I'm about as progressive as any one white man can be regarding racial issues. However when I saw the headline, “The Case for Reparations,” on the Back Page (Nov. 26), I thought, “Oh no, not another ill-conceived diatribe against America and especially against the South for our slave trade.”
I was pleasantly surprised and frankly impressed with the author's proposal. It changed my mind about the efficacy and morality of reparations.
Anyone with a sense of fairness should be willing to surrender cash to blacks for evils committed by our ancestors. Black people have been abused and should be compensated by the U.S. government. However, I would add it seems only fair that the government be given credit for the myriad welfare payments already received by blacks for benefits too numerous to mention. And every city has public housing, a disaster, but we should still get credit for trying. And I would argue Hurricane Katrina relief should be included. And years of affirmative action could be worked in on a sliding scale. Somewhat more difficult to determine but somehow should be included is the improved living conditions of American blacks as compared with African blacks. Using Mr. Walker's notion of racial separation, perhaps all income by blacks since emancipation should credited to their reparation account. I mean, as long as Mr. Walker wants to separate Americans into us and them, it seems only fair.
I spent years researching the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I read thousands of pages, traveled to Oxford and Cambridge in England to access archives and met with some of the world's leading authorities on the trade. Let me first state clearly that what happened in this business is beyond human comprehension in human degradation and wickedness. No question. Both the Africans who fought, enslaved and sold each other, and the Europeans who purchased the slaves and exacerbated the trade, and those who bought them again and employed the slaves were fully guilty. But people's ideas about what happened are generally pretty far off.
Africans almost exclusively enslaved Africans. When world opinion finally turned against the trade, the loudest protests came from African chiefs who traveled to England insisting that the white man had no right to regulate their business.
Regarding reparations, it doesn't make sense for those who've never owned slaves to pay people who've never been slaves. What one's great-great-grandfather might or might not have done to someone else's great-great-grandfather is in the realm of God, not man. The descendants of slaves are far, far better off than the descendants of the Africans who stayed behind, most of whom now live among those with the lowest standard of living in the world. American citizenship is an extremely valuable thing.
I believe the best course for this country is for those with a European heritage to acknowledge the guilt of their forefathers and to do better by showing love and kindness to all others, and for those with an African heritage to acknowledge the guilt of their forefathers and likewise seek to do better by showing love and kindness to others. Whatever is left over simply must be forgiven and left in the hands of God.
Pastor Walker's opening line states, “Now that Barack Obama has been elected as the first black president, he should seriously consider reparations for African Americans.”
Does that mean if Hillary Clinton had won the nomination and the presidency that she should make amends and compensate for the national and international hostilities and horrors perpetrated by men against women for the last 10,000 years? Slaveholders and racists can get in line behind the patriarchs who deemed women and children property until the late-19th century and misogynists who continue to this very day to commit acts of violence against women on a global scale.