Friday, June 19, 2020

Making Amends for Slavery

"Our country is so divided."  You hear that a lot lately.  In politics, it is a fact, not fiction.  Republicans vs. Democrats, conservatives vs. liberals.  If one side says it is “white” the other claims it is “black”. (I’m not talking about skin color but perhaps that phrase will come under attack one day and be stricken from literature like Robert E. Lee statues are being hauled off pedestals across the south).

Of course, we have always been a politically stagnant country.  Stuck in the two party system there have only been a handful of 20th/21st Century independent parties; including the Prohibition Party, the Libertarian Party, the Green Independent Party, and the Constitution Party, to name a few.  Interestingly, in the 1900 election, the Prohibition Party presidential candidate, John G. Wooley, got a whopping 1.5 % of the vote.  In 2016, the Libertarian party’s nominee, Gary Johnson, got a fairly impressive 3.2 % of the popular vote.  Not bad for someone who no one remembers as the two major party candidates sucked all of the air and airtime out of the election space.

BTW, if you would like to see a women finally become president, you have an opportunity in 2020. Vote for the Libertarian candidate, Jo Jorgenson.  What? You never heard of her?  Check out:  I am not promoting her candidacy, but she does have a fairly balanced agenda, being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Don’t you think we need a new voice of reason to calm the storm of political division and animosity in America? GoJo!

The divisions that permeate our populous go much deeper than political party affiliations. Today, the whole topic of racial injustice has people coming down on both sides of the fence, regardless of their politics.  Millions of people are rising up to support the #Black Lives Matter movement.  They are taking on the complex and thorny issues of prejudice, bigotry, white supremacy, and racial and economic inequalities. These are all issues that, for the past century, have fostered dozens of pieces of legislation passed in an effort to level the playing field for minorities.  However, as I have said before, the laws exist, but the enforcement is maculated, at best, and the change in human hearts, which is required for real progress, is still in its infancy.  Some of us are struggling to become toddlers. Others don’t care to grow and change at all.

So many things are circulating on social media these days that it is doing nothing but muddying the waters and causing further divisions.  So, I thought I would take one of these hotly debated posts and attempt to address both side of the issue in the pursuit of clarity.  I will post on several of these arguments in the coming days.  My first is one you see quite often now:

• People who have never owned slaves should pay slavery reparations to people who have never been slaves.

One side says that descendants of slaves should be compensated for the harm done to their forefathers by our system of slavery in the United States and the ongoing effects of racism.  The other side claims that there has been no harm done to these people by a system that was abolished nearly one hundred and fifty-five years ago, in 1865, and the freedoms guaranteed by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in December of that year.  Some four million African-Americans were freed at that time. Some are saying that nearly seven generations later, descendants of slaves should be compensated.  The only bill promoted in Congress that has ever addressed this issue was the "Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act," which former Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) proposed unsuccessfully to the United States Congress every year from 1989 until his resignation in 2017.  The estimated cost of a fair reparation value is anywhere between $1.4 to $4.7 trillion; or roughly the equivalent to $153,000 in 2020 for every black American, man, woman and child, living today.

Opponents say, first, the United States already is $ 26 trillion in debt.  An argument against reparations looks for a source of money to pay them and finds the cupboard bare. Second, most opponents of reparations claim there is no loss for which these people should be compensated directly.

Proponents of reparations say that the horror of slavery and its demise, brought about only after nearly one million Americans lost their lives fighting over it during the Civil War, put African-Americans in a hole from the very start of their “free” existence and from which they have been unable to climb out.  Reparations are looked at as a way to give descendants of slaves the hand up they need to get out of the hole.

This is a tough one for me because, while I agree that slavery was personally damaging to millions of black slaves and deadly for so many, I want to see a more direct line of harm from forefather to descendant after 155 years to justify financial remuneration.  So I would propose a system whereby a person who can verify they are direct descendants, can prove they have been harmed in any way by the slavery that ensnared their forefathers and/or are below the poverty line should be eligible to receive federal assistance with housing, education, job training, social and emotional counseling, financial guidance as well as freedom from paying federal, state and local income taxes for life. I have no idea what that would cost but my guess it is going to be less than giving every black American one hundred and fifty grand, no strings attached.

Next Up:

• People who have never been to college should pay the debts of college students who took out huge loans for their degrees.

I welcome your critique and alternative solutions you might want to share.

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