Here's your reparations money, now shut up!
March 20, 2001 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Here's your reparations money, now shut up! Another POV in the slavery reparations debate: From the conservative National Review, an argument that paying off black Americans would be worth it "if they could no longer play the race card."
posted by darren (24 comments total)
Problem is that you can pay people off (which I dont think is the right path) but that will not eliminate the racism that currently exists in our country...
posted by magellan at 6:31 AM on March 20, 2001

That's kind of the attitude I took when Dubya finally took office. Here, Pubbies, here's your "president". Now shut up.

I'm afraid it didn't work...
posted by jpoulos at 7:02 AM on March 20, 2001

I really don't think racism is a problem to begin with nationwide....yes, you do have problems with discrimination in certain areas of the U.S., but I see even more discrimination towards obese and unattractive persons than towards those of a different race. Should everyone that "cannot" contribute to the repairs instead be paid off for not helping? This has been far too long of an issue and has mostly boiled down to unfair stereotypes based on race-attitudes....if you want to really repair the damage, start there. The first step is...if we could only pretend that we are not our ancestors for 20 minutes....
posted by samsara at 7:03 AM on March 20, 2001

how silly. Almost all of our ancestors were treated terribly at one point or another. Why pay off one culture and ignore the rest? Pay us all off, or don't do it at all. Hell, I am still grieving over my great great grandfather having to give up his native lands for a bottle of whiskey and some beads. I am about to have a nervous breakdown for my Russian ancestors on the other side of my family having to work all day for a nickel in the meat packing plants in the early 1900's.
You know what? I don't know if I can make it without a big check from the government. I may just go hide in the corner now.
posted by bradth27 at 7:28 AM on March 20, 2001

I really don't think racism is a problem to begin with nationwide....

Really? From what I see everyday, I think it's still a pretty huge problem in American. Perhaps our biggest problem in this country.
posted by mathowie at 8:59 AM on March 20, 2001

Personally I think people who don't think racism is a huge problem in this country aren't looking.
posted by terrapin at 9:13 AM on March 20, 2001

It strikes me we covered this a week or two ago.. this article was just an adjunct to our own posts, really. All I can say is, just from my own knee-jerk response, reparations will do wonders for racism. It will bloom like a rose.
posted by Perigee at 9:35 AM on March 20, 2001

I think it's still a pretty huge problem in America. Perhaps our biggest problem in this country.

I'll go even farther, Matt. I think it is our biggest problem. I can't think of one bigger. At least with polution, hunger, recession, AIDS, etc., there are obvious solutions or potential solutions we can work toward. I don't think anyone has posited an end-game to America's problems concerning race.
posted by darren at 9:46 AM on March 20, 2001

Matt, I'm speaking from my point of view on the article though. And you are right. But if you take into consideration the context involves reparation money, then the answer (as to I) would be no, that is not the problem being addressed...and that is definitely not the answer to curing racism. I should have phrased differently, "I really don't think racism is the problem to begin with in context to this article..." Let me abandon that alltogther :)

The pretty huge problem in American culture that you're talking about is simply another flavor ignorance to me. Most folks, other than those heavily in the thick of this, are pretty much oblivious as to why they have these feelings of unacceptance in the first place. Now, on the other hand, you can label all you them whatever...but it doesn't really change anything about how that person feels other than they should stick with their beliefs for the sake of arguement. It's the problem of acceptance that we see from childhood to elderhood that needs to be looked at, and not just on topics that generate one-side solutions such as this one...if anything, it will make the problems worse. Regardless of race, size, sexual orientation, or anything...we all need to work towards the simple goal of acceptance and scrap whatever paradigms we've learned over the course of history that have influenced the way they have. It's an ongoing process worth exploring. All this does for me is bring up the issue of "hey, racism still exists" in hopes that we can further find a solution to a long-running ignorance. It's good that we're reminded of these problems as it makes us think of how to escape them. But, IMHO, it's not a white/black issue anymore as it was before the Civil Rights's more of "ignorant person does *issue* to *issue*. Why not continue to work together as a community to sort these things out? Or are we too tired/intolerant from all this to continue making amends? I hope this explains my take on the subject, does anyone feel that I'm mistaken? I would suppose that many people encounter racism far more frequently than I do and would have a much better observation.
posted by samsara at 10:00 AM on March 20, 2001

I'd have to say that the single biggest problem our country faces is the general lack of respect and acceptance people have for one another. The lack of respect and acceptance people have for one another because they're different colors is a close second, in my book - but at least there's a reason for it, and that reason can be shown to be foolish. The first problem doesn't really have any such motivation that can be attacked.

Unfortunately, as darren pointed out, there's not really a cut-and-dried answer to either. Both will continue to plague us for quite some time because both are so ingrained in our culture.

Fortunately, the racism problem seems to be declining as time passes, while the opposite looks to be true for the general apathy/disrespect problem.
posted by OneBallJay at 10:04 AM on March 20, 2001

I agree with you, accountingboy, but you've only got half of the picture - the flip side of our not at least respecting our differences is our appalling evasion of personal responsibility. We're so busy trying to "understand" and "affirm" and "embrace" that we seem willing to overlook the simple responsibility for our actions that comes from being a part of a civil society. I'd be willing to pay the reparations, too, if it meant that I now could hold personally responsible the parents and families of gang members (and professional athletes) for behavior that is, quite frankly, more akin to that seen in a zoo than contributing members of a civil society.
posted by m.polo at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2001

If some of this money can go to Jesse Jackson in his hour of need then I am all for it.
posted by Postroad at 4:03 PM on March 20, 2001

I'm not sure Jesse needs any of our money. Speaking of racism, I am part of the minority population (Asian) and I really can't recall being on the receiving end of obvious racism. Maybe these racists were just being subtle and clever, but I've travelled to a lot of small farm towns around central Illinois playing on my High School's basketball team and haven't experienced anything. Am I being naive and they're just snickering behind my back or what?
posted by gyc at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2001

Racism is an individual problem, but it is also a cultural and institutional problem. Ignorance is a part of it, but oppression is the overwhelming issue to be dealt with.

As m.polo pointed out, responsibility is the key. Those who reap the unearned and largely unasked-for rewards of racist oppression have the similarly unasked-for responsibility to decry (and work to upend) their privilege and the toll it takes on the rest of society.
posted by sudama at 4:58 PM on March 20, 2001

I think some of that money should be tossed towards the Native Americans. If anyone's been really pushed aside, they have.
posted by Cavatica at 5:14 PM on March 20, 2001

"... the federal government has lost, misappropriated or, in some cases, stolen billions of dollars from some of its poorest citizens.

"'The [Bureau of Indian Affairs] has spent more than 100 years mismanaging, diverting and losing money that belongs to Indians.'

"The trust accounts in question -- which hold approximately $450 million at any given time -- aren't filled with government handouts. They contain money that belongs to individual Indians who have earned it from a variety of sources such as oil and gas production, grazing leases, coal production and timber sales on their allotted lands."

American Indians are owed billions of dollars in money that is unquestionably theirs, before you even consider the issue of reparations.
posted by sudama at 5:55 PM on March 20, 2001

As m.polo pointed out, responsibility is the key. Those who reap the unearned and largely unasked-for rewards of racist oppression have the similarly unasked-for responsibility to decry (and work to upend) their privilege and the toll it takes on the rest of society.

Ah, I did say that responsibility was the key, didn't I?

But once again, you rip words out of context and contort them in support of your relentless campaign to force white America to take up the hairshirt of guilt you have so conveniently woven for us and wave about on MeFi every time the very idea of race comes up... For those of you just tuning in, what I said was quite the opposite, and foul though sudama may consider the sentiment, I stand by it in reference to the linked article and its own spirit of edge-pushing conjecture...
posted by m.polo at 6:23 PM on March 20, 2001

Who said anything about "white America"? ;)
posted by sudama at 8:00 PM on March 20, 2001

All I can say is, just from my own knee-jerk response, reparations will do wonders for racism. It will bloom like a rose.

