• Michael McGowan

Paying for the Past

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

A multitude of Democratic candidates for the presidency called for looking into reparations for our Nation's dark history of slavery. Here's a quick history. During and immediately following the Civil War an estimated 4 million humans were released from bondage. Towards the end of the war there were many discussions about what to do with the newly freed multitudes. Among some of the ideas were to ship them back to Africa, settle them on some islands off of the coast of the United States, allow them to settle on the land that they were bonded to, or just allow them to go on there way.

Depending on the authority of the time it was either promised or said that they should give all the freedmen 40 acres and somewhere along the line it was added a mule to that. And that is where the debates both ends and begins.

Former slaves had many difficulties in trying to make their way in a country that was hurting from the recent defeat of the Confederacy. Some were still forced to work for their former masters, illiteracy was high, families were torn apart. The 40 acres and a mule would absolutely helped all those people in their transition from the peculiar institution to self-determination. The help never came and in the 154 years of systemic racism the African-American community has since struggled to have a level playing field.

And we come to the 21st Century. I doubt the descendants of those unfortunate souls will receive 40 acres and a mule, but are they entitled to reparations? How should our leadership remedy this problem? There are arguments that we should leave the past behind. Reparations would be unconstitutional because of the 14th Amendment Equal Protections Clause would benefit one community over another. The family trees would be too difficult to determine. There have been millions of immigrants since 1865 and we shouldn't tax the descendants of these immigrants to pay back people from before 1865. Should the currently successful descendants of slaves be given reparations? The difficult questions overall is how much in reparations, who qualifies, how should it be distributed, who must pay, and how do you prevent fraud? These questions are beyond the scope of AmericanBog.

Yet we must recognize that the African-American community is at a disadvantage. Even though the discussion of reparations might be a ridiculous concept the deeper revelation is that it will force America to discuss our current views on the disadvantaged. We must focus on institutional racism. A discussion of reparations is Democratic pandering. I don't want lip service I want solutions.

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