Monday, June 22, 2009

Acting White: Apologizing For Slavery

Once again, slavery and reparations talk is in the air. Last week the US Senate formally passed a resolution apologizing for the enslavement and segregation of Africans in America. The resolution now moves to consideration in the House, but not without controversy. PC apologies are one thing, cash payment for the past is quite the other.

In order to get the votes for the apology, Senate proponents, including Tom Harkin (Iowa), had to include a disclaimer for the payment of reparations to the ancestors of slaves or former slaves. There is reasonable concern that this resolution might become part of the on-going call for reparations by some black politicians and groups.

The thing that continues to bite me in this debate is how black proponents insist on the specious, non-hunting, argument that the request and payment to blacks is analogous to payments made to Native Americans and WWII Japanese Internees (here). Yes, all three treatments were abominable, but the abuse of Native peoples and Japanese citizens violated US laws on the books at the time, and this was not true of slavery.

Enduring Native American organizations (tribes) were paid reparations because the US government violated signed treaties, back by the laws of the day. Japanese-American citizens were denied their rights, including loss of employment and properties, and were forced into internment camps against their will. Slaves, alternately, were captured, sold, transported and forced into slave labor, supported by the laws of the day. To many this difference seems trivial, but the evolution of the rule of law represents a time line that cannot be revised at will.

When a right is granted and ignored, our laws provide for remedy. At the time of the Atlantic slave trade countries were just beginning to consider that slavery was inhumane, to the point of making it illegal, and the US trailed this awakening. The call for reparations seems unperturbed by the revisionist thinking required in the light of legal enactments of the time. It would be more reasonable to argue that freed slaves were damaged by the subsequent denial of full rights provided for at the time of the emancipation proclamation, up to the time when Jim Crow statutes were enacted. And then there is the statute of limitations with which to contend.

Do not expect this wrenching to go away any time soon.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

If Whites had been living in Japan during the war they would have done the same and no doubt treated them like shit.

Black people aren't owed a damn thing. They have been paid in so many ways it ain't funny.

Person said...

"countries were just beginning to consider that slavery was inhumane"

I wonder if they kinda knew it was inhumane way before then which would explain why they considered blacks not quite human. That way, they wouldn't be enslaving a human - in their minds?

Also, I agree that it was not the same as in the Japanese enternment. They were not made to work and build and serve.

Person said...

Perhaps the Juneteenth(ers) should be asking for a separate reparation.

Nelson Ricardo said...

Lol, that's curious.

If the US congress is so regretful about their past of opression and slavery, why are they still so willing to isolate entire nations and the rest of the world's working class?

Anonymous said...

This is probably further evidence that it will take at least one more generation before this kind of thoughtless silliness is largely purged from our thinking. I would venture to say that folks who are situated well financially and have good jobs are not spending much time contemplating such things (apart from certain folks in office who feel they stand to gain politically by getting behind this, that is).

lincolnperry said...

@Anon 5:04 PM
However, if there are a substantial number of blacks in America who wish to return to Africa, I would be amenable to a plan that allows them to revoke their US citizenship in exchange for a one-way ticket. It would be profoundly unjust to force people brought here against their will to stay here against their will.

Make that a First Class One ticket, and attach my 750K reparations cheque for pain and suffering, and having to endure your ridiculous anonymous opinions!

@James Collier
Even post-slavery, emancipation blacks were not entitled to full citizenship that would have allow our ancestors to amass intergenerational wealth, and full participation in American workforce. My family members couldn’t work at companies where stock purchases would have provide wealth generating opportunities. To this day there are families from Boston to Charleston that still derived income from antebellum blood money. Japanese Internees were paid restitution, but black WWII veterans are barely getting recognition for there sacrifices 60 years earlier are just getting their due.
It’s shameful of you to argue a legal precedent for groups and events separated by 150 years.

American Black Chick in Europe said...

"Frankly, the fact that the descendants of black slaves are now allowed to live in the most prosperous country in the world as full citizens is payment in full."

I have to disagree with this statement. America was built on the backs of slave labor without paying one red cent to slaves. Slaves didn't have the opportunity to save money, build up wealth or pass either down to their descendants. I actually don't support reparations (I don't think it'll do much good, much like I think an "official" apology are simply empty words), but to assume that allowing the descendants of slaves to continue to live in America "as full citizens" and to suggest paying for a one way ticket back to Africa is they don't like certain aspects of America is arrogant and ignorant. I have yet to hear of an offer to pay the way back to Europe for white Americans who express dissatisfaction with certain aspects of America. At the end of the day I'm just as much as an American as anyone else, so why should black Americans be encouraged to return to Africa if they're not happy with the American way? I may irks some people with this statement, but most black Americans (those descended from slaves) have little to no connection with Africa. America has been "home" for several generations. Why not encourage black Americans to work within the system to make lasting changes?

