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Slave Reparations: Who Gets Paid? How Much?

Thursday, 17 January 2002 12:00 AM

Slavery was an ugly cancer on our national fabric, and though our country and its people have slowly come together over the past generations, we are still struggling to come to some understanding of our past.

One controversial solution proposed by the African-American community has been that of slavery reparations, which suggest that the American taxpayers should pay the African-American community for the damages suffered by their ancestors due to slavery and segregation.

While a wide range of African-American politicians and community leaders, as well as a fair share of supporters from outside the African-American community have embraced this idea, the very notion has sparked countless debates and accusations of racism.

In his new book,

In the book, Horowitz recounts his efforts to address the subject in an ad titled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea – And Racist Too."

The ad, which was sent to 71 college newspapers around the country, was banned from 43 newspapers. Nevertheless, he embarked on a speaking tour of college campuses in 2001, where he encountering boycotts, dangerous demonstrations and verbal attacks.

The Ten Rules can be summarized as saying that the Civil War was over, and many African-Americans are very prosperous today. Therefore, why should American immigrants, who were not even here at the time of slavery, pay for these past injustices, of which neither they nor their ancestors took any part?

The author states that America’s greatest eras of immigration occurred after 1880 and again after 1960, and these new residents hold no responsibility for slavery.

The Ten Rules illustrate the point that reparations are not a clear-cut issue, and it is unfair and ineffective to merely assign blame and demand payment.

To begin with, the Ten Rules state that while white slave-owners, as well as Arab slave-owners, were a reality, there were also an estimated 3,000 black slave-owners in the country before the Civil War. Reparations don’t take into consideration these black slave-owners or the many free blacks.

In addition, there were a number of white slaves in the Colonial Era. Another important issue is that there were relatively few slaveholders, even in the South. In fact, only one in five people owned slaves.

Furthermore, reparations may cause damage in the long run, especially from a historical point of view.

By citing Holocaust victims, the internment of Japanese-Americans or the African-Americans who were experimented on in Tuskeegee, the supporters of reparations are making an unfair comparison.

These other victims were directly affected, whereas slavery reparations seek to reward on the basis of race alone.

Horowitz makes the point that because of the Civil Rights Act and racial preferences in schooling and employment, as well as welfare benefits, trillions of dollars have already been paid to the African-American community.

Thanks to the GNP of blacks in America, the African-American community now ranks as the tenth most prosperous "nation" in the world.

African-Americans have a per capita income that’s 20-50 times greater than that of their former African nations of origin, and in fact, the black middle class now outnumbers the underclass.

It may also be that reparations would portray African-Americans as victims, and send a negative message to the community.

Horowitz cites the countless black immigrants who have experienced torture and genocide in their own countries, and asks how these visitors would view any payments.

Paying reparations based on mere skin color is itself a racist concept, says Horowitz. He mentions that the estimated 350,000 Union soldiers who died while attempting to free the slaves already paid a great debt.

And, while slavery had been going on for thousands of years, it was thanks to the beliefs and military power of American and English white Anglo-Saxons that the slave trade came to an end.

In addition, it was a white Anglo-Saxon American, Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Finally, it is because of our individual freedoms that America is the superpower it is today. This is due to a collaboration of the best and the brightest, regardless of skin color.

Reparations therefore, are not easily addressed, even within the African-American community. It may take decades until our nation reaches an understanding.

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Slavery was an ugly cancer on our national fabric, and though our country and its people have slowly come together over the past generations, we are still struggling to come to some understanding of our past. One controversial solution proposed by the African-American...
Thursday, 17 January 2002 12:00 AM
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