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Slavery Reparations Are Wrong Essay, Research Paper

Ladies and gentlemen; I don’t believe that anyone in this

chamber would move to disagree with the idea that slavery was an

atrocity, committed from the depths of the darkest parts of the human

sole. Africans were seized from their native land, and sold into

lives of servitude into a foreign land. Indeed, it was a tragedy on

such a scale that cannot be measured nor quantified. And it is this

very notion of unquantifiable tragedy which speaks to the matter of

reparations for slavery. To be quite blunt, reparations, even if they

may be deserved, are not feasible under any system or economic tangent

- indeed such an undertaking would only not remedy the situation, but

it would sink Africa and her people deeper into the cycle of poverty

and oppression that they have so struggled to free themselves. While

the arguments against reparations may seem shallow or self-serving to

advocates of such a system, upon examination, the logistics of what to

give, and whom to distribute it to, preclude any potential benefits of

such a system of indemnity and requite. The point of the follow

critique is not to say that Africans were not mistreated, nor that

they are not worthy of reparations, but that perhaps reparations are

not an adequate solution to this situation, and indeed will only serve

to worsen.

Africa is a continent in dire straits. European colonization

and colonialism damaged the native structure and society – some might

say that this simply proves that European man caused, and ought to pay

for, the damages done to Africa and her people. However, I would

argue that simply placing a ‘band-aid’ blanket over Africa, would

serve only to mask their problems, and relieve us of our guilt. It

was this same attitude that the early European missionaries took with

Africa – that they are not capable of dealing with their own problems

and situations. Authors suggest that reparations should take the form

of capital transfers and African status in the International Monetary

Fund (Mazuri, 22). Does this sound like mending the deep running

wounds and damage done to Africa, or like a transfer of monetary funds

in order to “fix” Africa? Indeed, this idea of presenting money to

Africa in order to “apologize” for what we have done is nothing more

than a quick fix solution – it is not a long-term remedy for the

underlying structural damage. The very center of Africa has been

changed, for better or for worse. Surface solutions, while some may

claim they are “a good beginning” or perhaps just a token of our

apologetic state, will only further social damage and entrench abusive

African regimes. A cognate situation with African Americans is with

that of Afrocentric history (Asante, 174); many suggest that perhaps

we ought to provide black student with their own curriculum, such as

to instill in them a sense of pride that will improve their education.

The U.S. News and World Report comments:

“The Afrocentric curriculum is usually presented as an

attempt to develop pride in black children by giving them a racial

history? But what kind of pride and self-esteem is likely to grow

from false history? And how much more cynical will black children

be if they discover that they have been conned once again, only

this time by Afrocentrists? ? It is a sure-fire formula for

separatism and endless racial animosity (Leo, 26)”

This author suggests that indeed, conferring upon youths of African

descent their own “different” history will not only further the racial

segregation, but also provide them with a false sense of history,

fueling the animosity. If the rest of the world were to suddenly step

down and bestow upon Africa special privileges and grants, it would

only create a sense among the global village that Africans are

‘different’ and require some sort of special assistance in order to

succeed. This type of compensatory system would not only be

insufficient to ever repay blacks for the injustice to them, but also

further the rigid separatism that plagues African Americans today –

what they need is equality, not special programs catered to what

guilty-feeling Europeans feel they “owe” them.

Aside from any philosophical or idea-based arguments against

reparations, there exist a number of logistical barriers to repaying

blacks for their suffering. Immediate questions arise in the realm of

distribution – it is intuitive that such reparations would be

difficult to distribute, much less to decide how much, or where to

place the funds or assistance. The questions are impossible to

answer: who was the most oppressed? Which family or group of people

received the cruelest treatment – should they get the most money or

assistance? Such questions cannot be decided, nor is it fair to

quantify or compare the suffering of different people – if we started

to hand out assistance, some would invariably demand more than others.

