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New Money Does Not Heal Old Wounds: Reparations To Descendants Of Slaves

1012 words - 4 pages

The debate over reparations to descendants of slaves contains a wide range of diverse viewpoints and involves many ethical, moral and legal issues (Bowman). To properly analyze this complex situation and form an educated opinion, one must understand the basic pieces forming the reparations puzzle. Understanding who was impacted by the institution of slavery, when they were impacted, how they were impacted, where slavery took place, and what exactly took place will help create a better understanding of both sides of the debate. It has been estimated that a half of a million slaves were shipped to the United States from Africa in 1807, the year the slave trade was abolished. However, the slave population grew to four million by 1860 (Bowman). When the Civil War ended and the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865, the bill to abolish slavery, ex-slaves still suffered from harsh discrimination. The topic of slavery and the reparations to the descendants of those slaves is a complicated one. The decision to support or deny slave reparations affects millions of people: those who will receive payment and those who will pay. The argument presented in this essay will display that reparations for slavery are not only complicated but impossible to accurately distribute. The lack of historical documentation and the impact on those who were uninvolved in the institution of slavery that will have to pay the price will display some of the many reasons why reparations simply should not happen.
First of all, reparations for the descendants of slaves are hard to justify with all the complications that follow. One objection to reparations is the large majority of Americans that are not descendants of slaves or slave owners. Numbers of Americans who can trace their lineage back to an actual slave owner are minimal (Bowman). This large portion of America’s population would have to pay for any reparations due to the fact that any and all reparation payments come from taxpayer dollars. Telling a citizen to pay for something that neither they nor their ancestors had anything to do with will be a tough argument to support. One also may question how much reparation money must be paid to heal the wounds of a person’s ancestors as well as how close must one be related to a former slave to receive the benefits? With many important questions left unanswered, the argument supporting reparations does not hold its ground.
Secondly, understanding the supporting view of slave reparations is essential to achieving a well-rounded, educated opinion. One argument supporting reparations states that free labor was used by private companies of the past to maximize profit. These companies should be held liable for taking advantage of slavery according to the reparation supporters (Bowman). However, these companies, which may or may not exist after such a long time, will realistically not be held accountable for paying back any portion of the profits earned. As stated earlier, the...

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