ABL Hip-Hop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ABL Hip-Hop said...

1)Reparations might be a good monetary reimbursement but it surely would not fix the problems that Africans in American face. Sadly, for most of us,it would probably have the effect of a stimulus check. The damage of slavery has permeated so deep that it can only be fixed psychologically. It is a mental war now between our brothers and sisters and between the dark hue people and the European.

2)Going back to Africa would bear little impact for our people in the "New World." The Motherland has been raped of it's own pride due to Africans allowing greedy Europeans systematic use of colonialization (a sophisticated form of slavery) to dominate the land. Sadly, the impact of colonialzation has Africans fighting Africans profusely. I can only imagine what would happen if we all arrived there by the boat loads with all our issues. If we can't fix our problems here, why take it to any other country?

3:43 AM

Anonymous said...

"why should black Americans be encouraged to return to Africa if they're not happy with the American way?"

I'm just saying that repatriation is a much more logical (and fair) way of undoing the effects of slavery than reparations. Reparations is just racial extortion writ large.

James C. Collier said...

lincolnperry: You muddle the slavery/reparations debate with varying discrimination, to the present. If boundaries are what the law seeks, then so must we. Your aggregation of wrongs insures that the argument is never resolved. But I, unlike you, will pass on the shame game you play with words. I am neither ashamed nor persuaded by your argument, but open to them nonetheless.

Rachid said...

Most of people think that slavery has no longer exist, at least in most of countries, but in reality slavery has never finished up till now and probably will continue forever likely in all societies.

lincolnperry said...

!I speak for myself on the deportation issue in response to Anon 5:04pm, no one expects a mass exodus to African Americans to Africa, most AA have never visited Africa or have any intentions of visiting, as our native participant in UK fondly noted!
@Mr. Collier
I believe it is you sir who muddled the discourse, when you compared the compensation due to of Native Americans, because of the lack of fiduciary responsibility by the The Bureau of Indian Affairs maintaining land trust, and failure to maintain agreed treaties. (Cobell v. Kempthorne.)
Secondly, the Japanese Americans were citizens, business and property owners, that should have never been intern in camps such as Manzanar. Because of the Pearl Harbor attacks, lesson learned...we didn’t interned Arab-Americans after 9-11. Apology and compensation was rightly due.

Thirdly, the issue of African American Slavery is unique. American Slavery existed from 1607-1865 as a legal and economic institution, and took another 100 years at attempt to grant full citizenship, upon the passage of civil rights legislation. During which the decadents of African slaves endured legal segregation, and racial brutality. Jim Crow Laws, Klux Klu Klan intimidation, Race Riots, violent economic sanctions such as Rosewood, Tulsa. bombings!

White Americans still maintain skin privilege, and have benefited from economic empowerment. In 1977 Georgia Lucas creates Star Wars, and 32 years is listed on Forbes list of richest Americans based solely on this enterprise. Tyler Perry earns 500m on Madea franchise, yet this same opportunity didn’t exist thirty years ago for African Americans, and certainly didn’t exist 100 years ago!

Restitution can be served in many forms other than monetary reward, but that’s entirely separate discussion.

James C. Collier said...

licolnperry: You must re-read my original post, where you will see that the comparison (for the sake of reparations) of slaves to indigenous people and the Japanese, which you errantly attribute to me, was actually made in the subject Essence article linked therein.

Unknown said...

Have you heard about the Maafa 21 documentary that has just been released? It goes into great detail about the who, what and how racist attitudes are being perpetuated today and what the ultimate goal of it is. the shocking thing is that it has been going on for years under the guise of "helping" the black community. You can see a preview at

Anonymous said...

One could make the argument that America needs reparations for the harms a large percentage of blacks have inflicted upon her, crime, welfare, medicare, the endless amounts of money going into the prisons for care for the higher percentages of black v white inmates. etc.

If slavery had never existed America would still have thrived and would likely now have many less social ills than it has.

Any blacks that come to America as immigrants for opportunities sake rather than slavery's sake would have enhanced the country a great deal more than those that would rather cast blame and constantly complain about their station in life that they themselves create.

Money will solve nothing.
A change in attitude might.

