On the Concept of Reparations for the Enslavement of Ancestors
On the Concept of Reparations for the Enslavement of Ancestors
by John Perna © 2000 Permission to republish once is granted
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, and other Black professionals, are now calling loudly for the payment of reparations to Blacks whose ancestors were slaves in America. These same Blacks, who claim that Whites owe them reparations, also claim that the ancient Egyptians were black.
There is a problem here. The ancient Egyptians were among the biggest chattel slave-masters in history. The record of the enslavement of the Jews, by the ancient Egyptians, can be found in every version of the Holy Bible. Other people (and other races) may have also been enslaved by the Egyptians. All the Blacks who believe in the concept of reparations for the enslavement of ancestors are free, at any time, to begin making payments to the descendants of all those; whom other Blacks in history enslaved. Obviously fairness dictates that they could start, at least, by making payments to the Jews. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, will this idea still sound good to the Blacks who are clamoring for reparations?
Slavery has been going on since man has existed. Slavery did not start in America. Everyone has ancestors who were slaves. There is plenty of slavery that is more recent than American slavery. Auschwitz makes the southern plantation look like a vacation resort.
Let’s actually examine the Chairman Gates’ concept of reparations for the enslavement of ancestors. His contention that all White people owe all Black people is based on the concept that those who are of the SAME RACE, as the former slave masters; automatically owe money to all of those, who are of the SAME RACE as the former slaves. No notice is taken of the fact that those who allegedly owe the money were never slave masters themselves, nor of the fact that those to whom the money is allegedly owed have never themselves been slaves.
There also seems to be a presumption that all of the slaves were black, and all of the slave-masters were white. Only a small percentage of whites, owned slaves (5% or less). In the official U.S. Census of 1830, there were 3775 free blacks who owned 12,740 black slaves. The first black slave owner was Anthony Johnson of Northampton, Virginia. His slave was John Casor.
A landmark case in 1665 involving the Black slave owner Anthony Johnson resulted in the courts’ ruling that slaves were considered slaves for life. Thus, in 1665 all states adopted enslavement laws. It was the Black slave master, Anthony Johnson, who sued and won his case in a Virginia court that changed temporary servitude into lifetime servitude. Thus, this Black slave owner, in Virginia, established permanent slavery. If there were any validity to the theory that the descendants of slaves should be paid by the descendants of slave-masters; THEN descendants of Anthony Johnson would certainly owe the most.
What it comes down to is this: Chairman Gates, and his reparations cohorts, are saying that a person is allegedly due money, or that a person allegedly owes money, SOLELY on the basis of his or her race.
Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot AGAIN. Suppose that you are a Black man sleeping peacefully in your own home. Suddenly there is a knock at the door. It is the police, who inform you that you are under arrest, and that you are going to jail. Why? Because somewhere an unspecified, unidentified Black man has robbed a store.
"But I am innocent!" you yell.
"Yes, we know that, but you are Black, and a Black man robbed the store"
The policeman answers. "We are arresting you for being Black."
Now, what is the next logical thing for you to say? Will you not immediately point out that it is an injustice for you to be punished for something that you did not do? Will you not loudly protest that it is racism to blame an entire race for the actions of a few? Of course that’s what you’ll say – and of course you’ll be right.
Why are you only, JUST NOW, thinking of that?
How will you deal with the fact that there were slave owners who were Black or American Indian? To all the Blacks who are clamoring for reparations from Whites: Are you willing to also call for the descendants of all Blacks who sold or kept slaves to chip in too? Are you willing to hit up the descendants of today’s Egyptians for your "fair share," and to urge them to also pay reparations to the descendants of the Jews; whom they enslaved? How do you plan to compensate the descendants of the WHITE people, who came to this continent as slaves? (The euphemism for white slavery was indentured servitude). How will you deal with the fact that large numbers of whites are the descendants of people who came here after slavery was abolished? How will you deal with the fact that large numbers of blacks are the descendants of people who came here after slavery was abolished?
And are you willing to ask those Blacks and Arabs who still sell and keep slaves in Africa, to this day, to immediately stop this practice, to free their slaves, and to pay them, and their descendants reparations?
The big problem with collective guilt is that it punishes the innocent. We now hear that some of the descendents of the slave traders are supporting the idea of reparations. Tom DeWolf and Katrina Browne of the DeWolf family are examples. Are they offering to pay these reparations from their own family funds, or do the want someone else to pay? If there was any thought of justice in all of this, then the source of the reparations would be limited to nothing other than the assets that were inherited from slave traders and slave masters. In 1812, the DeWolfs owned more ships than the United States Navy. In 1837, former U.S. Senator James DeWolf died as the second richest man in America. Would the descendents of the slave traders and slave masters volunteer to exchange their financial portfolios for the financial portfolios of the descendents of the slaves? The descendents of the slave traders and of the slave masters might learn a lot from the conversations that they could have with the descendents of the slaves, while they wait together in the food stamp and welfare offices. Would it not be simple common sense that those who benefited from slavery should be the only ones to compensate those who were injured by slavery? Let’s see if we understand this correctly. The slave traders and of the slave masters benefited from slavery. The descendents of the slave traders now want to benefit again by making a film, or writing a book, condemning slave traders. No one is volunteering to make any sacrifice of their own assets to compensate those who were injured by slavery.
We are told that "Islam" is not responsible for terrorism.
Why are we told that "whitey" is responsible for slavery? I’m just trying to get the rules straight on this collective guilt phenomena. It is perplexing to hear who it is; who is exclaiming about how peaceful most Muslims are. That’s surely true, just as the vast majority of whites opposed slavery.
In all civil claims, when it is found that an injury was done, the injured party would only be entitled to be compensated exactly to the extent to what they would have had, absent the injury. In this case, that would be the standard of living of the average African. Exactly what are the damages, that resulted from being subjected to growing up in America, instead of Africa?
Of COURSE, if it was true that there was a valid claim for reparations, due to the enslavement of ancestors, that claim would be subject to corrections for value already received (welfare, subsidized housing, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, etc. etc. etc.) Anytime that a debt is over paid a refund is given.
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