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Reparations Explained (why am I reading this on a music site?)

– Affirmative Action is really a watered-down solution, that nobody really likes, that serves somewhat as a “placebo,” leaving the actual sickness untreated.

Editor’s Note:

What you are about to read is taken from the NY Times….

It’s here in response to the recent US Supreme Court ruling on Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action has been a controversial topic for most of my life. It’s a policy that has been in place in the United States for the past 50 years or so.

Although controversial, it has been largely successful in addressing two issues:

  1. Creating a ladder of opportunity for Marginalized US Citizens.
  2. A way to avoid having a much larger national conversation about the “800 Pound Gorilla” of the American Republic SLAVERY/REPARATIONS/JIM CROW. That’s because Affirmative Action is really a watered-down solution, that nobody really likes, that serves somewhat as a “placebo,” leaving the actual sickness untreated.

The recent Supreme Court decision gives us the opportunity to have that long deferred “national conversation” about SLAVERY/REPARATIONS/JIM CROW. IMHO having that conversation, may very well lead us to developing some better solutions, than Affirmative Action.

One of the reasons we haven’t been able to have an “unemotional national conversation’ about this topic is because there are several built in “highly charged assumptions” that are right underneath the surface, but immediately cut off an intelligent conversation. My view is that we as Americans have evolved to the point where a rational fact based discussion of this topic is far more possible today, than at any point in our history as a republic. In fact, it is my belief that the vast majority of US citizens are opposed to slavery and would support some form of reparations, for the unpaid labor of the “enslaved people,” if it could be done in fair and reasonable manner.

  1. All current day Black Americans should be entitled to “reparations.” NOT TRUE! In today’s society there are many people who consider themselves to be “Black Americans,” who wouldn’t be entitled to be the recipient of “reparations,” because their ancestors were never “enslaved people in the United States. For example, this would include people whose ancestors immigrated from places like Africa, the Carribean, etc. To ensure that all recipients are accurately entitled, the federal government could contract with companies like or others to document who is eligible and who is not.
  2. “Hey, my people came here from Ireland, Italy, etc. after the Civil War. We didn’t have anything to do with slavery back then, therefore we shouldn’t have anything to do with reparations today. Nor should my tax dollars.” TRUE! Well, the people who say this are correct. Once again, the federal government can help. IMHO, the first group of people who should pay for reparations, should come not from taxpayers, from the private sector. There are two categories of people, who profited from slavery that are still around today. A. The insurance companies, banks, European royal families, etc. who bankrolled the slave ships and of course B. the families who “owned” the enslaved people. The federal government can identify & document these folks. They can also assign a dollar value that these entities now owe the descendants of the “enslaved people’ today.
  3. IMHO that conversation should be had in as unemotional way as possible, despite the emotions involved. The following NY Times article provides an excellent framework to have that conversation, for people who are so inclined. I have no doubt that the author would be honored, if you have that conversation, using what he has written as a framework.

Why am I reading this on a music site?

Very simple. This site talks about the history of Black American Music. Which means it also talks about the history of Black Americans. It is impossible to accurately talk about the history of Black Music or Black Americans, without understanding the historical context (SLAVERY/REPARATIONS/JIM CROW) of its existence. This explanation of SLAVERY/REPARATIONS/JIM CROW from the NY Times is the very best “unemotional” explanation of this topic, I could find, and I think it represents an excellent jumping off point to us having a conversation on Soul-Patrol, with respect to this topic.

–Bob Davis

Where Reparations Stand in the U.S.

            By Adeel Hassan

After 50 years in slavery, Belinda Sutton was freed and given a pension drawn from the estate of the man who had enslaved her, but it was not out of his generosity. Sutton, a native of Ghana, had to go to court to receive an income for her work, performed on an estate near Boston. And she had to keep returning, to enforce the legal decision that she would be paid.

Her struggle in 1783 to win repayment — one of the earliest known cases in the United States — foreshadowed the difficulties that formerly enslaved people and their descendants face in seeking similar compensation.

Black Americans have made a renewed case for reparations that would redress slavery, post-Civil War landowning restrictions for the newly freed, Jim Crow laws, redlining, discriminatory lending practices and employment discrimination.

The first state-level task force to consider reparations, in California, officially submitted a sweeping report that recommended a formal apology and called for payments to eligible Black residents.

Despite pockets of momentum in various cities, the fight for reparations is an uphill struggle.

What are reparations?

Reparations are measures that seek to rectify a heinous injustice with an acknowledgment and an apology. In this context, they refer to an attempt to remedy the unpaid labor of millions of Africans who arrived in the English North American colonies as human chattel. Their work was vital to the accumulation of American capital, but neither they nor their descendants shared in the benefits.

The goal of any reparations plan today is to compensate the 40 million descendants of the enslaved people and, in theory, to narrow the disparities caused by slavery.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Danny Glover prepare for a hearing on reparations for slavery at the House Judiciary subcommittee in 2019.Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

Why is there wider interest in the debate over reparations?

