*Reparations. It seems every time African Americans bring the subject up, and those with much less melanin are within earshot, heads start to roll.
As if THAT is going to stop us from uttering the word!
If it were a debt with the name student loan attached, by now the interest alone would be incalculable.
Yet it is a debt that still remains unpaid. And by the looks of things, interest is not even on the richter scale.
The thing is, much like the American Indians who have refused to accept “reparations” for the injustices done to them as the first settlers in America (yet in a settlement under a different name accepted a $3.4 billion dollar settlement in 2012), its not easy to simply place a dollar figure on centuries of abuse and injustice done on a race of people.
I mean, how much would you ask for? And would any amount of money really be enough?
Though Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has been attempting to address the seriousness of this topic in congressional presentations since 1989 with his Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, which simply calls for research on the nature and financial impact of African enslavement and the ills inflicted on black people during the Jim Crow era BEFORE his proposal has been met with a brick wall response each time, according to Julia Craven, a politics reporter at Huffington Post.
Now, in her article “We Absolutely Could Give Reparations to Black People. Here’s How,” Craven presents something of a step-by-step guide that at least sets the stage for asking the right questions and putting things in perspective.
Craven mentions how Black activists and intellectuals have been promoting restitution for black Americans “with increasing volume over the last few years, turning what was an obscure thought problem into a political issue.” And notes how the topic continues to maintained a justifiable relevancy by now entering into “… the Democratic primary, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) struggling to explain to black voters why he has built such a strong social justice platform on every issue but this one.”
According to her article, showing figures based on a June 2014 HuffPost/YouGov poll…
Fifty-nine percent of black Americans think that the descendants of enslaved Africans deserve reparations, sixty-three percent of black folks support targeted education and job training programs for the descendants of slaves.
It doesn’t HAVE to be all about the money.
Cravens article presents four impressive arguments, accompanied by audio visual content that puts the topic on the table of the American psche in layman’s terms.
1. Let’s Figure Out Who Deserves Reparations and Why.
Simply put, reparations are due to the millions of black Americans whose families have endured generations of discrimination in the United States. Most black Americans count among their ancestors people who endured chattel slavery, the ultimate denial of an individual’s humanity. Read more.
2. So How Much Are We Talking About, Exactly?
No one really knows. (That’s part of the reason Rep. Conyers wants a commission.) But there are some numbers out there.
A 1990 study by Richard Sutch and Roger Ransom, professors at the University of California, Riverside, estimated that industries fueled by slave labor, like cotton and tobacco, made profits of $3.4 billion (in 1983 dollars) between 1806 and 1860. Darity has estimated that if you throw in an annual interest rate of 5 percent, that number jumps to $9.12 billion (in 2008 dollars). Read more.
It’s ironic that $3.4 billion was the exact aforementioned settlement amount given to native Americans.
3. Now, How Would This Money Be Paid Out?
We could just divvy it up among eligible black Americans, but reparations advocates propose a more institution-based approach.
Darity suggests that financial payouts be divided between individual recipients and a variety of endowments set up to develop the economic strength of the black community. His model is inspired by Germany’s restitution payments both to victims of the Holocaust and to Israel. Read more.
4. But Will This Ever Happen?
And I guess this is where WE come in.
Watch Rep John Conyers closing remarks on the CBC Reparations Panel below.