Sunday, December 23, 2012

Should African-American Reparations be Awarded by America?

African-American Reparations
African-American Reparations

Did you know that slaves were forced to perform 222,505,049 hours of free labor between 1619 and 1865? 
Although it seems that the moral justification in favor of black reparations should be embedded in the high-seated, lofty principles on which America was founded and intertwined within the deepest roots of American history, this simply isn't the case. Ever since the first law was passed in favor of African-American reparations, the progress for awarding them has been stifled by right-wing idealogs and stymied by the rapid proliferation of social ignorance. Indeed, America's hegemonistic society is rapidly spiraling towards a decline in social values, which has resulted in a paralysis of national mobility on the issue. Nevertheless, the now nationally-syndicated issue of African-American reparations has, in recent years, come to be a  hotly-debated topic  that's perpetually surrounded by a some degree of controversy. This article will analyze the historical significance of such pivotal events as the “40 Acres and a Mule Proclamation”-- originally issued by Gen. William T. Sherman as Special Field Order 15 in 1865-- as well as the recent passing of H.R. 40 Bill in 2010, when African-Americans were given their first glimmer of hope for receiving reparations. 

On one hand, opponents of African-American reparations have been effective at obfuscating the issue and blocking the legal argument for African-American reparations in the highest courts in America while the progeny of former slaves continue to suffer the brutalities that are an inherent attribute of a racist society. Some people may ask how. Police brutality, a judicial system biased  towards Caucasians and their interests, a vast number of African-Americans living in substandard housing, the disproportionate African-American prison population, the villinaization of African-Americans by the media, the disproportionate African-American corporate population, and the substandard schooling and school equipment that African-Americans in urban neighborhoods have access to are all consequences of living in today's racist, slanted society.

The World We Live In (Being Honest With Ourselves.)
 In this society, African-American lives are looked on by the white racist majority as substandard, not worthy of dignity, autonomy, or respect. Indeed, this country considers black lives to be "expendable", and the result of this unspoken policy is the deluge of black blood that runs through America like a mighty river. In spite of the conflicting viewpoints surrounding the issue of African-American reparations, there is no viable, moral justification concerning the denial of African-American reparations. I will hereby set forth to prove that African-American reparations are due to the descendants of all former slaves.

Mark Hollis states, in his article "A Bill for Reparations, "that “[he believes] this bill (H.R. 40) to be symbolic, as the bill has never actually had any kind of hearing in the past….”  One of the three-dollar words coined by Republicans who wish to oppose any thought of any special consideration due minorities in this country is "reverse discrimination." They have, somehow, convinced us that minorities start with no deficit in our society and that treating them in any special causes harm to the majority”.  

From this analysis, we can see that even as an opponent to traditional black reparations, Hollis is still profoundly aware of the slanted, stark opposition for reparations that denies the fact that black reparations are, indeed, a legitimate concern. This is a classic maneuver; denying the existence of an issue is fundamental for the formation of Republican legislative opposition to this issue.

Finally, Hollis quips that, “Today, the House Committee that Representative Conyers controls may well discuss his bill, but if you look at the legislation that the House of Representatives has to pass this year and if you look at the ethnic background of the US Senate, you will quickly conclude that such a bill will never see the President’s desk. I believe the right reparation in our society is best done in one's heart and mind because Congress cannot legislate and the President cannot enact a change of heart”.

Mark Hollis is probably correct when he predicts that Senate Bill H.R. 40 will probably never reach the President’s desk. Why? Because despite the niceties and nimieties (so-called overabundances) that African Americans feel like they enjoy in this day and age, the scathing truth is that we live in a society that was created by white people and for white people. And since granting black reparations is not in the interest of whites, the bill will probably never be passed. To the contrary, it seems that the general consensus of the "conscious citizens" which inhabit this blessed country are much more comfortable with the idea of  spending $1.3 trillion to subjugate colored people in Middle Eastern regions than to remunerate the descendants of the slaves who helped build our nation. Consider the mind frame of Thomas Jefferson when he so eloquently bloviates (to talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way) these acerbically-racist words: “Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of color in the white race, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black that covers all the emotions of the other race?” 

Or, perhaps we should consider the sentiments of the acclaimed emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, when he said that “All men are created equal, except Negroes, foreigners, and Catholics!” In 2009, Joe R. Feagin published Racist America: Roots, Current Realities and future Reparations Remaking America with Anti-racist Strategies. In this well-written book, Feagin explains that systematic racism harms all non-white citizens of America. Feagin writes “Systematic racism is about everyday experience. People are born, live, and die within the racist system. This racist system permeates into every orifice of black thought and culture, preventing the healthy development of a positive community.”

When the Jews were oppressed by systematic racism, they received remuneration for the crimes of their oppressors, even if their original oppressors were not alive at the time of compensation. When blacks received their opportunity for reparations through Senate Bill Number 60, although it passed both Houses on February 10, 1866, President Andrew Johnson vetoed it. Today, almost 150 years later, the effort to obtain black reparations has been all but abandoned by the American government. 

            A more honest reckoning of our history would reveal the difficulty of transcending race without some attempt to repair the damage done by racial slavery and the structures of racism erected to justify it. After all, African-Americans were created in the crucible of slavery and socialized for centuries by white supremacy. And although most Americans may have had little to do with the cause of that problem, all of us have a stake in its solution. I contend that black reparations are due on the basis of the harm argument and the inheritance argument.

Bernard Boxill sums the inheritance argument up in a few words: “When people die their rights to their property are normally passed on to their heirs. The reparation owed to the freed people was their property; they had rights to it. It was never in their physical possession [,] of course [,] but it was nevertheless their property. Neither did they abandon it. It was forcefully kept from them. Consequently it should pass, by right of inheritance, to their descendants, the present black population.”

Next, Boxill explains the harm argument: “Slavery involved many transgressions against the slaves. The slaves were harmed by these transgressions. These harms initiated an unbroken chain of harms linked as cause and effect that persists to the present day. Since present day African Americans therefore suffer from harms caused by the transgressions of slavery it follows from the principles of reparative justice that they deserve reparation for those harms.”

Keeping it Real

In response to those who take the position that blacks reparations are not due on the basis that no single group perpetrated or benefitted from slavery, I proffer the fact that no single group benefitted from the subjugation of the American Indians either. To claim that the beneficiaries of stolen wealth have no moral obligation to recompense the group of people from whom the wealth was stolen is both illogical and immoral. African Americans owe no debt of gratitude to a country that displaced and enslaved them when “freedom” is granted. And although a limited number of white Americans owned slaves, slavery is much more than whips and chains. In today’s world, American whites benefit from a system that retains many of its original provisions that facilitate social and economic segregation and degradation, while American Blacks suffer from the emotional and financial impact of slavery to this day. America is indebted to the progeny of those black men and women who built this country without pay, and it is time to pay the piper. Reparations are due!plumbing atlanta

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