What Are Reparations?

Reparations have been a topic of discussion for years, so it’s no surprise it’s being brought into the light amidst the current Black Lives Matter movement. Now that it’s been buzzing around, you may be thinking, “What exactly are reparations?”. Reparations are a system of redress for the injustices done to the African Americans in the US. It first came about a long time ago, right before the Civil War ended. General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered that 40 acres and a mule were to be set aside for former slave families. Unfortunately, the order was never put into action. More than a century has passed, and blacks have still not received any compensation. The government owes reparations to eligible African Americans for the labor their ancestors did, and because so many other ethnic groups have received them. This will also partially aid in the racial wealth divide despite the opposition’s claims that problems of African American’s aren’t due to racism.

 

Why We Need Them

The enslaved ancestors of African Americans had to endure such painful and cruel labor, of which they were never compensated rightfully. Not to mention, the legacy of slavery has caused African Americans centuries of hardship and oppression. At the end of the day, they are entitled to the reparations.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is the iconic line drafted on the Declaration of Independence. However, it’s hard to believe when the US has repeatedly blocked African Americans from achieving this so-called American dream. Hundreds of years of oppression, segregation, and inequality have prevented many African Americans from attaining life, liberty and happiness. As of today, there is a huge racial wealth gap between African Americans and white people. The average white family median income is $171,000, which is nearly 10 times more than the average black family median income at $17,600. Of course, there is no easy way to fix this financial disparity; however, granting reparations would serve as a great wealth-building opportunity for black families. 

In order to repair this gap, reparations should come in different ways, depending on who the recipient is. A simple way to pay is to grant the money to the descendants of slaves.  Forgiving student loans, paying college tuition, and business grants are just some of the various alternative ways reparations can be paid. To ensure that they are being granted fairly, a black person who is able to trace their lineage to a former slave should be deemed eligible.  

 

The History Of Reparations

Some people may not realize that reparations have been paid in the past, just with other ethnic groups. Native Americans have collected billions of dollars for several benefits and programs because of the land that was forcibly taken from them. Japanese Americans have received $1.5 billion for those that were living in internment camps during WWII. Lastly, Jews in America and West Germany got reparations for the Holocaust. African Americans are the only group that hasn’t received reparations for racial discrimination. Why is this allowed? Actions must be taken to give them what they deserve.

The Opposition

As expected, there are opposers to the reparation movement. They argue that since there are no more slaves living today, it’s unfair to use American tax dollars to pay for the wrongs of slavery, especially those whose families moved here after slavery. This argument also stems from the idea that white people today aren’t responsible for what happened hundreds of years ago. They also believe that problems faced by African Americans today are not because of the “legacy of slavery,” or even racism. These arguments seem to miss the whole point of reparations. Reparations are supposed to be against the American government and how they robbed African Americans of their inheritance and wronged them through slavery. Also, racism is rampant in today’s society, as seen by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The murders of innocent black women and men are indicative that black Americans are seen as less than human. At the end of the day, reparations are about paying back the work that these African American ancestors had to go through. It has nothing to do with other races and how they feel. They deserve to be compensated.

 

Is It Finally Happening?

Luckily, restitution is being granted at a local level by universities. Chicago University and Georgetown University have raised money to compensate African Americans that were tortured by the police, as well as descendants of slaves. It doesn’t stop there; since the establishment of the reparations bill, H.R. 40, states such as California, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Florida have passed resolutions in support of reparations. As you can see, the fight is just starting, and now it’s up to us to make sure African Americans are paid for the wrongs of slavery. Thankfully, this issue is beginning to become more mainstream because of the current racial injustices going on. To contribute to the cause, be sure to sign petitions of or related to the cause. Also, social media is a powerful tool nowadays, so spread awareness on Instagram and Snapchat. It’s time African Americans are granted the reparations they deserve.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and/or student and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of United 4 Social Change Inc., its board members, or officers.
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