Can You Repair the Past

Can You Repair the Past?

By Patrick F. Cannon

The question of reparations for the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans has returned to the front burner recently. Just a few days ago, Steven Chapman of the Chicago Tribune editorial board wrote a column about Chicago suburb Evanston’s reparation fund, which will be supported by citizen donations and its cannabis tax. Liberal Evanston – it voted more than 90 percent for President Biden – has an African-American population of approximately 15 percent, roughly the same as the country as a whole.

Coincidently, Monday’s Tribune included a letter to the editor from someone whose ancestors came to this country long after emancipation, never lived in a Jim Crow state, and couldn’t understand why he should have to pay for someone else’s sins. This is a common argument and there is some justice to it.

The more you know about the history of slavery in this country, the more complicated it becomes. Slavery was introduced in what is now the United States by the British, just as they introduced it in the Caribbean to provide cheap labor for sugar production. In addition to sugar, here it was tobacco and later cotton. It formed part of what became known as the “triangular trade,” which involved shipping goods from Britain to West Africa in exchange for slaves, which were then shipped to the West Indies and America in exchange for sugar, tobacco and other commodities.

The future slaves were largely provided by their fellow black Africans, who captured them during raids or as the spoils of war. Arabs were also involved in the trade, as were the Portuguese and Spanish. The British finally abolished the slave trade in 1833, or just 30 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. You can quibble with the numbers, but slavery existed in what was British North America for 264 years, and in the United States for 100. Taking all this in consideration, how would you apportion the blame?

Despite all this shared responsibility, if reparations are ever to be paid, it’s down to us. If we’re honest, we must admit that the Federal government and courts permitted Jim Crow laws to stand in the South, and did nothing to prevent more subtle segregation in every part of the country. The electorate, that’s us, was generally happy to go along. Anyone who has lived in Chicago should be aware that African-Americans were excluded from most white areas until fairly recently. And who can deny that many jobs were denied to them? Even when qualified?

Rather than pay reparations for the past (and how could you possibly compute that?), I suggest we invest in the future by paying the tuition and related costs for any African American  — regardless of age — who is accepted at any accredited community college, four-year college or university, or trade school. Since Congress is only too happy to send money to people who don’t actually need it, why not send some along to people who do?

In the meantime, if you don’t really need your Covid relief check, why not send part of it to the United Negro College Fund?  And, by the way, the answer to the question in the title? You can’t.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon      

4 thoughts on “Can You Repair the Past

  1. Nothing prevents anyone now of any ethnic background from obtaining an education. This country probably spends more money on education than any other in the world.

    The strongest comment I’ve seen on reparations was in a WSJ opinion piece (5/25/2019) by Burgess Owens, a black entrepreneur, descendant of slaves and Super Bowl winner with Oakland. With your permission I’ll quote his main points:

    “At the core of the reparation movement is a divisive and demeaning view of both races. It grants to the white race a wicked superiority, treating them as an oppressive people too powerful for black Americans to overcome. It brands blacks as hapless victims devoid of the ability, which every other culture possesses, to assimilate and progress. Neither label is earned.

    The reparation movement also reinforces a spiritual view of racial relationships that is antithetical to America’s Judeo-Christian foundation. It defies the ideals of forgiveness and second chances and scorns individual accountability. Proponents of reparations act as though black Americans are incapable of carrying their own burdens, while white Americans must bear the sins of those who came before.

    The idea of reparations demeans America’s founding ideals. A culturally Marxist idea promoted by socialists, reparations denies the promise granted by an omnipotent God that we are truly equal and that regardless of race we are capable of overcoming obstacles and past injustices. By indoctrinating others into this cynical ideology, an elitist class of progressives exploits past differences and ensures that they will divide us in the future….

    As they repeat this mantra, they seem unaware that this perception was also shared by the 1960s Southern white supremacists of my youth. They have accepted the theory that skin color alone is capable of making one race superior to the other—that through an irremovable white advantage, with no additional effort, values, personal initiative, honesty or education, white Americans will succeed, while black Americans will fail. At its very core this represents the condescending evil of racism.

    It certainly does not represent black America’s potential. Despite the Great Society programs that introduced all sorts of perverse, dependency-inducing, and antifamily incentives into the black community some 50 years ago, 40% of black households today live the middle-class American Dream according to the most recent census data, making between $35,000 and $99,999. Many rank among our nation’s most powerful and prestigious. There are tens of thousands of black Americans among our nation’s top 1% of income earners…..

    Socialist historians have for generations hidden the contributions and success of the black community in America. This has cost us our pride in our past, taken our appreciation for the present, and left us with a lack of vision for our future. The message from our past great black generations is simple: Character cannot be bought and will never allow itself to be diminished by bribery.”
    I might add, even though the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, 57 years ago (thanks to a majority of Republican votes — 80 and 82% in favor — and despite Democrat opposition), liberals like the ones in Evanston will never let this issue go. No one wants to perpetuate the legacy of slavery more than the Democrats, a legacy they championed from the beginning of the Republic. They have enjoyed too much political leverage blaming others for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting take by an African-American. I would suggest that the two political parties have reversed roles in recent years. At any rate, the Federal government — for good sometimes — can’t get anything done, so not to worry.


      1. Yes an interesting and novel take, that we are all Americans with equal rights and opportunities. Who would have thought years ago the Democrats would come to represent elite, corporate America, while cops and farmers would vote Republican?

        Liked by 1 person

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