Reparations to Blacks for Slavery Could Really Really Mess Up White America (And That’s OK)

White commentators, even on the left, have a variety of objections to paying compensation to the descendants of slaves. What they all boil down to is that it will be very hard. Not unlike, you know, human bondage.

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  • alex_the_tired
    May 15, 2019 9:31 AM

    I think “What they all boil down to is that it will be hard” is a bit reductionist.
    I’ll handwave off ALL the problems. I’ll give you that, somehow, with the power of magical thinking, a settlement can be reached. That everyone will agree that this settles the issue. (And if it won’t, what’s the point of doing it? Won’t we simply end up having the same shouting match in a few years?)
    About five minutes after the tasteful ceremony, five minutes after all the checks–tip of the ledger to magical thinking as to how to pay for it and how to determine who gets a check and who doesn’t–are direct deposited …
    The American Indians (as you pointed out) are going to show up for a settlement on the theft of all their land, the extermination of all those cultures and all those people, etc. And then the gays (who also have legitimate claims to discrimination, hate crimes, etc.). And here comes the Irish, who certainly know their share of being shat upon. And there’s a large crowd of fairly irate women who want to see all that and raise to the house limit on the destructive influence of the patriarchy. (The only person who’s smiling now is the gay Irish woman who had a black grandmother and a Cherokee grandfather.)
    “Reparations for me” won’t work. It has to be “reparations for us.” And if it isn’t, it will do exactly what the left-of-the-aisle always does to itself. It will splinter the 99% along trivial lines of disagreement and allow the 1% to continue treating all of us as slaves. We always do this. We fight over the last slice of cake and while we’re rolling around in the dirt hurting each other, here comes a 1%er who picks up the cake and eats it while we tussle.
    Sanders’ supporters have done a pretty good job so far keeping their eyes on the prize: break the current system and institute something more just for everyone. But the only people who’ll come out ahead in the “reparations for me” movement will be the professional outrage takers who will get free advertising for their books and movies while being able to jack up their speaker’s fees and accrue more social media presence.
    I’ve said it before Ted, I agree with you most of the time, but this time, you’re just plain wrong. Treating “reparations for me” as something that’s being held back by a bunch of people who don’t want to do the heavy lifting is simply not a position I can rationally agree to.

    • Instead of reparations, one could just divvy up the present goods equally. Or, if that’s too shocking, just divvy up the ongoing social product equally. In short, communism. Agreed, almost no one wants to do the heavy lifting, so a lot less heavy lifting will get done, which might be a good thing, since all the heavy lifting going on at present is supposed to be destroying the Earth.

    • @ alex tT
      This is hell! had a recent interview with Glen Ford about reparations. []

      While admitting their good aspects – like Cornel West does – Glen Ford challenges the “class first” revolutionaries such as Sanders and AOC in the interview. He has some good points.

      A funny tidbit was that American-Japanese accepted reparations for the internment camps – likely for the chance to start fresh in the U.S. with a model-minority status rather than for the symbolic money value.

      In contrast, black Americans cannot accept such offers because they are invariably set magnitudes too low to offset the (continuing) injustice tab piled to high heaven…

      Consequently they get nothing at all… bending moral arcs of the universe notwithstanding…

      To be fair to the critics of Ted’s point – Glen Ford’s main message is that actually Black-Americans (descendants of US, and British, French etc. slavery and newer immigrants alike) need to get their act together first to come up with an organized set of demands: it is their responsibility to cut to that particular Gordian know…

      • alex_the_tired
        May 16, 2019 3:26 PM

        I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Assuming 10 million people were slaves (that is, 10 million unique people were used as slaves from 1620 to 1865) in the United States, and assuming 80 hours of labor a day, six days a week, and a “half-day” of maybe 10 hours on Sunday so they could have White Jesus Salvation jammed down their throats on the Sabbath, and put that at $20 an hour. It works out to something in the tens of trillions of dollars. It’s MULTIPLES of what the entire U.S. GDP is in a year.
        There, literally, isn’t enough money in the world to settle the debt. And it’s the same situation for the American Indians, the women, etc. You can’t “backdate” this in any way that will be fair.

  • Back in Usenet days, when the question of reparations for slavery came up, I first calculated the money value of the stolen labor. Then I proposed that the sum (several trillion dollars) be divided as if the former slaves were owed it as of 1865, share and share alike. Their provable or likely descendants would then inherit the money _per_stirpes_ (that is, according to ancestral lines). (I think any American considered ‘Black’ in 1900, say, could be considered such a descendant; after that point regular public records could be used.) At the time the share came out to about $200,000 per adult, conincidentally the average proportion of industrial capital per person. The computation isn’t that difficult; we know how many slaves there were for almost every year of slavery, for instance, and we know the slaves were slaves 24 hours a day, and we know the effective minimum hourly wage, and so on. Needless to say, no one is going to give every Black adult $200,000 in 1990s money out of their own pockets, so the question is pretty academic. But it certainly could be done, in the sense that it would be materially possible.

    On the other hand, it would be pretty hard to compensate the American Indians, because 99% of them were killed directly or indirectly — a far more extreme genocide than the more famous recent ones.

