Why White People Don’t Owe Reparations — And Why They Should Pay Them Anyway
White people now living do not “owe” Black people now living Reparations. Lord knows their ancestors did, though. After 244 years of uncompensated labor, the approximately 4.2 million Black slaves exited the horrors of American slavery in the South with nothing but the raggedy clothes on their backs, and received little to no recompense whatsoever. What little they did receive in land and in-kind gifts was largely conned, coerced, extorted, finagled, and just plain gangstered from Blacks in the Jim Crow South and beyond. But the facts are that no living White person in America has ever legally owned a Black person in America, living or dead. In addition, mandating Reparations purely on the basis of one’s skin color is itself, at this point in our history, is racist since it places mandates that all people within that racial group to pay a debt that no small number had no role in creating, such as White men and women whose ancestors did not arrive in this country until after the Civil War and the end of slavery.
However, none of those arguments change the immutable and undeniable fact that Black Americans are owed Reparations for their uncompensated labor, as well as their unprecedented sufferings and obstruction to wealth opportunity. They are most definitely owed this by the United States Federal Government, the entity that profited the most and the longest from the slave, Jim Crow, and institutional racism systems and the entity that was those unjust systems most significant architect, diabolical enabler, staunch defender, and successful effectuator. They are definitely owed Reparations by sovereign states such as England, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands who actively participated in the extraction of Africans from their native continent and the enslavement of some 11 to 13 million of them in the New World. But any demand that people of a certain color be made to reach into their pockets and give money to another group of people of another color on the basis of that skin color alone is as unjust as it feels and sound.
So how do we reconcile a group of people descended from injustice, with many presently inflicting it and currently broadly profiting from it, with the descendants of the victims of those injustices? How can we fairly make it right for the latter group without unfairly treating the former? The answer lies not in coercion but in conviction. Namely, it is time to stop attempting to coerce or compel White Americans to pay a debt that they do not owe, and to start convicting their hearts and their reason to pay a debt that must be paid.
Reparations MUST be paid to Blacks in the United States of America — they MUST. They must be paid not so much because they are owed, but because it is impossible for Black Americans to be restored — and thus all of America to heal — without them being paid. Paying Reparations is not about making the past right (the Black past in America cannot be made right — it was too horrific for too long); rather, it is about making the future right with a vibrant, just, wealthy, and sovereign America in it. Reparations must be paid mainly by White people (as well as White controlled organizations) to Blacks because, with an average net worth of White Americans households being 10–15 times that of Blacks at any given time over the past 10 years, it is White Americans who control the bulk of the wealth. And here, it should be made explicitly clear and in no uncertain terms how that money was obtained — namely, it was stolen.
Black wealth was stolen by the theft of life and freedom of the Africans brought to America against their will. It was stolen by 244 years of brutal, perverse, and legally sanctioned wage theft. It was stolen through Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, equal or excessive taxation of Blacks in exchange for unequal and inferior schools for Blacks. It was stolen by redlining and racial covenants. It was stolen by trumped up vagrancy laws used to continue bondaged labor through the intentional use and abuse of the 13th Amendment. It was stolen by mass incarceration and police brutality, debtors’ prisons, and bail policies that exploit the Black and the poor, and by denial of rights, citizenship privileges, and employment once that incarceration was concluded. It was stolen. And it was overwhelmingly stolen by White people who had or have participated in the theft, benefited from it, or both. So even if paying Reparations isn’t about who owes, it is about what is right.
The circumstances of the theft in the context of the passage of time and prevailing laws may not mandate recompense from Whites legally, but they most certainly do morally, ethically, and in terms of who possesses the stolen wealth, practically. White America should understand that these questions are not, at their root, financial decisions. Rather, they are spiritual, ethical, and moral decisions with financial implications. And for Blacks, those implications have been profound, persistent, inescapable, and in far too many cases, deadly. AASRT, Inc.’s call for Reparations from people White, Black, and otherwise then is not a demand for White people to pay what “is due,” but an opportunity for all White people to do what is right. Our organization has put into place a turnkey web-based system at www.theaasrt.org that we call the ASRDS (or the Automated Slave Reparations Disbursement System) that directs 70% of all Reparations assets into the ASRDS, ensuring that every registrant will receive an equal amount of all monies donated. After sequestering 10% of the money for administrative costs, 20% will be directed into wealth building activities related to banking, equity market participation, lost and stolen land recoupment, and life insurance for registrants.
Finally, we should recall the words of the biblical prophet Micah who said what God requires of us. Among these requirements was the first: was to “do what is just.” Not only does justice for African-Americans require Reparations, justice IN America requires Reparations, for if we do not act justly in this most egregious of injustices, then justice in America is at best moot and irrelevant and at worst wickedly hypocritical and essentially non-existent. We will not continue to petition a federal government too unjust to do right. But we will continue to seek the just among us to do that which is truly the right thing to do. And the right thing for all of us to do in the matter of Reparations is to pay them.