This is part 1 of 3 where we look at reparations for Black Americans.
Part 1: America Supports Reparations
Part 2: Systemic Reparations
Part 3: Governing the Money
As American cities, industries, and individuals newly grapple with the comprehensive effects of systemic and blatant racism, many are again surfacing the question of reparations.
Reparations for Black Americans is not a new concept: Newly freed former enslaved Black people sought it immediately after becoming “free” people.
Free people who were without land, money, wealth, income, or purchasing power or the right to vote.
People whose free labor had enriched America and the western world, were now set adrift with no means of recouping their wealth from the country used their free labor to build the wealthiest country in the world. And no way to even earn what they could in a so-called free enterprise country.
They could not even ascertain seed money or loans to start something building their wealth like they had built wealth for white people.
It is worth noting the newly freed Black people did not want free money or land, although they certainly were entitled to demand compensation and reparations. They wanted what they worked for and what had been uncompensated for generations. And though money was needed and should have been returned, the biggest ask was for land.
The freed Black citizens had farmed the land for hundreds of years and they knew how to work the land, sell their goods, feed their families, and take care of one another.
They knew how to build wealth and communities.
They were not asking for “free money,” they were asking for the return of what their labor had given to America — and what America stole.
Our ancestors wanted a chance. They wanted a fair shake. They wanted the opportunity to be full citizens who worked to feed and care for their families – the same as what we want today.
And they wanted what the former slave owners got: Reparations.
Reparations is a word that requires a “trigger warning” for some people, so we are going to start by reframing how we talk about reparations.
“U.S. Government paid reparations to ...”
“Black Americans paid reparations to….”
Using “Government” causes people to mentally substitute “White people” because people assume the owners of America and America’s money as being exclusively white people.
In fact, Black people are co-owners of the country and the country’s wealth, even if that wealth is not in our bank accounts. This simple change, I believe, will help most people understand one part of our demand for reparations while also working to change the incorrect assumption that Black people are merely riders on the wealth contract in America.
Author’s Note: Election 2020 is already the most important election of our lifetime. America is again at a fork on a rocky road with choices that do more than diverge; the very different roads present competing options to Americans on where we want to go, who we want as fellow travelers and, perhaps most importantly,…
Now that we have changed how we frame and talk about reparations. Let us look at all the people and entities who have received reparations from Black Americans.
Black Americans paid reparations to former slaveholders.
Former slave owners petitioned the government for reparations, demanding compensation for losing “their property” and they won.
Most reports say slaveowners received $300 per lost enslaved person but that number is incomplete when factoring in what they *really received in the form of free labor from the enslaved – men, boys, women, and girls, for generations. (We will assign monetary value in parts 2 and 3.)
Enforcers of slavery also often received free land, reduced or no taxes, and profits from enslaved labor… for generations.
Black Americans gave away millions of acres of free land
Almost simultaneously, as America wanted to populate the western states, Black people gave massive amounts of western land to settlers (colonizers) as the nation expanded its footprint, while needing to encourage eastern and southern people to go west.
Black Americans gave white settlers 160 million acres of land under the Homestead Act starting around 1862 for the nation, but it started earlier in Washington and Oregon.
And there were other land giveaways including: Southern Homestead Act of 1866, Timber Culture Act of 1873, Kinkaid Amendment of 1904, Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909, Stock-Rising Act of 1916, Subsistence Homesteads provisions under The New Deal of 1930, and the Small Tracts Act in 1938.
In each of these cases Black people were either explicitly denied or prevented by force and intimidation from participating and receiving a fair share of our land.
These acts contributed to individual white people and white owned corporations to build wealth using Black Americans tax dollars and labor to do so.
Black Americans paid Reparations to Europe Twice
Black Americans gave Britain and France around $10b to finance their World War 1 efforts.
Then in what is commonly known as The Marshall Plan, Black Americans bailed out Europe after World War 2, to help them rebuild after, let us face it, white people went crazy and tried to enslave or destroy the world.
The money given from our taxes was $22b or close to $200b in today’s dollars.
Black Americans paid Japanese Americans reparations
The U.S. government flexed its racist muscle at home during World War 2 by placing eighty-two thousand Japanese Americans in concentration camps. After the war, Black Americans paid Japanese Americans $1.6b, which equal to $3.5b in today’s dollars and was not enough then to make up for the atrocity our fellow citizens endured.
In addition, Black Americans also gave Japan $2.2b dollars after World War 2, or $15b in today’s dollars.
Black Americans gave Iraq $36b in reparations to rebuild after the war and gives them $3b annually.
Black Americans have given Israel roughly $160b since the end of World War 2, the largest amount of reparations to any country.
Black Americans gave the auto industry $80b in reparations.
Black Americans gave Wall Street an estimated $1.9t in reparations during the most recent tax cuts, after giving them over $700b in the one prior, and trillions more over the course of history.
Black Americans gave veterans reparations, called the G.I. Bill, or Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, close to $15b – without initially being able to get any of our own money for Black veterans.
Black Americans gave wealthy people $2t in during the most recent 2016 tax cuts.
Black Americans gave Small Businesses $700b in reparations in the recent budget, and trillions since the SBA started in 1953, though Black people are least likely to get SBA loans.
Black people subsidize State Universities, private colleges, and charter schools,
Black Americans give farmers $20b per year, and Black farmers have decades long lawsuits trying to get their fair share.
Black Americans give homeowners $70b a year in reparations for mortgages – reparations mostly given to and used by white Americans.
Black Americans subsidize middle class and wealthy Americans by paying more for food, goods and services, gas, insurance, interest on credit cards, car purchases, and home loans.
Finally, and to bring reparations back to the beginning,
Black Americans have been underpaid from Juneteenth, 1865 to right now, in every job we ever held.
That is 155 years of backpay.
Black people have given America and the world tens of trillions of dollars in reparations that America turned around and gave businesses, white people, colleges and universities, farmers, and dozens of foreign countries.
The bill is past due and as co-owners of this country, we are not asking the government or “white people” for a handout or a loan.
What we are demanding is that we receive OUR money back. The bill is past due, and the interest is growing
Now that we have established that America does in fact love and support reparations, by whatever name we chose to use, next week we will look at –
How the Money Will Be Allocated.
© 2020 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.
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