Are Reparations the Answer to Inequality in the US or the UK? 

The narrative of reparations has been revisited within recent times. In fact, it is part of the Senator Booker’s (US) manifesto, in his bid for the Democratic Presidential Candidate. I caught his interview on @blackcoffee recently. One of the key questions raised was: would reparations raise the economic status of black people? Generally, Booker’s response was vague, to say the least. Theoretically, he explained that reparations are a repayment of debt owed, not a cure for the disease (confused emoji here).

For those who may be ignorant of what reparations are, I will give a brief insight. Reparations represent compensation for being trafficked and enslaved in the Atlantic Slave Trade. It would be restitution paid to the descendants of slaves for slavery and the decades of lawful discrimination that followed it. From a moral perspective, this is a wonderful idea. However, from an economic perspective the logistics are questionably flawed. Not to get too political or to take sides, I would like to delve into the practicality (if any) of this phenomenon. A pertinent question: how would the beneficiaries be selected? A question raised by another Senator (Mitchell McConnell). If you know your history well, there were also free black people during the time of slavery. Should their descendants benefit from reparations?

Another key concern is how do we calculate how much is owed. Transitional justice, I agree is necessary and is due, but what is the monetary value of it. I don’t know where exactly my ancestors originated, nor do I know to whom they were sold or for how much; how many owners (masters) they had; if they escaped and to where. The research for reparations would be extensive and costly. If this Bill is actually passed (which I doubt), what would become of the US economy? The estimated figure for the US alone was half a trillion dollars! With the current African American population around 38 million people, this will equate to $13,157.89 per person! This nominal figure brings me back to my original question, how would this raise the status of black people? Agreeably, this may be more money than one had the day before, but this money really cannot provide you with true wealth or power, nor would it erase the issue of driving while black or the many other prejudices dealt to the black population. Rich black people are also stopped and searched by eager white police officers.

My understanding is that reparations should give black people an equal playing field to the majority, but that shift is deep-seated and much more cultural than it is financial. First and foremost, we are judged by how we look, and these preconceived biases keep us at a disadvantage, more than the money in the bank. Justice is due and it is due now, not in incremental improvements, but across the board – the way we are addressed, where we are housed, the education system, the legal system, even the hiring system. No amount of guilt money paid for the ills of slavery will ever compensate for the continued discrimination, nor would it stop the prejudice, if there isn’t a social movement for change.

Dara D

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