Reparations: A Black Perspective

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Mr. Owens’ book cover, a book I intend to get.

I don’t know if you know who Burgess Owens is, so I will briefly explain that he is a former professional football player (New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders), a Super Bowl champion (Raiders), University of Miami graduate, corporate executive, motivational speaker, and author. He recently wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about why he, as a black man who is descended from slaves, is opposed to and offended by the idea of reparations. I do not have his or the Wall Street Journal’s permission to reprint the entire article, so I will just quote the salient passages.

At the core of the reparation movement is a divisive and demeaning view of both races. It grants to the white race a wicked superiority, treating them as an oppressive people too powerful for black Americans to overcome. It brands blacks as hapless victims devoid of the ability, which every other culture possesses, to assimilate and progress. Neither label is earned.

The reparations movement conveniently forgets the 150-years of legal, social and economic progress attained by millions of American minorities. It also minimizes the sacrifice that hundreds of thousands of white Americans and a Republican president made laying down their lives to eradicate slavery. I think [his great-great-grandfather] would believe that this historical loss of life is payment in full. Every proud, contributing and thankful generation of black Americans since would think the same.

The reparation movement also reinforces a spiritual view of racial relationships that is antithetical to America’s Judeo-Christian foundation. It defies the ideals of forgiveness and second chances and scorns individual accountability. Proponents of reparations act as though black Americans are incapable of carrying their own burdens, while white Americans must bear the sins of those who came before.

The idea of reparations demeans America’s founding ideals. A culturally Marxist idea promoted by socialists, reparations denies the promise granted by an omnipotent God that we are truly equal and that regardless of race we are capable of overcoming obstacles and past injustices. By indoctrinating others into this cynical ideology, an elitist class of progressives exploits past differences and ensures that they will divide us in the future.

It is their divisive message that marks the black race as forever broken, as a people whose healing comes only through the guilt, pity, profits and benevolence of the white race. This perception is playing out on our college campuses, where young white Americans claim privilege due to their skin color and young black Americans, with no apparent shame, accept this demeaning of their own color as truth.

As they repeat this mantra, they seem unaware that this perception was also shared by the 1960’s Southern white supremacists of my youth. They have accepted the theory that skin color alone is capable of making one race superior to the other—that through an irremovable white advantage, with no additional effort, values, personal initiative, honesty or education, white Americans will succeed, while black Americans will fail. At its very core this represents the condescending evil of racism.

It certainly does not represent black America’s potential…

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3 thoughts on “Reparations: A Black Perspective”

  1. Hello JP,

    This seems like a very simple issue that someone is trying to make complicated. As a slave, Mr. Owens’ great great grandfather worked his whole life and wasn’t paid for it. Since his ancestor is no longer alive, that money is owed to the nearest descendants. The only reason race has anything to do with this is the fact that all slaves were black, so most descendants are likely black as well. Are you trying to say that if you weren’t paid for the final season of Simon and Simon and you died in the meantime, that Darleen and/or your children shouldn’t try to recover that money from NBC Universal? Wouldn’t Mr. Owens want his family to benefit if he weren’t paid by the Oakland Raiders or New York Jets?

    The other fact that is being avoided here is that the slaves were required by the U.S. government to work for nothing, courtesy of the Fugitive Slave Act. Any slave who escaped from a plantation had to be smuggled into Canada (where slavery was outlawed) by the Underground Railroad to avoid this fate. So, just like the families of Holocaust victims have been compensated by the German government for the past 60 years because of the policies of a previous German government, the U.S. government needs to compensate the descendants of slaves because of the policies of a previous U.S. government – not because Jews are “inferior” to Nazis or blacks are “inferior” to slave owners, but because it’s the right thing to do.

    1. I find that some of the most specious reasoning I’ve ever encountered. I had a contract with Universal. If they had violated the contract, they would be liable under current law, just as I would be if I had violated my contract. Historical events that predate modern law are very different. Slavery was an evil that was legal around the world until fairly recently (historically speaking, though it still exists in some benighted societies). Under your reasoning, how far back do you want to go? Should modern-day Belgians pay reparations to modern-day residents of the Congo? Should Spain pay reparations to Mexico? Should Greece pay reparations to the descendants of the various countries that provided their slaves in classical times? Should the descendants of the various tribes slaughtered by Timur the Great back around 13-something be allowed to claim reparations? And if so, from whom? The Uzbekistan government? Good luck with that. Should we go back to Attila the Hun? Oh, let’s not stop there. Jews should also receive compensation from the modern-day Egyptians… I could go on, but I won’t.

    2. Here’s a different comparison. Many states now have laws that pay people for being wrongly convicted and imprisoned. The advent of DNA evidence can exonerate people where once that was not possible. Various “innocence projects” have cleared the names of hundreds of people wrongly convicted of crimes. They can sometimes receive payments form the state which incarcerated them.
      Was the enslavement of citizens (born in the USA), under the Constitution and laws of the nation, so egregious that reparations should be paid under a similar logic? Payments were eventually made to Japanese-American internees, not because they were of Japanese descent but because they or their ancestors had been interned. Their internment had been “lawful ” at the time. The President and the Supreme Court said so.
      And in response to Mr. Owens, the reparations would be paid to African-Americans not because of their race, but because the race of their predecessors was the basis for their enslavement. And the money would not come from White people; it would come from American taxpayers of every race. Money is a clumsy tool to repair social wrongs. But sometimes it is the only tool available.

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