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Reparations: Value or Shakedown?

By Jose B. Rivera

image East Harlem - March 28, 2002. The issue of Reparations for African-Americans resurfaced earlier this week, when attorneys filed law suites in Brooklyn Federal Court against, Fleet Boston Financial Corps, Aetna and CSX Corp, maintaining that these companies “built their empires on the backs of slaves and must now give their heirs past wages and profits gained as a result of the free labor.”

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a 36-year-old Manhattan lawyer who spent five years researching evidence that the companies assisted in the business of slavery said “They earned money through the exploitation of my ancestors.” The suits say that “From 1790 to 1860 alone, the U.S. economy reaped the benefits of as much as $40 million in unpaid labor. Some estimate the current value of this unpaid labor at $1.4 trillion dollars.”

Other proponents of Reparations say that the affects of slavery still linger to this day and say that money is not really the issue. That the principal of justice, holding someone responsible for slavery is at stake.

But opponents of Reparations contend that it is too late in the day to sue anyone over slavery. The statute of limitations has run out over a century ago. That those affected by slavery are no longer around to make a claim for reparations, and that they are the only ones so entitled to do so. And that current proponents of reparations are only seeking to execute this new get rich quick scheme. Still other opponents point to the fact that the U.S. government has tried over its history to make up for slavery through its various social programs such as President Johnson’s Great Society and the Anti-Poverty Programs which sprang from it.

The Problem With Reparations:

1. Those affected by Slavery have long been dead. They were the only ones directly affected by slavery and hence the only ones who should rightfully seek reparations.

2. Most Americans today are are not decedents of those who implemented slavery. Americans today are ancestors of those who immigrated from Europe, the Caribbean or South America. Are they to pay too?

3. Their is a large African-American middle class in America. While Africa is still a struggling third world economy. This is not to justify slavery. But the standard of living is better in the United States. Is this a basis from which to ask for reparations, a better standard of living than in African?

4. Many whites died during the civil war to free the slaves, are their descendants to pay for reparations too?

5. Reparations continue to make African-Americans play the role of victims.

6. Most Americans will not be willing to pay for Reparations.

7. Reparations can open a can of worms unprecedented in American history. What if the Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Danish, etc.. start law suites because of the persecution they suffered upon becoming new immigrants in this country? Will everyone have to pay everyone else?

8. Those pushing Reparations are likely to benefit the most because they will also control who gets it. Meaning their institutions (money will be funneled to their institutions) and not the general African-American public will obtain the money.

9. Reparations is not justice. Justice at this point in time can not be obtained as those affected have long been dead. And they are the only who can bring forth this issue.

10. Reparations is more likely to start another “civil war” as most are not willing to have their hard earned money given over this issue.

11. Why isn’t an Apology being request? The request for money has a hint of opportunism with it, not to mention the specter of greed.

12. Everyone is likely to pay the reparations, guilty or not, past, present and future included. Meaning that since reparation money will come from tax money (the people, remember, the government doesn’t create anything), all will be part of this great pick pocket scheme. So that even African-Americans will be subject to paying into this tax. Is that justice? And if some are not to pay the tax, how is that decided and by whom?

It’s time to move forward. Time for the African-American middle class to start the process of educating all in what it took to get there and how to do it. This writer has a few African-American slaves in his ancestry, but has not desire to use an issue to benefit from that fact. Like everyone else on this planet who struggles daily to make a living, I’d rather do it myself. This writer does not trust reparation seekers to have be sincere in their “quest for justice” especially as money is involved.

Lastly, reparations would create another injustice, that of having those not guilty of slavery paying those not affected by it. Will my grand children be allowed to sue those accepting reparations over the injustice of my having to pay for it?

Jose B. Rivera
East Harlem.com

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