Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Money often costs too much.”, and the price which African Americans have paid for reparations has been unscrupulous and excessive.
Jewish peoples received reparations for the holocaust, the Japanese for internment camps, African Americans for…nothing; not slavery, not Jim Crow, not the lynching of our ancestors nor the sterilization of our women, not for a damn thing. The issue of reparations, replenishment of a previously inflicted loss by the criminal to the victim, has recently been reintroduced. Recently discussed by representatives of the Democratic party, and #ADOS (American descendants of slavery), the questions “Do Black people deserve reparations?” “Do they need to be reimbursed for the act of slavery?” have been raised, and the answer is yes. African American descendants of slavery should indeed receive reparations for the abuse that was inflicted on our ancestors and for the oppressive devices that still impact us today.
When examining the United States financial industry, there is one thing which stands out from the rest: the racial wealth and wage gap is extremely wide. In fact, comparatively, for every 100 dollars earned by white non-Hispanics, black families earn only about $5.00, because “Just as past public policies created the racial wealth gap, current policy widens it.” (thenation.com). This issue has been created through a long-standing tradition of oppressive policies created by the United States government including, but not limited to the following:
- Predatory Lending Practices
- works through force or fraud
- Includes “Rent to Own”, Check Cashing, and Pawn shop facilities (A majority of which have been concentrated in black neighborhoods thus making it difficult for African American families to establish credit.)
- “40 acres and a mule”
- This was the first attempt at reparations for African Americans for slavery
- “General William Tecumseh Sherman issued an order in South Carolina. He wanted 40 acres and the loan of an Army mule set aside for each former slave family.” however, “This order was never carried out.” (crf-usa.org). White families were able to accumulate hundreds of years of wealth through slavery, and Black families were not given even a penny for their labor.
- Jim Crow along with de-facto and de-jure segregation have left African American families with poor living conditions as well as little wealth and finances.
- “Redlining” which is derived from policies created in 1933 by the Homeowner Loan Corporation refer to “a discriminatory pattern of disinvestment and obstructive lending practices that act as an impediment to home ownership among African Americans and other people of color.”
- resulted in 98% of home loans going to white families between 1934 and 1962. Once again, white Americans were given the opportunity to acquire wealth building vehicles like homes, and Black families were not.
- Two major financial crashes since 1983 have caused the wage gap to broaden because between then and 2013, the average wealth of white households increased by 84%. -three times that of African American homes according to IPS (the Institute for policy Studies).
- “During Reagan’s last year in office the African American poverty rate stood at 31.6%, as opposed to 10.1% for whites. Black unemployment remained double that of whites throughout the decade. By 1990, the median income for black families was $21,423, 42% below white households.” according to Lumen Learning.
- The current wage gap
- “Black men earned 73% of white men’s hourly earnings in 2015 — the exact percentage they earned in 1980.” and Black women earn 65 cents to every white man’s dollar as of 2015. (pewresearch.org)
With all of these policies (whether natural or actual law) resulting in African Americans not being able to accumulate the amount of wealth that white citizens have acquired, the question should not be “Should reparations to African Americans be distributed?” The question which should be asked is “How should reparations to African Americans be distributed?”. To that, I would propose these as viable options: paid or reduced tuition to 2 year colleges for African Americans, and the refurbishing of predominately Black communities (not to be confused with gentrifying said areas).
According to an essay composed by employees of the Federal Reserve Bank of St.Louis, “When looking at wealth (net worth, or assets minus liabilities), the median in 2013 for those” without a high school diploma was $37,766, for those with such a diploma, etc., $95,072, for those with a two- or four-year degree, $273,488, and for those with an advanced degree, $689,100 (stlouisfed.org). With the net worth of those with advanced degrees being $651,334 higher than those without even a high school diploma, it shows that one of the main factors in the matter of wealth is education. Not only this, but the percentage of White Americans age 25-29 with a bachelors degree or higher was 69% compared to only 9% of Black Americans in 2012 (pewresearch.org). African Americans, even today lack access to higher education; With this being said, by offering paid or reduced tuition for the first two years of a four year University or paid/reduced tuition to a two year college, African Americans, especially those coming from lower income areas, will be able to access wealth building vehicles which they may have not had the opportunity to benefit from.
Next I would propose the refurbishing of Black communities, not so that white businesses can push out Black citizens and gentrify said areas, but in order that the increasing of property values makes greater the amount of wealth among Black citizens. According to Estes Park team realty, “Your equity accumulates on the total value of the home,” not just on the down payment meaning that your annual return value increases…your wealth compounds over time. Not only this, but investing into Black neighborhoods means that schools systems will improve in said areas, and as prior stated -education plays a vital role in the accumulation of wealth. By the government investing into Black communities, it will in turn begin to close the racial wealth gap.
If Congress wants to throw a few checks in the mix, I’m not opposed. However, the best way to improve life in the Black community and begin to end systemic oppression, is to invest in us. It is to invest in our education, our neighborhoods, our people. Give African Americans the same opportunities that White Americans have been afforded for generations. The price we have paid to receive compensation has been far too high. African Americans deserve and should be afforded reparations.