I could be blogging about the oil spill in the Gulf or the Texas Board of Education’s crazy revisionism of their history books or the president mobilizing the National Guard to protect the border between Arizona and Mexico. Or I could be blogging about how within two days, Jack on Lost, Jack Bauer on 24 and Jack McCoy on Law and Order all went off the air and how I don’t care about any of them.
But what I’m blogging about is slavery. Henry Louis Gates Jr., my erstwhile boss at The Root penned an essay for The New York Times explaining why the election of Barack Obama effectively voids the calls for reparations for slavery.
In David Remnick’s new book “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama,” one of the president’s former students at the University of Chicago comments on Mr. Obama’s mixed feelings about the reparations movement: “He told us what he thought about reparations. He agreed entirely with the theory of reparations. But in practice he didn’t think it was really workable.”
About the practicalities, Professor Obama may have been more right than he knew. Fortunately, in President Obama, the child of an African and an American, we finally have a leader who is uniquely positioned to bridge the great reparations divide. He is uniquely placed to publicly attribute responsibility and culpability where they truly belong, to white people and black people, on both sides of the Atlantic, complicit alike in one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization. And reaching that understanding is a vital precursor to any just and lasting agreement on the divisive issue of slavery reparations.
I’ve never been a proponent for reparations. Not that I can’t understand the rationalization for it; this country made enormous profits from centuries of unpaid, uncompensated free labor by Black slaves. Maybe someone should be on the hook for paying for that.
But who? Every White slave owner and Black slave is long dead. Do 31 million African-Americans deserve a check from Uncle Sam based on the suffering of their descendants?
For that reason and more, reparations is unworkable as a theory or program. There is no sentiment in Congress to enact legislation authorizing the payment of reparations, most Democrats would line up with Republicans in opposition to such an idea and I seriously doubt President Obama really wants to be tagged as looking out for Blacks only by paying them off over their hurt feelings over what happened to their dead ancestors.
I’ve been engaged in a running discussion about reparations since and it doesn’t take long before things spin into a discussion about what fueled the call for reparations: the peculiar institution called slavery. Guess what? There are some people who don’t think it Black folks had it all that bad when they were slaves.
In the politics and current events forum of the writer’s board I follow, a discussion about Gates’ remarks prompted this remark from one Las Vegas resident:
What I am going to say next will draw great rage but I think it needs to be said – in many ways, SOME who were brought here against their will ended up a thousand times better than they were in their homeland. They no longer had to fear other tribes who raped their women, stole their goods and even killed them. They did not have to fear diseases that wiped out entire villages. They learned usable skills and many learned to read, write and generally improve their lot in life. And, if it weren’t for slaves, many things we currently take for granted would not exist. Where do you think frying came from? [not trying to be snide but to inject a bit of humor into an otherwise dark discussion]
Ha-ha. Not funny. Neither was my response.
Right. All they had to worry about was their women being raped by their nice White slave masters instead of those Black tribesmen. How fortunate for them.
Worry about having their goods stolen? Nothing to worry about if you’re stripped naked, chained and brought across the ocean without so much as one piece of carry-on luggage. Nothing to steal! Sweet!
Don’t have to worry about those nasty little bugs and weird diseases native to Africa because as a slave now you’re in an entire new land and exposed to nasty little bugs and weird diseases native to America that a slave would have no immunity and resistance to. Hack-hack-hack. Cough-cough. Anybody got some Robitussin?
Slaves were forbidden to learn how to read or write. It was against the law to teach them and slaves could be killed for doing so.
Useful skills? Oh yeah. Pickin’ cotton. That’s a real useful skill.
The moron who suggested slavery was the best thing that happened to Black folks until KFC created the Double Down sandwich was offended by my response, My comments were historical – I don’t think anybody can deny what I said about slavery and its history.
You know I couldn’t let that go by.
Your comments were not historical. They were nonsensical. A hopeless drunk babbling at the end of a bar about little green men and flying saucers would make more sense.
Nobody can deny what you said about slavery and history because that would require taking it seriously. Only the most dishonest and twisted reading of what slavery was and what it did to Black people could come up with the perverse suggestion that it was somehow “good” for them.
That sort of degenerate and twisted fantasy is something David Duke might conjure up just before bedtime along with a bottle of lotion and a box of Kleenex.
Am I surprised that in 2010 there would still be some fool who thinks slavery wasn’t all bad? Nope. Thomas Sowell, the favorite House Negro of conservatives recently wrote,
Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans– more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed.
The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to “Roots,” and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.
Got that folks? If you think Black slaves pickin’ cotton caught hell it could have been worse. They could have been a White guy bustin’ his hump as a galley slave.
Uncle Tom Sowell has been a ridiculous sell-out long before he started wailing about how badly White galley slaves had it. This is after all, the same worthless sack of shit who defended The Bell Curve which called into question the intelligence of Blacks and Sowell has previously spoken admiringly of how slavery was better for the Black family.
For 79 years now Sowell has occupied a high position on the list of damn fools who need an ass whupping, but he’s bucking for the top spot.
Reparations may be politically a non-starter, but it’s far less offensive than Whites who claim slavery wasn’t all that bad and the self-hating sellouts like Sowell who are always ready to soothe their guilty consciences.