Some of African descent were never taken into slavery, nor were

oppressed by whites – even if one believed they are deserved of

reparations, it would be impossible for an international body to

distinguish or properly disburse the requite among Africans of diverse

backgrounds. Some Africans have indeed become wealthy within then

white world and do not require assistance – yet it would be unfair to

slight them their share – did they not also once suffer? It is

equally impossible to prove whether or not someone actually was a

slave, or how long they had been slaves; no records of such history

were ever kept. Also worth of addressing is African involvement in

slavery – it ought be decided whether those Africans deserve

reparations. Some historians agree that many early slave traders

justified their actions because of African involvement in the trade

itself – these African kings were bought by guns and technology from

the Europeans (M’Bokolo ??). By this logic, even if they were forced

to sell these slaves, they did indeed contribute to the effort – are

the nations which contain these former kingdoms today deserved of

repayment? Indeed, it is unfeasible to say who did and who did not,

as any logical observer would note. It is equally unworkable to

decide whether or not they too were victims of the slave trade, the

arguments either way would be morally irreparable – for are they

responsible for the actions of their ancestors? In total, no

governing body can be sure of who these reparations ought to be

distributed to, nor what form they ought to take. One might argue

that just general monetary grants should be given to African nations –

but that leaves African Americans out of the process, who formerly

suffered as Africans. While perhaps the ideas that Mazuri presents

are perhaps worthy of noting or discussion, we find that there are

many unanswered questions in the issue – the risks of the distribution

process outweigh potential benefits.

The final case against the organized business of reparations

for slaves is that the indemnifiers? the question of who ought to bear

responsibility for repaying the slaves for their oppression and abuse.

Is there a certain group of people that ought to be most responsible

for the reparations – should the average citizen pay for slavery?

Both are questions which cannot be sufficiently responded to. No

single person ought to be paying more for slavery than another; in

fact few people alive today has ever committed slavery or owned

slaves; they ought not to be held responsible for the actions of their

ancestors who perhaps once did have slaves. Also worth noting is the

idea that those nations most responsible for slavery are unable to pay

for it, such as Belgium and Portugal, while relatively benign

countries like Great Britain are economic powers in Europe (Mazuri,

22). This makes the interesting point of such, and I feel that Britain

does not have to pick up the slack and pay for what other nations did

- it is equally unfair as giving reparations to Africans who were not

slaves. One of the suggestions that is also raised (Mazuri, 22) is

that of establishing an IMF fund for African nations. However, it is

the tax money of average citizens paying for these reparations – no

one say that these people were actually the ones who contributed to

slavery. The hard earned taxes of the middle class should not go to

foreign funds to deal with guilt for African tragedies, but to

education for all people, without regard to race or discrimination.

The point is, that all in all, those who did not contribute to slavery

ought not pay for it – neighbors of criminals do no go to prison for

being near the criminal, nor the children or grandchildren of

criminals serve time to society.

I would, once again, like to make clear that I do not disagree

that slavery was an act of near genocide, and ought never be forgotten

nor trivialized – we owe the African of our day a great apology. Nor

do I disagree that perhaps Africans contributed to global markets in

the early days of European expansion (Miller, 71). However, I do not

think it right that we bandage Africa in requital of our own guilt,

thusly entrenching the very notion of segregation and discrimination

that we are discussing here today. African peoples and nations may be

deserved of recompense, but it will never truly be possible to requite

the losses in any form of goods or services by a foreign power. If

Africans need money, it need not be asked for under guise of slave

reparations. We ought not bestow these requites of shallow money and

assistance on Africa – it would distinguish them as something

different, and entrench the mindset of racism, and the paradigm of

separate treatment. Indeed, the point of this address was to display

to the chamber the impracticality of providing such “quick-fix”

solutions, and of ever hoping to properly distribute these funds

within a reasonable timeframe of effectiveness. Indeed, I believe

deeply that Africans have been abused and oppressed – yet we ought not

buy the forgiveness of Africa, nor should Africa have to accept our

payments. I urge you, to please have the foresight to not entrench

the very notions of which it is so paramount that we battle, but to

find an alternative solution to Africa’s dilemma.

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