Obviously, as an African-American woman, my immediate knee-jerk reaction was, “yeah, we should be paid for slavery.” Then I decided to think critically about this issue.
First, why should I get paid? Additionally, who should get paid and more importantly, can money expunge such a human tragedy? And if it can, how much money should be paid? Moreover, would a payment create conciliatory relationships between races?
I was born in 1960, 95 years after slavery ended. And yes, while I have experienced some bigotry here in Southern Illinois, all in all I have had opportunities.
I thought about who should get paid – obviously it should be the slaves themselves, but since that is impossible, I thought about my grandparents, who were born in 1916 and 1914, 41 years after slavery ended. Their parents were slaves. They were unable to change their status and were unable to become assimilated into American culture. Every aspect of their life at that time was based in legalized racism and social isolation. There was no hope of equality for them.
Therefore, it is my argument that if reparations are ever to occur, which is highly doubtful, the generation that suffered the most from the effects of slavery should be compensated. I think that African- Americans born before the modern civil rights movement felt the pain of discrimination in an appalling manner that cannot be described effectively. Therefore, these people should be paid before it’s too late.
Will reparations change the events that occurred? Obviously no. However, in our litigious society, money is the remedy that is offered when one has suffered as a result of another’s culpability. The American government is the culpable party, therefore they are responsible for the pain and suffering.
Reparations are not a novel concept. The descendants of the Japanese-Americans that were interned in concentration camps during World War Two were compensated. The German government paid the survivors of the Holocaust.
On a larger scale, reparations for all African-Americans will not solve many of the problems in the African-American community, in which some stem from the lack of personal responsibility and making foolish choices. There are remedies to address discrimination today, which include monetary damages in civil court.
Reparations will not solve the antagonism that is dealt by some whites towards African-Americans. Reparations will not make us more likely to interact with each other at the Student Center, where we will still voluntarily segregate ourselves.
It will not stop a classroom of all white students from lying to the only African-American student in the class when she asks if she is in the correct class.
Reparations will not make it any easier for me to move to a small all-white city where the slogan is “ain’t no niggers allowed” without fear of reprisal.
Bigotry cannot be eradicated through a big payoff. Racism and bigotry are learned behaviors, which can only be solved when we view others as people, not colors.