Despite critics, the case for slavery reparations is convincing and strong:
The disparity between African Americans and Whites ($6000 vs. $88,000 net worth) would have been significantly smaller had President Johnson not rescinded Lincoln’s original promise or if the 1867 Reparations bill would have passed giving freed slaves “an economic foothold before waves of European immigrants poured into the U.S. during the latter decades of the 1800s.
The United States has already given land away in its 230-year history. Approximately 246 million acres of “productive” land was given to about 1.5 million people through the Homestead Act. Ironically out of the 1.5 million beneficiaries that included many white immigrants, there were only 4000 native African Americans.
Internationally, land has also been awarded to compensate victims of injustices. The most notable example is the creation of Israel, which has benefited countless Holocaust (1938-1945) victims and their families.
Precedents also exist for monetary payments to victims of injustices. Since 1952, the German government and corporations (along with those of Austria and Switzerland, to name others) have paid more than $120 billion to fund early Israeli projects and compensate Holocaust survivors. Presently about 120,000 Holocaust survivors (once about 275,000) are still receiving lifetime reparation payments. At the same time, “Japanese-Americans interned during World War II are receiving reparation for their loss of property and liberty during that period” after filing a lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which “waives the government’s ‘sovereign immunity’ in some situations,” and American Indian tribes have and continue to receive compensation for “lands ceded to the U.S. by them in various treaties.”
Many ask, “Would reparations for slavery be just?” arguing that the practice was originally legal, “[n]ot a single person directly affected by slavery remains alive,” the cost of tracing lineages to slaves would be unbearable, the process next to impossible, “no one alive today owned slaves,” and that “payments based on race alone would be perceived… as a monstrous injustice… setting back race relations” without healing “the ills of the black community.”
Considering that, while every slave and his/her direct family are deceased, African Americans continued to suffer disproportionately from segregation, discrimination, and barbaric attacks into the late 20th century, and at times continue to be the victims of bias (e.g. racial profiling when it comes to jobs, shopping, law enforcement and voting despite equal opportunity and equal protection laws and the 1964 Civil Rights Act), remain disproportionately disenfranchised when it comes to net worth and home ownership and still suffer from a sense of a lack of self-worth versus today’s black immigrants, slavery reparations are not only just but necessary.