01 May 2001 Who Should Pay for Reparations? Black Americans… Obviously, by Mike Green
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Who should pay for reparations? Black Americans… obviously.
Black Americans have pondered a debt due for slavery since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Few would deny a debt is owed for the centuries of institutionalized slave labor, beatings, rapes and murders spanning generations, but the details pose questions.
Clearly, there are businesses and families that profitted and cannot deny or defend their involvement. But how much is owed, by whom and who is owed? I believe I have an answer that may not appease everyone, but it’s rational and won’t divide our nation or raise taxes.
America is paying for slavery. Some think slavery was abolished without white assistance. But no all-black insurgence would have ended slavery without the help of concerned whites. For example, Harriet Tubman could not have freed hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad without the selfless sacrifice of sympathetic whites.
Dr. Martin Luther King, in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, cited the efforts of whites and blacks working together. Unequivocally, he stated, “We cannot walk alone.” Black leaders who live off Dr. King’s name readily divide the races, however, encouraging hatred and pouring salt into the healing wounds of slavery. They also neglect to point out that the doors of opportunity are open.
Already, more than 40% of black families have a middle-class standard of living. In nearly every industry, blacks are not only represented, but excel. This is pretty good for being just 13% of the population, and with half of us still under the age of 18. Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby are among America’s most beloved celebrities. Colin Powell received the highest poll rating of any potential presidential candidates a few years ago. When we seek out the most successful blacks, we find many were born when blacks had intact families… albeit very poor ones.
There are still challenges to overcome, but it’s obvious racism is not a successful method of preventing blacks from succeeding. However, internal turmoil, liberal politics and an abandonment of morals has done to black America what hundreds of years of slavery failed to do… unravel the black family and turn us against one another.
There was a “Great Sellout” of our race in 1965, just after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a result, many have succumbed to dependency on – and switched their misguided loyalties to -another slavemaster… Uncle Sam.
According to government statistics, 650,000 black babies were born in 1965. But only 50,000 of them were born out of wedlock. That means, despite the residual effects of slavery and poverty that comes from starting with nothing, blacks only had an eight percent illegitimacy rate. Despite centuries of slavery, black families survived.
That same year, over 400 new government programs were introduced into poverty-stricken communities. Liberal politicians offered poor mothers cash for having children. A monthly government paycheck went to any mother that applied… if there was no working male at home. By 1975, the black illegitimacy rate skyrocketed to an epidemic 70%. Three out of every four black babies are still born out of wedlock. The government slavemaster succeeded in a single decade what centuries of oppression failed to do… destroy the black family.
How? Many black ministers, doctors and political leaders played along. They sold us out. Just as some African tribal leaders sold blacks to whites with little regard for their safety or future, many modern black leaders sold us to the liberals for political gain.
With black leaders telling us the government will give us something for nothing, we bought into a false dream that evolved into a socialist nightmare. Realistically, our problems must instead be overcome through personal success. They didn’t tell us that.
The road out of the ghetto is paved with the blood of slaves who hoped the future would have the very opportunities that exist today for every black boy and girl lucky enough to be born in this country… because of slavery. Today, any child who wants to learn can be taught to read and write and solve mathematic and scientific equations.
This is where we find the debt that must be paid. It is a debt of gratitude. It is a debt I owe to my ancestors who lived their tortured lives as slaves.
Who owes the debt of reparations?
We, as black Americans, owe reparations for slavery. We must succeed so that our ancestors will not have died in vain. Their presence in this country has given us an opportunity unique in comparison to any other black community on the planet. There is no excuse for the things many of us have done to squander what those before us died to provide.
Illegitimacy and illiteracy are now the worst enemies of black America. There is no excuse for black leaders to ignore these problems while focusing on the irrelevant and mundane. Those of us who abandoned our children should be ashamed that we sentenced them to the hardships our ancestors hoped to eliminate with their sweat and blood.
There is nothing in the lives of black men and women in America today that can rival the hardships endured by generations of our families who never knew freedom or the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
It is time to repay the debt we owe to our ancestors. It is time for us to make a concerted effort to ensure our children are well-educated, law-abiding, God-fearing contributors to the advancement of mankind.
We can succeed. The evidence is all around us. We should celebrate the good news and attend to the duties of getting off the wrong path we took in 1965. Our children will be better off for it. Their success is a fair and just payment to our ancestors… and the benefit we reap is our own reward.
(Mike Green is a associate of Project 21 and a columnist for The Village News in Fallbrook, California. He can be reached at [email protected]. A longer version of this commentary can be found at www.fallbrook.org at “Mike’s Perspective.”)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.