Reparations isn’t meant to SOLVE racism or discrimination. It’s absurd to make the issuing of reparations contingent on whether it will cure discrimination or change white people’s hearts. There’s a debt that needs to paid over a sustained period of time, as slavery happened over a sustained period of time. Richard Wolff’s argument is basically ‘White ppl won’t like it, they’ll retaliate, and it won’t end discrimination, so….meh’. Reparations for Black American descendants of Slavery (#ADOS) is not a ‘cash-payments-for-a-few-years’ kind of thing. It was and could never be that kind of thing.
To fully understand what I’m referencing, watch Richard Wolff address the issue in his Democracy At Work video posted Aug 12 2019 (start at 15:36):
First, anyone who argues that ‘nothing changed in the past from #reparations so, meh’ means that they’ve set themselves up as a psychic and a fool. Wolff seems to be comparing a system of distribution created approx 80 years ago – for a direct atrocity that lasted around 4 yrs – to what HAS YET TO BE CREATED in America in the 21st century for an oppressive system that has lasted 400 yrs.
That’s 400 years worth of slavery, Jim Crow, medical experimentation, redlining (de jure segregation), environmental t3rr0r!sm, mass incarceration, predatory lending (looking at you Wells Fargo, BofA), gentrification, prison gerrymandering, and the decades of being locked out of the major benefits of the New Deal, Social Security and the GI Bill while the white middle class was created.
At best, post WWI reparations between nations can be a teaching tool, not a step-by-step set of instructions for the 21st century from one government directly to it’s own citizens.
Wolff doesn’t really know how reparations is going to change the lives of the average Black descendant of slavery who’s only worth $1,700 once depreciating assets are subtracted. Or maybe he does and this argument is just a dodge? A sort of “Yes, you deserve reparations but you can’t have it because____ (fill in the blank with a stupid assertion)’. Who knows.
Wolff is only guessing based on something that happened in WW1/WW2/whenever. And he’s ignoring the fact that earnest people pushing for reparations may have studied what didn’t work from past systems of compensation, and may have formulated ways to prevent the repetition of similar mistakes (if there were any).
Second, reparations is payment for work that has already been done. America became AMERICA because black bodies were currency. Black bodies were the stocks that were traded back and forth to increase slaveowner’s wealth and to build industries.
American descendants of slavery aren’t poor by accident, or chance, or happenstance, or fate. They are poor for a very specific reason. The work has already been done but the inability to benefit from that labor and intellectual property was enshrined into law. And it happened for GENERATIONS, not just a few years or a few decades.
That means while industries changed, technology evolved, and white life (itself not hobbled by crushing discrimination) improved exponentially, Black people weren’t even in the race. Black people weren’t even full people. Black people were tools to be used to build someone else’s wealth. And even if poor white people didn’t own slaves, they also weren’t hobbled, en masse, by Black Codes, sundown-town policies, or sued by whites who wanted to evict them from certain neighborhoods for decades.
America became a viable option for immigrants to enter because of the work that was already done by Black enslaved Americans. So even if one entered post-1865, they were most likely hired by industries that were created or made stronger by enslaving Black people. If they set up businesses, their customers could afford their goods because of the system created by slavery. Many of these immigrants at some point slid right into the ‘whiteness’ that afforded them the opportunities to rise financially. That ‘whiteness’ wasn’t an option for most Black people.
Third, if Black ppl had to wait for white people to STOP being racist and vengeful, we’d still be slaves. Not one civil right for Black people was granted with the approval of all of white America. That’s not how life works.
Further, nobody cares what Black people think when they seek to right wrongs against other groups. Nobody asked Black Americans how they felt about the U.S. paying compensation to the Japanese and their families who were in internment camps. Descendants of slaves had nothing to do with that. But did we as a group fight to keep that from happening? Or, fight against it because it wouldn’t end racist nationalism? No.
Black people had their land stolen for centuries and now own 1% of all rural land in America. Despite that, Trump is prepared to compensate farmers $12 BILLION just for his China trade war foolishness. Nobody asked Black people if these farmers — some of whom may have inherited ill-gotten land — should get further compensation and financial protection from the federal government.
I guess Wolff’s ivy league education prepared him well to inevitably come to conclusions like these. Slavery helped fund and build the ivy league. Yale “inherited” a slave plantation which it used to fund it’s graduate program and scholarships. Some of the people who funded Harvard owned slaves and got their money from shipping slaves across the Atlantic. At least 2 of Harvard’s presidents bought slaves to work on campus! And on and on.
At this point, anyone saying they don’t understand how reparations could happen is either ignorant and being purposely obtuse. And anybody against reparations is basically saying they’re against paying people for the work they’ve done.
It’s not our fault that generations of white people before now were too despicable or lazy to handle reparations with the dignity it deserves. The process of paying off that debt and moving the descendants of the builders of America from a bottom caste into full citizenship begins with substantial, sustained reparations. It must be done. Period.
It is intellectually lazy to make a ‘what difference will it make’ argument or to make a case about how ‘it won’t end discrimination… so why bother’.
I don’t care about white people’s hearts. Too many allegedly liberal Congressmen and Congresswomen have chosen their white constituents’ hearts over the rights of Black people already.
When important decisions were to be made between extending full financial benefits of citizenship to Black people, OR letting everybody suffer until the heinous system was corrected, liberals ALSO chose subsidizing white America and letting Black Americans languish in separate-and-unequal residential housing and schools.
In Wolff’s argument, I also hear him choosing white feelings over Black poverty created by decades of de jure segregation and all of the other racist a$s-whoopings we’ve had to endure even as full American citizens. I don’t want to hear how reparations are necessary, but we have to build ‘white fragility’ into the architecture of a reparations plan. #Nope
So, no, waiting on people’s hearts to change is not a concern that should be paired with whether or not a reparations plan is enacted. I don’t need any particular white person’s approval on whether I should have access to civil rights or compensation from my own government for being the progeny of generations-worth of financially and socially crushed people. Those people have never needed my approval before benefiting from all that America has already offered, whether solicited or not.
I only care about the system that doesn’t hand out vicious consequences for discrimination in the same way it has handed out vicious consequences for being Black. The changing of this system — a system in which Wolff has excelled — begins with reparations.
Wolff’s analysis honestly makes me wonder if the white left has a full grasp on reparations or the dire statistics specifically on American Black descendants of slavery.
Check out attorney Antonio Moore’s video here: