What are Reparations?

"The notion of collective guilt for what people did [220 plus] years ago, that this generation should pay a debt for that generation, is an idea whose time has gone. I never owned a slave. I never oppressed anybody. I don't know that I should have to pay for someone who did [own slaves] generations before I was born." ~Henry Hyde~

"Reparation is about respect and resources. Japanese who worked successfully to obtain their reparations for the World War II injustices, speak about respect. They explain the unquenchable need to have their suffering acknowledged and compensated even if the compensation is more symbolic than substantial. Because their suffering had been recognized, they felt recognized and no longer ashamed." ~Johnita Scott Obadele~



Reparations from a Proponent's Perspective

Over 100 years after African-American slaves were freed from bondage, the movement for reparations is still strong. The dictionary defines reparations as, "the making of amends for wrong or injury done." Proponents argue that slavery robbed people of their identity, history, and compensation for their labor. They maintain that the effects of slavery still reverberate in poor, undereducated black communities today. They claim that the results of slavery, racism and segregation continue to plague the black community. Reparations would attempt to set right what is wrong in the form of financial restitution from the federal government.

An intense debate surrounds the issue of how the government should appropriately show its remorse. Some people maintain that a sincere apology would alleviate tension between the government and the African-American community. Most, however, feel that financial restitution is necessary to redress wrongs and make amends. Some estimates are as high as $10 trillion, but most run between $1.4 trillion to $5 trillion. The proposals call for this money be used to further the education, opportunities and equality of the black community. How the money is distributed is another point of contention. Popular proposals suggest that it be either given to individual families or to poor black communities as a whole. Most proponents agree that money is a necessary component of proper restitution.

 

Reparations from an Opponent's Perspective

Opponents, however, contend the necessity of reparations. Claiming reparations to be superfluous, many people doubt the benefits of giving a select group of people money they have not earned. Nobody denies that slavery and its effects were, and are, atrocious. However, they see the connection between the wrongs committed against the slaves and their descendants alive today as extremely weak. Gregory Koukl discusses the distance and disassociation in Reparations: Guilt by Skin Color. "Reparations are not going to the ones directly injured. Reparations are not being paid by the ones who did the injury. Reparations are being paid by those who are not guilty of the harm. And reparations are being paid to those who were not directly injured and are generations removed from the crime." Opponents doubt that all African-American descendants of slaves suffer from the economic consequences of slavery and discrimination after more than 150 years of freedom.

Opponents see reparations as racist, segregating blacks from whites and victimizing them. In Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks- and Racist Too, David Horowitz notes that, "the reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African-Americans into victims. It sends a damaging message to the African-American community." The reason many African-Americans maintain their status in poor, undereducated communities is not because they are being oppressed, but instead because they retain a victim mentality. This mentality makes it difficult for them to make positive steps toward improving their situation in life. Opponents say that reparations would affirm black people's victim status in America and separate the "victims" from the "oppressors". Essentially, reparations will separate blacks from whites. Due to these arguments, opponents consider reparations a regression in racial relations.