Essay on Reparations for Slavery and Discrimination - Just Say NO

Essay on Reparations for Slavery and Discrimination - Just Say NO

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Reparations for Slavery and Discrimination - Just Say NO

"If you are the son of a man who had a wealthy estate and you inherit your father's estate, you have to pay off the debts that your father incurred before he died. The only reason that the present generation of white Americans are in a position of economic because their fathers worked our fathers for over 400 years with no pay...We were sold from plantation to plantation like you sell a horse, or a cow, or a chicken, or a bushel of wheat...All that what gives the present generation of American whites the ability to walk around the earth with their chest they have some kind of economic ingenuity. Your father isn't here to pay. My father isn't here to collect. But I'm here to collect and you're here to pay." - Malcolm X

It cannot be denied that American slavery was a horrendous crime and a moral abomination. This crime had countless victims and their descendants still experience adverse effects today, many generations later. It is common knowledge that American society subscribes to an ideal of corrective justice that recognizes a legal duty compelling wrongdoers to remedy wrongfully-caused losses and to surrender wrongfully-obtained gains. Does this require the payment of reparations by the federal government to African Americans? Are reparations justified?

My answer to both questions is no -- and not just because of uncertainty about who should receive the payment, although as we shall see this poses a serious practical problem. Here are just a few of the numerous implementation problems that a reparations law would need to solve.

First, how would it define the beneficiary class? Would it include all blacks in the U.S. or only those descended from slaves? If the former, what about [recent, post-slavery] immigrant blacks and how would "black" be defin...

... middle of paper ...

...? Should we view their whiteness as an emblem of privilege sufficient to redeem their long suffering without further recompense?


The movement for black reparations, however well-intended, is misguided. Indeed, it is perverse in its propensity to discredit the very ideal of corrective justice that it invokes, to aggravate bitterness rather than assuage it, and to make reconciliation more difficult.

Our obligation now is to engage with and learn from the past, and then to move forward by turning the page. As we turn it, we must not forget that we are leaving behind an endless catalog of crimes, tears, and scars of the lash, of prejudice, and of poverty. We must leave this human misery and injustice behind, but not out of mind or conscience. We already have a long agenda to challenge our moral faculties and remedial imaginations as we assess our responsibilities to one another both now and in the future."

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