Reparation is a concept that has been debated for decades. Since 1865 when slavery was ended, there has been a question of how to compensate formerly enslaved individuals and their descendents. There is no template or precedent for this.
Over the past few years, instances of racial injustice have renewed the discussion of how reparations could be made. Ultimately, the debate continues and most Americans aren’t familiar with the debate or what it really means.
7 Things You Didn't Know About Reparations
Knowledge is powerful, and Americans should be aware of the social and racial issues that exist. Here, we discuss 7 things that most Americans don’t know about reparations.
1. Reparations Have Been Made in the Past
Even though there is no template, Americans have received reparations for injustices. Examples include:
- Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II
- Victims of forced sterilization
- Survivors of Chicago police abuses
- Black residents in Florida who were burned by a mob of White individuals
2. Reparations for Slavery Could Cost Trillions of Dollars
Lawyers, activists and academics have tried to determine the monetary value of slavery – i.e. decades of forced servitude. Most estimates suggest billions or trillions of dollars. Author Jason Hickel notes in his book “The Divide: Global Inequality from Conquest to Free Markets”,
"It is estimated that the United States alone benefited from a total of 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and the abolition of slavery in 1865. Valued at the US minimum wage, with a modest rate of interest, that is worth $97 trillion today."
3. Reparation Really is about More than Money
Reparation is about more than money. Reparation could include a number of programs designed to help Black Americans, such as mortgage assistance, free tuition, financial support, endowments to start historical exhibits and museums, and investments in Black communities.
4. Lawmakers Don’t Know How to Make Reparations
In 2019, lawmakers convened to address reparations for the first time in more than a decade. The goal was to create a bill that would make recommendations for reparations. The bill would include recommendations for “any form of apology or compensation” to the descendents of enslaved African Americans.
5. Not Everyone Supports Reparations
There are many people who oppose reparations for slavery. Their arguments are based on the idea that all of the slaves and slave owners are now dead; that immigrants to American since the Civil War are not related to slavery; and that Black Americans living in the U.S. today are not descendents of slaves.
While these facts may be true, supporters of reparations remind us attempts for reparation began generations ago. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, for example, gave Congress the authority to award funds to victims of slavery. Yet the debate continues.
6. Support for Reparations is Racially Divided
In 2020, The Washington Post and ABC News conducted a poll. 63% of Americans reported that they don’t support reparations to the descendents of slaves. There is a racial divide, however, with 82% of Black Americans supporting reparations. Meanwhile 75% of White Americans do not.
7. There are Proposed Laws that Keep the Debate Alive
Despite the ongoing debate and racial division, lawmakers continue to keep the reparation debate alive. House Bill 40 (HR 40) – “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act” is one of the ways the debate is continuing.
HR 40 would establish a commission that will,
“…study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans, resulting directly and indirectly from slavery to segregation to the desegregation process and the present day.”
The Final Thoughts
More than half of the Democratic caucus supports the bill and committee. It is suggested that both Democrats and Republicans broadly support measures that would decrease the wealth and other gaps between Black and White Americans. Thus, this is all about reparation that you should know and let me know if you have any issues in the comment section below.