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Reparations for slavery?
May 30, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Should descendants of former slaves receive reparations for the wrongs suffered by their ancestors?
That idea is hardly new but the issue has been raised again in a piece in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates that can be found at http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/ Coates points out the obstacles that slavery and centuries of racism have put in the path of blacks who are trying to succeed in society. Essentially, their ancestors started several steps behind the starting line and haven't been able to keep up, thanks to Jim Crow laws and racist policies that made it harder for blacks to get jobs or purchase homes.
On the other hand, and with good reason, critics point out no one living today in the United States either perpetrated slavery or was legally enslaved. Racist laws are off the books and there are many federally-funded programs designed to encourage minorities to get job training or go to school or aid them in buying homes.
So whom should we send the reparations checks to? Individuals who can prove direct descent from a slave, perhaps? As far as I know, I could be the direct descendant of a slave, since my 23andme results show I have 0.4 percent West African ancestry that probably dates back to the 1700s. Most slaves in the United States were brought here from West Africa. But the other 99.6 percent of my genome is northern European. Giving someone like me reparations for slavery would be pretty ridiculous. So maybe only people who identify as black today and had ancestors who were slaves at the time of the Civil War ought to be eligible for reparations. Maybe that issue can be dodged altogether and the reparations should go to foundations that help all black Americans.
The looming question is who would have to pay and how large would the reparations be? I also think there are many in this state who would say that Native Americans have as great a claim or greater to reparations. There would probably be many other aggrieved groups that would also request reparations from the government if reparations were given to descendants of slaves.
How about you? Do you think this is an issue that ought to be given serious consideration?
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