Posts tagged ‘One Note’

Reparations for Slavery

Groups like the NAACP are actively pursuing claims for compensation from both corporations and governments for slavery in the United States 140 or more years ago (that's 7+ generations in the past).  The particular article linked is on seeking reparations from corporations, but many efforts exist to extract compensation from taxpayers, e.g. you and I.

Lets forget for a minute why I owe money for what my great-great-great-great-great grandfather did to your great-great-great-great-great grandfather.  Lets even forget that my great-great grandparents and all preceding generations of my family did not even live in this country.  Forget even about whether a statute of limitations has been exceeded by waiting 140+ years and seven or more generations to file a claim.

Lets however ask the question of what damages are incurred by the current generation of African-Americans who are decedents of American slaves.  Clearly the slaves themselves were irreparably harmed by slavery, but lets talk about the people who are actually bringing the suit.

If it were not for slavery, then many African-Americans today would be ... in Africa.  And in Africa, they would very, very likely be in horrible mind-numbing poverty (see Live8).  Its hard to pin down a number, but estimates of average incomes in Sub-Saharan Africa are between $600 per year and $1,770 per year.  By comparison, the average income of an African American was $14,397 in 1999 and is certainly higher today, since black incomes are growing rapidly in this country and actually falling in Africa.  And African American life expectancies, which still have some catching up to do with whites in the US, are nevertheless 10-25 years longer than their counterparts in the old country.  Everything from AIDS survival rates to education levels to VCR ownership and Internet access are far superior for American blacks than blacks in Africa.  So in this context, how does one demonstrate economic damages from slavery?

If I were an African American, I would give thanks every day that my ancestors endured the torture and humiliation and horror of slavery so that today my family could live, despite frustrations that sill exist for blacks, in relative wealth and prosperity and good health instead of some sub-Saharan shit-hole.

One Note:  I have certainly gotten some interesting emails on this one, including at least one "you will roast in hell" offering.  One comment I have gotten several times is "But there is no statute of limitations on murder, so how can there be on slavery?"   To which I answer - yes, there is not statute of limitations on murder, BUT, if we fail to catch a murderer in his lifetime, we don't throw his kids or grandkids in jail in his stead, nor do we ask his grandkids to pay reparations for his murders.  If we suddenly could absolutely prove the identity of Jack the Ripper, would we track down all his descendants and sue them for his actions? 

The second comment I get, presumably from African-Americans by the pronouns "I" and "we" used in the emails, is "we had our heritage ripped away".  I will confess that I may have a blind spot on this loss-of-heritage issue.  My great-grandparents were forcibly exiled from Germany about a century ago, and I don't shed any tears for my lost heritage, particularly given Germany's atrocious actions during the twentieth century.  I am thrilled to be an American and reject or at least ignore my German heritage.  I am not at all saddened my disconnectedness from the Kaiser or Hitler, and am not sure in turn that if I was black I would feel a loss from not being closer to Robert Mugabe or any of a zillion other repressive African regimes. 

By the way, in terms of being disconnected from one's heritage,  I have no way to prove it or get the numbers, but I would be willing to be that there are more college students right now studying black and/or African history in the US than in the whole of Africa.