  • And let us not forget, Ted, about the Koreans, the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, the Afghans, the Iraqis, the former inhabitants of Diego Garcia and the Bikini Atoll, etc, etc, who felt the whip in more modern times (I omit Latin Americans, as there are too many countries there to enumerate). If all these groups were to receive reasonable compensation, Jeffrey Preston Bezos might have trouble scrounging up enough money for a latte….


    • Hi Henri,

      “Exceptional,” like liberty, is NOT free and we ‘Murcans sure the heck ain’t gonna pay for it!!!!

      That’s the purpose of the tinted folk.

      • Wow, falco – in that case, how much does «exceptional liberty» not cost ? 1.25 million million USD annually ?…


      • Hi Henri,

        It’s $1.25 Trillion, with a “T,” annually.

        Sorry I mixed metaphors.

        First, the clichè is “freedom is not free.”

        Second, ‘Murcans THINK they are paying (however exorbitantly) for their freedom (i.e. “defense”). This they are willing to do, however unnecessary it might be.

        Third, ‘Murcans are VERY easy to dupe***.
        In the name of “freedom,” they, in fact, are paying for their “exceptionality,” which they otherwise think is simply an obvious, and free, characteristic of their mere existences. The annual bill (@ $1.25) is for the stealing of labor, resources and lives of the tinted folk.

        Apparently that obscene expenditure, which includes funding of “the intelligence community,” is/was insufficient enough to keep the pristine, innocent victim, imperial America, safe from the wiles of dastardly RTP© (aka “Rootin Tootin’ Putin.)

        But, of course, no heads will roll, but budgets WILL certainly increase wildly.

        This reminds me of the “meritocracy” article. As far as the US national “defense & intelligence” system is concerned, apparently it is only gross and egregious incompetency that is rewarded. (see also “pre 9/11 intelligence”)
        *** >95 million US voters think either His Hairness or HRC actually give a flying flop about them!?!

    • «It’s $1.25 Trillion, with a “T,” annually. » as you’ve probably noticed, falco, I’m old-fashioned ; I use the long rather than the short scale for numbers greater than 10⁹. Thus for me, a billion is 10¹² and a trillion 10¹⁸, whereas for you, the former is 10⁹ and the latter 10¹². To avoid misunderstanding, I therefore refer to 10¹² as a million million (10⁶ * 10⁶ = 10¹²)….

      You can no doubt imagine what sort of troll gets ticked off by this usage – the same sort which complains about the use of languages it doesn’t understand…. 😉


      • Hi Henri,

        I noticed the second “million” too late to avoid this problem.

        I would have understood a “million million” as (my) “trillion”
        but why not explain to me your trick for putting the exponents above
        the “10’s” and we can use that notation in the future to avoid
        further confusion.

        Soon we’ll need this capability when the discussion turns to the
        VERY large numbers needed to describe US, global and Wall Street
        derivatives debt. (This will only of any use BEFORE the entire house of
        debt cards collapses, of course.)

      • PS:

        Sorry, changed computers and got no edit function.

      • «but why not explain to me your trick for putting the exponents above the “10’s” …» Om my Linux box, falco this is dead easy ; all I have to do for each individual digit is to hit the cirumflex dead key and then type the digit ; thus «10¹²» is attained by typing «10», holding down the shift key and hitting «^» (once, after which nothing appears), and then releasing the shift key and typing a «1», and then holding down the shift key again, hitting «^», releasing the shift key, and then typing «2» : 10 → 10¹ → 10¹²….

        This can also be done on Windows, but as usual it is more difficult and less intuitive : with your num lock key activated,hold down the Alt Key and type «0185» on the numeric keypad to render the digit «1» as an exponent, hold down the Alt key and type «253» to render the digit «2» as an exponent, and hold down the Alt key and type «0179» to render the digit «3» as an exponent. To render larger digits or «0» as exponents, hold down the Alt key and type «+ 207 followed by the digit in question Thus 10¹² on a Windows machine is done by typing «10», followed by holding down the Alt key, typing «0185» on the numeric keypad, and then releasing the Alt key, which gives 10¹, after which one holds the Alt key down again, types «253» on the numeric keypad, and releases the Alt key, producing 10¹²….

        That I much prefer working on a Linux box to working on a Windows machine goes without saying…. 😉


  • Thanks, Henri

  • ‘Article XIII (Amendment 13 – Slavery and Involuntary Servitude)

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT (emphasis added) as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.’

    The first consideration in regard to reparations should be abolition of slavery.

    Given that greater than 90% of “convictions” are the result of plea bargains by people without the financial ability to be confident of a just outcome through a trial, and who settle for a lesser injustice (say a sentence of 3 years by taking a plea instead of 30 years incarceration as a consequence of inadequate legal representation) the above mentioned “EXCEPTION” IS the rule.

    And given that corporations are persons under the law, the ownership of corporations amounts to slavery, and so the wealth extraction from corporations by the corporate owners is wealth extraction from slaves.

    There is no reason that those who labor under corporate slavery should be impoverished while the slave owners constitute a wealthy leisure class, much as in previous instantiations of slavery.

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