April 25th, 2012
How the United States can make reparations a reality
How have you fared economically since President Obama took office and the Senate voted to endorse a national apology for slavery? The Obama presidency is one thing, and the Senate apology is another, but neither has accrued a whit for the majority of Black Americans. To the Senate measure, author Randall Robinson insists that “an apology to African Americans is meaningless without reparations payments.” In contrast with African-Americans’ political leadership, Robinson is primarily concerned with speaking out on behalf of African Americans and makes a grand case in his 2001 book, “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks.”
A lack of leadership on the issue has allowed reparations for slavery to linger on the fringe of American thought. Whether or not descendants of slaves are entitled to reparations is a debate that not only divides Whites from Blacks, but many Blacks from one another.
According to Harper’s Magazine, America owes African Americans over $100 trillion in reparations, based on 222,505,049 hours of labor from 1619 and 1865, with a compounded interest of 6%.
The thought is that “a $100 trillion payoff to Blacks is inconceivable,” and therefore no real thought or discussion is given it. Whites have a 400-year head-start on Blacks and want the status quo to remain.
A multitude of Blacks subscribe to mainstream thought to our own detriment. Though Obama rejected the concept of reparations long before his election, surely a substantial debt is owed Black Americans. The legacy of slavery has hindered the economic progress of Blacks in America; and reparations would rectify a historical wrong, would give poor Blacks more disposable income which would increase their living standards and lift entire communities.
Who among us wants our just inheritance, the trillions of dollars due us for the labor of our ancestors? Since so many Black have ascended into very high places in American politics, church realms, businesses, sports and entertainment, more and more of the Black population have become confused in exercising our priorities.
Getting our amends in America will require Blacks to agree that present-day racism stems from 246 years of slavery and Jim Crow laws. While President Obama is on record in his opposition of reparations to Blacks, supporters should be looking to the members of Congress who are co-sponsoring legislation to create a commission that would study reparations.
Advocates who say Black Americans should be compensated are chalking up major victories; civic governments in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, and half a dozen other cities have all endorsed “restitution” payments to Black Americans. Following Black leadership such as that of Randall Robinson and joining and supporting local groups dedicated to reparations is a way to make it all happen.