the hearts and minds of everybody in this country we know that slavery is wrong. It is blasphemed in our textbook and national monuments. I even looked and at least 8 presidents have spoken on the subject about the ills of slavery and its damnation. Would it really make a difference if president bush did one more? Would racism go away? Would people really feel better?
And I don't want to sound callus, I understand the value of asking for forgiveness I do, I just don't think I have the ability to offer a meaningful apology for slavery and if I can't can the president?

Thomas Sowell writes "A national apology also betrays a gross ignorance of history. Slavery existed all over the planet, among people of every color, religion and nationality. Why then a national apology for worldwide evil, what's next a national apology for murder?"
While I think he might be a little overstating the significance for accepting responsibility for ones action. I mean just because everybody did it doesn't mean that I don't have to own to the part that I played, but it does raise an interesting point to ponder. Is this only an American thing? Did the Egyptians apology to the Jews for using there labor to help construct the pyramids? The Romans? The Ottomans? The Persians? Why have other societies been able to walk away from the annals of history when we have been unable to?
Would $23,000 taxpayer dollars make racism go away? According to the article this is the amount that should be paid to descendants of slavery. Would this help? Would this really change anything?

I admit I have more questions than answers. My own bias is that we are looking to outside influences to blame, scapegoats, but I fear what I see happening if we don't resolve this issue. I see us becoming mired in the past as other nations and economies move into the future. I see it everyday and it scares me to death. It just seems like a lot of credit to give the government that don't feel that they deserve..

5 comments:

Rocketstar said...

First of all, well written post my friend.


"Why have other societies been able to walk away from the annals of history when we have been unable to?"
----- Here is my guess. The color difference is so obvious and the strength of such a horribly demeaning relationship between owner and slave makes it long standing and easily kept alive by pure ignorance.

Maybe over time, we will become darker and darker, from breeding and the Sun, that you will not be able to tell anymore.

Megsta said...

Hmmm I like your theory rocketstar - it's gonna take a loong time tho.... good post Bri, I think you're very right about there being way more questions than answers with this issue - the main problem being all of the different answers not quite jiving with everyone's expectations - I think that dwelling too long in the past keeps us from moving on to a brigher future - the past can't be changed, but the future is anything we choose to make it!

Dem Soldier said...

Good post.

It won't happen until pigs fly..

One class I took, was based on this. Few things to note on your take......

We should never mix reparations with "what did I did to black people", but what did the nation has done to them". So its not a personal issue, but collective issue where first the national government have to put "The Enslavement of Africans Was a Crime Against Humanity" This alone will stop the reparations drive of some people.

Who will pay?

If ever, when reparations are paid, or suit is brought, it will come from federal government. Again as collective, where violations of the domestic law of the country where violeted. As was the case in Japan, Austria, Germany who all paid billions of dollars for reparations.

Second group will be, companies and families who have made vast money of profits from directly from slavery. To my surprize some still exist.

jamie said...

I am the last person you want to get riled up, cuz you know how I get, but I don't think we owe anybody shit!!! Why is it only the blacks that are asking for reperations, there were asian slaves too. Plus dont you think that black americans have made enough reperations with all the money they make in professional sports and the music industry. what about all the help our tax dollars do to make sure poor black americans have a roof over their heads, designer clothing on their backs and kool-aid in their cabinets!!! I don't think they have anything else to complain about, it happened to their anscestors not them.

FACE said...

This country wouldn't be the super power it is unless there was slavery. To give reparations now is impossible. To follow bloodlines and family trees to the root couldn't happen. " So slave massa you porked this slave and got her pregnant, then in 1940 a man in your bloodline married a asain, so you get 60%". Realistically it can't work. And the way things are today if America did pay we would get further in debt to the Chinese Gov't. I beleive we might go backward's, it's obvious seperation still exist's and we turn our eye's to this. Only the dumb deaf and blind, 85% ers. Didn't we buy slaves in Africa from Africans?
A country built on the backs of others is not new. We would have to apologize to alot more then just black people. We as people have a choice to ignore the past or grab it by the collar and look it in it's dirty face. Blogs like this are a good start. By the way to Jamie, I drink Kool-aid and wear designer clothes and eat chicken, grape soda and prefer rap over rock.