There are only two subjects that I've ever seen get rational people so agitated that they openly spoke of participating in widespread violent civil unrest if it occurred. One is national gun confiscation. The other is financial "reparations" for slavery in any meaningful amount. If it ever happens, the best-case scenario would see race relations in this country set back a full century.
posted by aaron at 1:23 AM on March 21, 2001

Which is no argument for failing to see justice done, if it were to be found that reparations are an appropriate remedy.
posted by sudama at 7:03 AM on March 21, 2001

How about we confiscate the guns and sell them to warring parties worldwide to pay for reparations?
posted by norm at 8:09 AM on March 21, 2001

sudama: Your logic is a bit off could we rightly pay reparations for injustice that happened so long ago? I agree that this wasn't pursued anywhere as quickly as it should have in the first place, but you need responisiblity in order to serve justice...someone has to take the blame. The problem is, that everyone that was involved with the horror of slavery is now long gone...and so their motives die with them. In the U.S. court, you need proof, and proof without a reasonable doubt that someone had indeed taken the actions they are accused of. The whole reason we have that method of trial is to protect us from this type of hindsight. Think about it for a second.
posted by samsara at 10:26 AM on March 21, 2001

Disclaimer/asbestos: Of my family, I am first generation in this country, and my geneology is pure at least two steps back. And no, I'm not white. I grew up someplace where they are an extreme minority. Oh, and sorry for the huge post.

I'm tired of seeing blue-eyed blond people waving around their 1/32 American Indian registration card, hearing black people talk about Africa the homeland, and hearing about how Cuba was better.

Given that race has essentially been disproven, why don't we all just sit down and say, "I'm sorry. I can't make it better. That was pretty damn stupid," and ideally, not do it again? Racial discrimination comes down to not much more than disliking your relatives from Georgia because they have an accent.

For the sake of argument, let's accept that race is real. In any sort of situation of oppression, there will be turncoats and people that help the "other side" for whatever other reasons. Jews had the sonderkommando, slaves in any case would do what they had to do to survive which might involve helping the oppressors; I'm sure you can find other examples. How many people actually know enough of their geneology to prove their Xgreat-grandparent wasn't one of them, and should they get less money, if any? If word got out, imagine the repercussions. What about mixed-race? Should they get a percentage of what purebloods get in proportion to their mix? It starts sounding pretty stupid.
I refuse to apologize for any of this. I am not European, I am not African, my ancestry was not involved as far as I know. Yes, it sucks, but I am not responsible. If anything, some of my own ancestors might also have been enslaved. I don't know, don't want to, and if I did, I'd be over it by now.

My simple answer: You live in America, you're an American. Mistakes were made. Let's move on. And if you can't, save up and buy a plane ticket. Other than for purposes of curiosity, I cut ancestry off at two generations. Once you start dividing people up into eighths, things start to seem a bit arbitrary. Plus it makes it makes plane fare a hell of a lot more expensive.

In the end, the point is that nothing has occurred which is not a part of nature. In general, the bigger, meaner animal with bigger teeth/claws/guns wins the fight. It's callous, but simply: true. Humans can do incredibly ugly things to each other for stupid reasons. Money will not make it better. Think about slaves picking cotton in a field. Money was part of the PURPOSE of slavery. Just makes reparations look like that vacation pay they never got.

I agree with Samsary(often, actually). Fight the stupidity instead.
posted by Su at 12:54 PM on March 21, 2001

As samsara observed, the biggest hope for the End of Racism In America is that we are no longer black and white. Latinos are now the largest minority. The proportion of South Asians and East Asians is growing every year, as are intermarriages of all races. One day, it won't even be possible to discriminate by race.

Of course, this doesn't mean that people won't discriminate on some other basis. Ending racism could be easier than ending ignorance
posted by Loudmax at 10:37 PM on March 21, 2001

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