By Mark David Blum, Esq.
By voice vote, Congress recently passed a “non-binding” resolution, “apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and the era of Jim Crow.” Slavery reparations are on the table for one simple reason. This is an election year.
Two questions arise from this vote. First, why a voice vote? Are individual legislators afraid to go on record voting ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’. Second, why would Congress pass a nonbinding resolution. Are our legislators serious about their position or are they posturing for various constituencies? Either they should bind themselves and the nation or stop with the bullshit.
Besides, descendants from slaves have already had their reparations. I have no apologies to make and demand none be made in my name.
History tells us that slaves were kidnapped from their homes in Africa and brought here to work for free. If memory serves, as part of our national atonement, we created for them a nation called Liberia in Africa; for those who chose to return. For those who stayed, there may or may not be an enforceable claim based on some General Orders issued in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War; including the famous ‘40 acres and a mule’.
For those who slaves who stayed, America has tried to erase obstacles created by earlier generations. Programs like affirmative action and educational loans and grants have helped bring forward generations. America’s first generation of real Black millionaires is about to retire. There is much to be undone; though we are trying. This nation was originally founded on the premise that some people are more equal than are others. It takes a while to erase that concept. Presidential candidate Barak Obama and Secretary of State Rice make that case.
Yet, paying rep€arations to individuals seems unfair. Should the Egyptian government pay me reparations for the crimes committed against my ancestors? Make the Vatican reimburse me and the Muslim world for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Knights Templar. It is irrational to evaluate yesterday’s behaviors in context of today’s enlightenment. Will the descendants of Phoenicians and Mesopotamia bring civil action against the children of Gaul and of the Holy Roman Empire? Since parents are not responsible for the crimes of their children, why are children being asked to be liable for the sins of their parents?
Taking back the gold from Germans who stole it from Jews requires no real thought. It is a good thing that this country woke up to the fact that the Korematsu internment camps were a terrible idea. We took Americans’ land, jobs, and freedom. ‘Restitution’ was the only option. But in both cases, restitution went to the survivors.
Compare that to the issues of our local Indian tribes. The concept of a Hyphenated-American is repugnant to me. You are an American. That is your nationality. Your ‘race’, if you believe there is such a thing amongst humans, has nothing to do with your nationality. Neither does your religion nor political affiliation have anything to do with your country of residence. You are an American. By choice, Indians are not Americans. They are separate nations … Sioux, Iroquois, Navajo). The issue of the Indians is that they have a contractual claim again State and Federal Governments.
But, descendants from slaves have no such direct challenge. After nearly two hundred years since the end of the policy, no descendant can lay claim to a specific loss. Indians bring a constitutionally protected right of “contract” enforcement to the table. Claims by descendants of slaves rest only upon political and moral premises.
Forget the free money. Stop being a victim. Take responsibility for yourself and future generations. But, never forget your history. True reparations will take the form of respect and assuming a place of dignity in society. None of that will ever come about as a result of a redistribution of tax dollars.