The issue needs to die and stay dead. If it continues it will only create even more division among a country that doesn't need any more.

Anonymous said...

Anonymously mistaken,..Dear A,..your opinions are not only racist,..but they're also quite dispicable,..for you to emply that the Japanese and American Indians were wrongfully held captive,..during a period of legislation that cleary made this process unlawful as oppose to the Blacks,..who themselves exercise slavery,..(Colonized and controlled by whom???) And furthermore,..the fact is,..slavery went on another 10 years after it was made Illegal in America,..and hundreds of thousands of black lives were offered daily to the oceans depths, as opposed to paying the high fines levied on those Illegal slave traders of that era,..this CRIME in it's entirity, outways and outnumbers any other Crime in History!,.. Blacks were never given their 40 acres and a Mule,..which was a condition of their release,..Hell yes!!! reperations should be payed to those Families who lost descendants due to this crime (Which was larger then the holocaust)and that have for generations created an unlevel financial playing field for the Slave owner Families descendants,... over their Black ex-captives,..the only reason any well rounded White person would be against it is because of the deficit created by thier ex leader. Why are we being poised when we should be demanding!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above, who appears to be borderline illiterate, perhaps you could avail yourself of your local libraries or community colleges to advantage yourself instead of endlessly begging for handouts.

Hundreds of thousands of penniless Mexicans cross the desert every year to take advantage of the opportunities prevalent in the society that every black American is born into. Every black person born in America today should be GRATEFUL for the circumstances that brought their ancestors here, and honor their ancestors' sacrifice by striving for success on their own merit.

Instead, many if not most of America's blacks have become glorified beggars. They live on handouts, preferences, and social services paid for by white benefactors, while harboring anger and resentment against the very same people.

But who benefits? Who really benefits from fostering these sentiments, from putting rage in every heart and a chip on every shoulder, from glorifying victims over victors?

This guy has an idea:

Anonymous said...

reperations should be payed to those Families who lost descendants due to this crime (Which was larger then the holocaust)

I assume you mean IN America.

Researchers claim an estimate of slaves brought to the US between the 16th and 18th centuries as 645,000 and none were brought in during the 1800's.

About 6 million Jews died during the holocaust.

Not saying one is any worse than the other but you are the one making those claims so there are the figures for you.

And to be honest, and we must be honest, blacks living today in America would likely not even be living if their ancestors had not been brought here and are likely much better off being here than being in the land where their ancestors came from.

How does money make up for it anyway? If it's as bad as you claim money doesn't come close to "paying" anyone for their supposed suffering.

It won't matter what America does to try to atone for your self proclaimed suffering.

It will never be enough to anyone that feels that way and therefore it is a debt that can never be payed and best for all if it is just gotten over instead of forever playing the victim.

Anonymous said...

Hi. My name's Jeff. I'm white, 40 years old. Reparations will do nothing for blacks. When the money is all spent, then what? How much would you want? How much is enough? Is there an amount of money that really pays you for your suffering? Did you really suffer? Not a single African American alive today was a slave. How far back should we take reparations? Ever wonder from where the word slave comes? Sounds a little like the ethnic identifier Slavic, doesn't it?

A few years ago I met a very old black lady (about 93 years old) whose parents were actual slaves. They were only children, but still, they were real slaves. Just think about that for a moment. There are people alive today whose parents were real slaves. That blew my mind. Slavery "ended" about 150 years ago. Divide that by two and you get 75. So, the numbers add up.

Anonymous said...

I grew up poor and had to walk to school through a black neighborhood. I have experienced race based persecution and violence first hand, just because I am white. I DEMAND REPARATIONS!

Really, though, don't I have to prove who, specifically, harmed me and hold them, personally, accountable? I mean, I can't expect the government to compensate me, can I? How is this black reparations BS any different? Can I collect too if I can show that I am 1/128 black? Can a black man still collect if he is 1/128 white? Maybe he should be paying reparations?

Anonymous said...

Are most people really unaware that German and Italian Americans were also sent to internment camps during WWII?

Anonymous said...

"A few years ago I met a very old black lady (about 93 years old) whose parents were actual slaves."

Jeff, your math is a bit off. If she was 93 years old in 2000, that means that she was born in 1907. Even if her parents were born the day before the civil war ended in 1865, that means they were 42 when she was born. Even today, with modern fertility treatments, it's almost impossible for a woman to get pregnant at that age.

Your 75+75=150 "math" presupposes that people are capable of having children at age 75.