Reparations? – Part 1

We are hearing more calls for reparations again. And every time the discussion comes up, we get a backlash about slavery being too far in the past, unfairness, too expensive, and a host of other, well frankly, excuses. Many people ask whether reparations are due. They are. Accept that and move forward. A big part of this country was built with slavery and institutionalized slavery has been a part of our justice system and our social system for well over 200 years. And yes, none of us owned slaves, many of our ancestors may not have owned slaves. That is not really the issue. If you live in this country, you are benefiting from the economic system built with the free labor of slaves.

Someone recently commented that slavery was morally acceptable when it happened, so we may not really owe anyone anything. Morals change with time and what happened back then was acceptable to most people. The morality and acceptability of slavery back then is not really at issue. It does not matter. Most of us have finally accepted that it was not ethical.

For the early to middle part of the 20th century, it was an acceptable practice to dump wastewater into our rivers and streams. Many businesses and municipalities did it. Then one day, people started to understand the environmental damage we were doing, the health impacts we were creating. That that acceptable practice should no longer be accepted. So, we changed laws and regulations. We enacted cleanup policies and enforced fines. Most of us did not personally dump those pollutants in the water. Many of our ancestors did not do it either. But we all understood that we inherited the problem, that it affected us, and thus we were required to be responsible for the solution. Slavery is similar and reparations are a solution.

In reality, reparations are not just about slavery. It is about the racist history and actions of America that followed officially outlawing slavey in 1865. The Black Codes of 1865, the New Orleans massacre of 1866, the Colfax massacre of 1873, Jim Crow laws, the Wilmington insurrection, the Red Summer of 1919, the destruction of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, hundreds, if not thousands, of lynchings, just to name a few. We have a sordid, racist history in this country. Did we personally do those things? Probably not. But they happened. They robbed an entire group of people of their present and their future. And now, we are trying to step forward and accept the responsibility for repairing the damage.

But what about white slaves? What about the land thefts and genocide of Native Americans? How do we determine who is black and who is not for reparations? Won’t this make blacks lazy and expecting handouts? What about poor white people? What about, what about, what about. Lots of excuses and justifications are presented when talk of reparations begins. That does not mean none of the questions are valid. It means focus on this issue to address it, then focus on the next issue.  Some of the questions may be addressed by the reparation solution we agree upon.

If we want to move forward as a country, addressing our racist past, we must face this issue of reparations. But how we define reparations may not be what you think.  I will discuss that in Part 2….

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JR Wolfe

A guy, his blog, and his vision of the future....

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