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Jewish World Review
July 8, 2009 / 16 Tamuz 5769
Senate slavery apology
Last month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution
26 "Apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of
African-Americans." The resolution ends with: "Disclaimer. -- Nothing in
this resolution (a) authorizes or supports any claim against the United
States; or (b) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United
States." That means Congress apologizes but is not going to pay reparations,
as least for now.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have expressed
concerns about the disclaimer, thinking that it's an attempt to stave off
reparations claims from the descendants of slaves. Congressional Black
Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said her organization is studying
the language of the resolution and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, said
"putting in a disclaimer takes away from the meaning of an apology. A number
of us are prepared to vote against it in its present form. There are several
members of the Progressive Caucus who feel the same way."
It goes without saying that slavery was a gross violation of
human rights. Justice would demand that all the perpetrators -- that
includes slave owners, and African and Arab slave sellers -- make
compensatory reparation payments to victims. Since slaves, slave owners and
slave sellers are no longer with us, such compensation is beyond our reach
and a matter to be settled in the world beyond.
Absent from the reparations debate is: Who pays? Don't say the
government because the government doesn't have any money that it doesn't
first take from some American. So which Americans owe black people what?
Reparations advocates don't want that question asked but let's you and I.
Are the millions of Europeans, Asians, and Latin Americans who
immigrated to the U.S. in the 20th century responsible for slavery and
should they be forced to cough up reparations money? What about descendants
of Northern whites who fought and died in the name of freeing slaves? Should
they cough up reparations money for black Americans? What about
non-slave-owning Southern whites, a majority of whites; should they be made
to pay reparations? And, by the way, would President Obama, whose father is
Kenyan and mother white, be eligible for a reparations payment?
On black people's side of the ledger, thorny issues also arise.
Some blacks purchased other blacks as a means to free family members. But
other blacks owned slaves for the same reason whites owned slaves -- to work
farms or plantations. Are descendants of these blacks eligible and deserving
of reparations? There is no way that Europeans could have captured millions
of Africans. They had African and Arab help. Should Congress haul
representatives of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Muslim states before them
and demand they compensate American blacks because of their ancestors'
involvement in capturing and selling slaves?
Reparations advocates make the foolish unchallenged
pronouncement that United States became rich on the backs of free black
labor. That's utter nonsense. Slavery has never had a very good record of
producing wealth. Think about it. Slavery was all over the South. Buying
into the reparations nonsense, you'd have to conclude that the antebellum
South was rich and the slave-starved North was poor. The truth of the matter
is just the opposite. In fact, the poorest states and regions of our country
were places where slavery flourished: Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia
while the richest states and regions were those where slavery was absent:
Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.
The Senate apology is nothing more than political theater but it
could be a slick way to get the camel's nose into the tent for future
reparations. If the senators are motivated by white guilt, I have the cure.
About 15 years ago I wrote a "Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to
All Persons of European Descent" that is available at:
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