Lately, many signs have been posted around the campus either for or against slavery reparations. I am inclined to agree that slavery reparations should never occur.
The very theoretical framework upon which slavery reparations rest is flimsy. The idea is that somehow people under slavery should be paid for their pain and suffering. Those organizations that directly profited from using slaves should be most responsible for providing the funds for reparation.
This idea is flawed at best. Anyone who has been a slave should be outraged that their descendents would be willing to receive any monetary gain from their pain and suffering. The descendents will be profiting from the slaves’ pain and suffering as much as plantation owners of the old South did.
Outrage would also be expressed over the idea that one could put a monetary value to their years of oppression. Can one really put a price on rape, malnutrition or deprivation of basic rights?
Also, who is a slave? How does one know what jobs are slave jobs or not? What about indentured servants or wage slaves? Besides those problems, even if one only focused on African-Americans, how does one determine who should receive the money?
Will only 100 percent African-Americans receive money? What about African-Americans with Caucasian blood or Caucasians with African-American blood? No one even knows who to give money to, assuming money could be obtained in the first place.Which brings about the question of who should pay? Most slavery reparation supporters cite the U.S. government as the source from where all money will be taken. However, the United States government obtains money from taxes of all American people, not just descendents of slave owners.
It is unfair to tax all Americans for slavery reparations. What about immigrants — the unskilled labor force that America has always exploited? Should we tax them too for slavery? Immigrants are in a similar boat as African-Americans in terms of pain and suffering.
Should we ask only Caucasians to pay for this? That isn’t fair either. A majority of whites never owned slaves. Also, quite a few African-Americans themselves owned slaves (US Census Bureau). Not only is a majority of Caucasians not responsible for slavery, but, at the very least, the descendants of the 3,000 African-Americans who owned slaves in 1830 should be responsible for paying into this reparation fund.
Furthermore, 600,000 whites died in Civil War to outlaw slavery. These men died to stop slavery, and now we should tax their descendents? To add another issue, what about the Africans who helped the Europeans enslave their own. Shouldn’t they pay an even greater portion of the reparations?
Okay, let’s put that problem aside. Assuming money can be obtained and assuming money can be distributed to the proper people, two big assumptions, how much should it be?
This goes back to my original argument about putting a monetary value on suffering. No matter how much money one can give, it can never really equal years of pain and suffering?
It can’t. Sure descendents of slaves will be appeased by money, but if society could ask anyone who was a slave, “Is this money enough?” will there be any point the slave will say, “It was all worth it”?
Of course not. Money can never be equal to pain and suffering. One can never buy the right to inflict pain.
I admit slavery reparations are founded on a good idea, the need to recognize the horrors of slavery and make amends. However, money is not the answer.
Giving away of money is almost like allowing the guilty to buy back their consciences. Don’t let them do that. Never allow the world to forget the horrors that the institution of slavery brought.
Advocates of slavery reparations say monetary gain is not the main cause. Rather, it is a push for equality, a push for understanding, and a hope for an apology. However, read any slavery reparation proposal and one can see that money is the basis for this equality and understanding.
Reject slavery reparations because money can never equal the pain and suffering that slaves felt. Rather, remind the world of the horrors of it so that it may never be committed again. History has already recorded the past. Let us not help repeat it by allowing our guilt be cleansed through little green slips of paper.
African-Americans are the victims of a grave injustice. To allow monetary reparations for slavery will merely continue this cycle of injustice.