I refer to the idea of financial reparations to African Americans for slavery and Jim Crow laws and to Native Americans for the theft of an entire country and breaking every treaty I have ever read about in a history book. This blog entry is my thoughts and I am still fleshing my ideas out, but I think this is a good start.
After all my studies of US history, my analysis of historical Anglo-America is that, as a whole, we have an exploitation addiction. Step nine of a twelve-step recovery program is “make direct amends to such [harmed] people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” I think, as a country, we are ready for step nine, though you could argue with events like the 2017’s Charlottesville, VA troubles that, as a country, we have not reached step eight in recovery.
Also, one can argue that when slavery took place it was a legal activity and considered morale, that it is unfair to judge a past society by modern standards. In the case of Native Americans it was conquest of a people’s (all 562 recognized tribes’) lands and that was considered acceptable at the time to our Anglo American ancestors—reference all the wars ever fought in Europe, especially the hundred years war, for examples of conquest is acceptable.
I do not mean to judge our ancestors. I mean for Anglo America to make amends for what was done to both African Americans & Native Americans, even though it was legal part of the time and illegal the other part of the time. Anglo America stole labor from African Americans when they were slaves. We stole African American rights for participation in our democracy, lives through lynching, and legislated disadvantage toward them during and after the Jim Crow era. We steal African American lives as illustrated in the higher incarceration rates and higher death rates at the hands of police. We stole the land and natural resource wealth of the country from Native Americans by conquest, with only small exception. But in conquering we did not make Native Americans full citizens until 1924, with full rights and equal treatment under the law. I would argue that all minorities still strive for equal and fair treatment under the law, but that is a another blog entry for future day.
To make amends implies a wrong was done. If I as a representative of Anglo America apply the golden rule to the historical and current situation, I would not think it acceptable or right for someone else to get paid for my labor. I would would not stand for someone using violence to prevent me from voting or otherwise participating in democracy. I would not put up with lynchings and other acts of terror perpetrated against my community to suppress that community. I would not put up with every contract (treaties made with Native Americans) being broken without penalty or redress in the courts by the U.S. government. I would revolt as our forefathers revolted in 1776 against the British for far less egregious treatment by an offending people.
In the spirit of the golden rule, I think each of us should look out for the maintenance of constitutional and human rights, equal treatment under the law and fair treatment by society of all the people we meet and know. Not an easy thing at any time, but worthy of the lofty ideals that founded this nation. The political will that would flow from this rights protective application of the golden rule would be unstoppable, I think, and could be applied to other cases that need to be addressed, such as the opioid epidemic.
The result of the history of Anglo America’s treatment, legislation and prejudice against both Native Americans and African Americans, in general, has been a soul crushing poverty—a own no boots or bootstraps type of poverty in far too many cases. How do you cure poverty? You cure poverty with money combined with opportunity. People want to better themselves and their situation and are prepared to work for that betterment.
Excellent TED talk on character & poverty.
I propose an intentionally discriminatory tax on Anglo America of 1% of income, because Anglo America’s massive wealth was built through exploitation.* The money from the tax is to fulfill all government obligations to Native American Reservations by treaty to the fullest extent possible, provide the difference up to a median income level for working poor and unemployed, pay for all schooling one time through the education system up to a doctorate degree and set up funds to encourage and enable business opportunity.
How do we determine who is African American or Native American? Anglo America in its past discriminated on a one-drop rule. I suggest we use that as the qualifying criteria for reparations. If you argue, there are so many more qualifying people now than at the end of slavery or the end of Jim Crow Laws? I say, consider the extra people as interest on the financial and moral debt.
For how long do we pay this reparation? My thought is since the wrongs of slavery, Jim Crow laws, discriminatory practices and faithless treaties have caused poverty and disadvantage from the nation’s birth to the modern day, 242 years would be a good duration.
But the national debt is so big already? Circumstances should not influence a courageous people from doing the right thing. The longer we put off doing what is right, the more difficult it becomes.
Are paying reparations fair to people newly immigrated to the USA or who had no ancestral benefit from slavery or conquest? No, my suggestion is not fair. But if you wish to talk about fairness, how could the theft of people from their homes and country into slavery or the conquest of people be remotely considered fair. We can recognize and point out a wrong that was done in the past and do what is right in supplying redress to those people who have been wronged.
Use the comment section to let me know what you think about my logic and proposal.
* I realize far more minority people than African Americans and Native Americans have been at the short end of exploitation. Example: after the 1848 Treaty of Hidalgo, the US Government promised to honor all Mexican land rights in what is today New Mexico, Arizona, California and part of Nevada. The US government failed to protect those land rights on a spectacular scale through creative interpretation and forceful modification of the treaty, thus, in my mind, allowing the outright theft of the majority of the land in those states that legally belong to Mexicans that opted to become US citizens between 1848 and 1849.
This blog entry fails to consider everyone who has been exploited at their place of employment through illicit and corrupt business practices and one-sided pro-business legislation from the time of the American Revolution through the Gilded Age to the current era of union busting. This blog entry fails to include women and unequal pay and poor workplace treatment they have experienced.
You probably noticed I employ the Golden Rule in this blog entry and have mentioned it in previous entries. I find the Golden Rule to be an excellent life and fairness compass. Being human, I fail to practice it to perfection, but do the best I can each day.