The question of reparations is by no means new, but a new impetus to the discussion of this topic was given by the activation of the Black Lives Matter movement. All of the Democratic presidential candidates in the upcoming US presidential elections have addressed this issue in their speeches. Several organizations have publicly apologized for their involvement in this shameful page of the past. However, activists believe that this is not enough, and raise the issue of reparations. This paper analyzes the articles and videos on reparations and discusses the practicability of this issue.
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According to the BBC article “Should Black Americans Get Slavery Reparations?”, these claims are based on the idea that not only the victims themselves but also their descendants have the right to compensation for the harm. This article has a brief history and timeline of slavery and discusses the cases for and against reparations (“Should Black Americans Get Slavery Reparations?”). On the one hand, reparations aim to end inequality between white and black populations. If black lives are really important, slogans and symbolic gestures do not work, but the government must pay the debt. On the other hand, the possibility of such reparations can worsen relations between the representatives of different races.
Robert Johnson also considers that the US government must make reparations for slavery to address racial inequality. As understood from the CNBC Television video “BET Founder Calls for $14 Trillion of Reparations for Slavery,” the founder of RLJ Companies believes that slavery has given rise to a legacy of racial harm (CNBC Television). It continues to affect the living conditions of blacks in the United States. He has pointed to the higher number of homeless, unemployed, and convicted people among African Americans (CNBC Television). His main argument is that the effects of slavery are still felt in the form of economic and educational inequalities that need to be eliminated.
The issue of paying reparations to the descendants of slaves in the United States has caused heated debate in Congress. According to the article “Reparations Proposal Called a ‘Sham’ by Black Activists,” the presidential candidates’ position is ambiguous. Some potential Democratic candidates support reparations; however, Project 21 member Donna Jackson states that reparations for every African American is economically impractical (“Reparations Proposal Called a ‘Sham’ by Black Activists”). Reparations would be offensive to many black Americans, and they will only further split the country and make it harder to build the political coalitions needed to address the problems facing black people today.
The video “The Opinion Talk Show: Should Blacks Get Reparations for Slavery?” confirms the idea that what some people did to others 200 years ago has nothing to do with modern people. Moreover, it would be unfair to take money from today’s taxpayers for reparations for the misconduct of a small group of Americans who lived in the distant past (Santiago). Therefore, Moise Koffi says that discrimination is aside, and society as a whole is likely not to accept the arguments for reparations, considering issues related to slavery a part of history.
The issue of reparations for slavery has ceased to be only a theoretical topic for discussion by essayists, economists, and historians. It has become a key topic in the 2020 US elections and a part of the political course of the US Democratic Party. The main candidates in the presidential race support the idea itself and the H.R.40 bill associated with it (“Reparations Proposal Called a ‘Sham’ by Black Activists”). However, those who negatively react to the idea of reparations usually understand the scale of this financial burden. While it is unfair to extend the sins of fathers to their descendants, and this argument is certainly valid, there is more to this negative backlash in the discussion of reparations for black Americans.
The question is not whether modern white people are descended from oppressors and slave owners. The question is even not whether they are somehow directly responsible for paying for the crimes of their ancestors. The reality is that the nation has been using a certain group of people for slave labor for several hundred years, and then deprived them of their rights for another hundred years. It extended full civil rights to that population at the federal level only about 50 years ago. In the United States, the abolition of slavery was followed by a hundred years of inequality and segregation, especially in the south of the country. However, the discussion of making up for this abuse and exploitation is openly ridiculed.
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The former colonial powers must repair the damage caused by centuries of violence and discrimination. The total number of victims of the slave trade is difficult to estimate, but not demanding the return of this money from the United States means not respecting the sacrifices made by the black ancestors. The state bears most of the blame because it created an environment in which individuals, organizations, and companies could participate in slavery and colonialism. Therefore, even if the direct distribution of money to the descendants of the blacks is not envisaged, various areas must be financed, and jobs must be created. Reparations should mean funding the health and education system, increasing affordable housing, and creating new jobs for black people.
CNBC Television. “BET Founder Calls for $14 Trillion of Reparations for Slavery.” YouTube, 2020, Web.
“Reparations Proposal Called a ‘Sham’ by Black Activists.” American Renaissance, 2019, Web.
Santiago, Mirna M. “The Opinion Talk Show: Should Blacks Get Reparations for Slavery?” YouTube, 2013, Web.
“Should Black Americans Get Slavery Reparations?” BBC News, 2019, Web.