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The pros and cons of requiring the US government to pay reparations for slavery to African Americans were discussed last Wednesday in Rm before a racially mixed audience of about , mostly students. White, an MIT senior who is vice president of the fraternity. The moderator was Andrew A. Ryan, Class of Dorothy B.

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Lewis, co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America , advocated implementation of the policy. Horowitz has attempted to place an advertisement that states his position in 57 college newspapers, 43 of which declined to print it although the Tech did not receive a request to print the ad. Protesting students at Brown University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison confiscated copies of the paper. In his opening statement, Mr. Horowitz said he would support reparations to the victims of slavery "if the people who were directly injured were alive today.

Cochran and Jesse L. Jackson, who are multimillionaires. Lewis retorted during the discussion. She said the issue of reparations has existed since the Emancipation Proclamation and responsibility should be "transferred from one generation to the next. Lewis said there are now "two million slaves in prisons" in the United States, which she described as concentration camps.


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She said African Americans "want to return home" and reparations would "give us options. Horowitz said. Horowitz said that while African Americans had voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate for president, Vice President Albert A. Gore Jr. Bush had appointed the most diverse cabinet in history, placing African Americans Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice in charge of foreign policy. He added that for the most part, Democrats had governed the country's major cities for generations, to the detriment of their African-American residents.

In her closing statement, Ms. Lewis said reparations would honor million African Americans "who lost their lives in the American Holocaust. However, the myth of inferiority was so ingrained in the spirits of the slavemaster and slave that it has survived the generations since slavery in the subconscious of Americans; it stands as the staple of racism among whites and self-deprecation among African Americans.

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As Professor Lawrence stated about the origins and pervasiveness of racism in our society today: Racism is in large part a product of the unconscious. It is a set of beliefs whereby we irrationally attach significance to something called race. I do not mean to imply that racism does not have its origins in the rational and premeditated acts of those who sought and seek property and power.

But racism in America is much more complex than either the conscious conspiracy of the power elite or the simple delusion of a few ignorant bigots. It is a part of our common historical experience and, therefore, a part of our culture. It arises from the assumptions we have learned to make about the world, ourselves, and others as well as from the patterns of our fundamental social activities.


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We attach significance to race even when we are not aware that we are doing so. It is a malady that we all share, because we have all been scarred by a common history. Racism's universality makes it normal.

Reparations for Slavery Reading - Constitutional Rights Foundation

We must understand that our entire culture is afflicted, and we must take cognizance of psychological theory in order to frame a legal theory that can address that affliction. Professor Lawrence stated that the origins of racism were in the rational and premeditated acts of those who sought power and that we are all affected by racism because we have been scarred by our common history. Slavery, as an institution supported by the ideology that people were inferior and appropriately subordinated because of their race, would have to be high on the list of premeditated acts that established racism, and is part of the common history that has scarred us all.

Although most whites and African Americans would consciously disclaim any notion that African Americans are inferior to whites, subconsciously many decisions, heavily camouflaged in the cloak of meritocracy, are made based on such beliefs. This heritage of inferiority looms in eerie, ghostlike form over African Americans in the workforce, classrooms, markets, and social circles throughout the nation.

It is emotional injury, stemming from the badge of inferiority and from the stigma attached to race which marks every African American, that composes the most significant injury of slavery. The dominant culture is blind to this injury. It is so remote from the experience of most members of the dominant culture that it is beyond their conception. When African Americans identify an act that was motivated by this perception of inferiority, it is perceived by the dominant group either as a kind of paranoia or as an excuse for failure to perform in accordance with the mandates of a meritocracy.

It is beyond the scope of this Paper to describe the injury at length or to prove the merits of the injury, but Professor Lawrence does an excellent job of describing the source of unconscious racism and how it manifests itself in the lives of ordinary people. Billy J. Tidwell describes at length the sociopsychological, sociopolitical, and economic costs of racism to American society.

Reparations : pro & con

Opponents of reparations would have no problem dismissing this injury as baseless, unprovable, and nonexistent. Reparationists who are also African Americans are aware of the injury because of personal battles combatting feelings of inferiority and because of frequent encounters with whites and African Americans which confirm that both are making evaluations based on presumptions of inferiority of African Americans.

With the injury identified, reparationists would propose that every African American suffers from the emotional injuries of slavery and therefore deserves compensation. After identifying the injuries of slavery and the victims as the entire African-American community, the reparationist would still have to contend with the opponents' argument that the wrongdoer cannot be identified or matched with the victim. From the African-American consciousness, the wrongdoer is not limited to some prescribed set of individuals such as slave owners.

One reparationist said that "[w]hite Americans are not guilty of practicing slavery and most are not actively engaged in economic discrimination, but most are collectively the beneficiaries of slavery and economic discrimination. It is easy to see that the list is probably all-inclusive and it is difficult to conceive of the hermit who could escape this broad classification of wrongdoer.

African Americans refer to the wrongdoer, much to the offense of individual white people, as "the white man" or "the man" and less often as "the system. Society, through all of its consumers, producers, governments, laws, courts, and economic institutions, perpetrated and supported the institution of slavery. Society, propelled by a set of values that were manifested in the laws, allowed the injury to take place and to remain uncompensated for generations.

The entire society acquiesced in the institution of slavery.

Even abolitionists must admit that they participated in the institution of slavery to the extent that they continued to live in and enjoy the benefits of a society that sanctioned slavery. If abolitionists, the precursor of modern- day white liberals, had decided to move their fortunes elsewhere, had not purchased the products of slave labor, or had taken a stronger stand, slavery could have been eradicated earlier.

The global fight against apartheid has demonstrated that the refusal of economic participation in a wrongful institution can result in its undoing. Because society perpetuated and benefitted from the institution of slavery, all of society must pay. Society, unlike individuals, does not have a natural life.

The society that committed the wrong is still thriving. In a sense, reparationists would analogize society to a trustee who holds the corpus of the trust-the benefit society derived from slave labor during slavery and since emancipation-and would view African Americans as the beneficiaries of the trust who are entitled to trace the assets of the trust in whatever form they can be found. Treating society as the wrongdoer necessarily includes the injured parties in the classification of wrongdoer.

If society pays, it will do so at least in part with tax dollars, and African Americans pay taxes. There is a ring of propriety in having African Americans share in the benefits and burdens.

The Case for Black Reparations

Opponents of reparations are quick to point out that Africans participated in the slave trade and African Americans owned slaves. The truth in these statements cannot be rebutted. Vincent Verdun, from the prologue, is an injured party, because he was deprived of his rightful inheritance because his great-great-great grandmother was a slave. On the other hand, his great- great-great grandfather was a slave owner; before he emancipated the mother of his children, he owned her.

Reparations pros and cons. What will it cost?

Records indicate that at the time slaves were emancipated, Romain Verdun owned twenty-two slaves. When society is identified as the wrongdoer, Vincent Verdun will pay as a member of a society that benefitted from the wrongs of the institution of slavery, and he will be compensated as a member of the injured group. The reparationist would therefore identify the injured party as all African Americans and identify the wrongdoer as society. Society is doing well and still reaping the benefits of slave labor.

The injured party is still injured and suffering from the consequences of the wrong. From the African-American consciousness, the match is an obvious and simple one, and it is hard for African Americans to conceive how opponents of reparations can justify a continued refusal to right the wrong. Conclusion to Part II Each perspective is driven by values and norms that affect the perception of the evaluator.