The topic was largely confined to the political left until a June 2014 article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates prompted a more vigorous discussion. Coates argued that after having been exploited by nearly every American institution, Black Americans should be properly compensated.

Momentum built in 2019, the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival of Africans to the colony of Virginia. Coates was the star witness at a congressional hearing that considered a bill, House Resolution 40, calling for a commission to study reparations for slavery. Further attention was drawn to the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans by The Times’s The 1619 Project.

After high-profile deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police officers, such as the murder of George Floyd in 2020, calls for racial justice dovetailed with demands for reparations. The call for reparations also became a more prominent campaign issue in 2020, including in the Democratic primaries.

Why might reparations be needed?

White Americans, especially those who belonged to slaveholding families, accumulated significant wealth from the unpaid work of Africans. Enslaved people grew the cotton, built the railroads and developed the major universities that fueled the growth of the American economy. After the Civil War, four million people were liberated, but without a dollar to their names.

Landownership has been the primary engine of wealth in the United States, and the denial of access to it for Black Americans is the foundation upon which the wealth gap exists today.

The Homestead Act in 1862 lavished hundreds of millions of acres in the West (which were the traditional or treaty lands of many Native American tribes) to white Americans; and free land was used to incentivize white foreigners to emigrate to the United States.

Landowning restrictions left Black Americans collectively with less rural land than the country’s five largest landowners, all of whom are white. Six million Black Americans were forced to flee the terror of the Jim Crow South, and many of them left behind farms, homes, shops, vehicles and other economic assets.

One federal government measure notes the average median wealth for Black households is $24,100, while the average median wealth for white households is $188,200.

Breaking it down, a Black family has 12 cents for every dollar a typical white household has, a divide that has grown over the last half-century.

President Harry S. Truman signing the bill providing for the establishment of the Indian Claims Commission. Thomas D. Mcavoy/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

When have reparations been paid in the U.S.?

Americans who received compensation for historical injustices include: Native Americans, for government-seized land; Japanese Americans, for being held in internment camps; survivors of police abuses in Chicago; victims of forced sterilization; and Black residents of Rosewood, a Florida town that was burned down by a murderous white mob.

“It lifted the specter of disloyalty that hung over us for 42 years because we were incarcerated,” Rep. Robert T. Matsui, a California Democrat who was interned with his parents as a child, said at the time. “We were made whole again as American citizens.”

The $20,000 payments to about 80,000 eligible Japanese Americans did not come close to compensating them for the property they had lost, and other examples of reparations have usually fallen short.

Today, institutions have taken a leading role. A prominent order of Catholic priests said it plans to raise $100 million for the descendants of the people it enslaved. Virginia Theological Seminary created a $1.7 million fund to support Black seminarians and Black worshipers. The Princeton Theological Seminary said it would spend $27 million on scholarships and initiatives to make amends for its ties to slavery. Georgetown said that it would raise about $400,000 a year to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved people who were sold to aid the college nearly 200 years ago.

A few cities and towns have taken action. In 2021, the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., became the first to pass a measure, providing up to $25,000 to direct descendants of its Black residents who were harmed by discriminatory housing policies between 1919 and 1969.

In the University of North Carolina case, the plaintiffs said that the university discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic and Native American ones. The university responded that its admissions policies fostered educational diversity.Kate Medley for The New York Times

What is the argument against the idea of reparations?

Some critics argue that everyone to whom reparations are due is dead, and people who did not benefit from the slave trade, or those who never owned slaves, should not have to compensate the descendants of enslaved Africans. Reparations would create more racial tension, they add.

Others contend that the country paid its debt in blood during the Civil War, and that Black Americans have benefited from social programs like affirmative action, which the Supreme Court recently ended for college admissions. Some insist that Black Americans today are better off in the United States than they would be in Africa. Dwelling on the issue, they say, continues a psychology of victimization instead of individual responsibility.

Doubts about the affordability of cash reparations are also being raised, after city councilors in San Francisco proposed a one-time, $5 million payment to anyone eligible, and a California state reparations task force has recommended up to $1.2 million for older Black residents. None of these will be taken up by legislators for months.

How is the idea of reparations viewed?

About 80 percent of white Americans say they believe that descendants of enslaved people in the United States should not be repaid in some way, according to a Pew Research Center Survey, while only 17 percent of Black Americans are against reparations. Additionally, 58 percent of Hispanic adults and 65 percent of Asian respondents are not in favor; together, these two growing groups make up a quarter of the population.

Views are split among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Eight percent of Republicans and people who lean to the right say descendants of enslaved people should be repaid in some way, according to Pew.

Racial and ethnic inequities have cost the U.S. economy about $51 trillion in lost output since 1990, an economic analysis shows. Mary Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco who examined the economy’s lost output, said, “The imperative for equity, for closing some of these gaps, is not only a moral one, but it’s also an economic one.”

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