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The Idea of Reparations for Slavery in the USA

The Concept of Reparations

Reparation is one of the most commonly used terms in the justice system. It is a concept that is used when wrongs have been done before. It refers to the act of trying to amend the wrongful acts done to a person or a community by making better laws that favor them (Coates). For instance, in the history of the United States of America, there are many wrongs that were done to people from minority cultures. The people of black descent are among those who suffered in the past in America. They were hired as slaves who worked under adverse conditions with minimum pay. The working conditions were poor, hence caused different kinds of health-related problems. The slavery of the black people showed the extent of the harm that people went through in the past.

Therefore, in the spirit of reparation, people who suffered and were victims of slavery are compensated in various forms. The compensation that happened for people or families that were used as slaves is what is called reparation. Reparation happens in different ways. Firstly, because human needs constantly keep changing with times, gender and age. As a result, when people belonging to a given race and are also women, they suffer much under slavery. Therefore, reparations seek to amend the suffering of such a group of people by introducing better practices and abolishing the past and unwanted practices that brought about suffering.

The main goal of coming up with the reparation program is to ensure the rights of different victims of circumstances are compensated (Congress. Gov). It is s legal act aimed at promoting fairness and justice. It is also the more humane thing promoted by the justice system. Most governments, such as the United States, involves the victims in making reparations. The victims state their needs and how they can be compensated well by the government. As a result, the concerned government must invest heavily in making these amendments. America should pay reparations for slavery because it intends to compensate the people who suffered during slavery and their families.

Positive Impacts of Reparation

Reparation has many positive consequences in the justice system. One of the positives that have been brought about by reparation is that it has led to some degree of fairness in the distribution of economic resources. During the days of slavery, many people of black descent were captured from their motherland and brought to America to work as slaves in the farms of the rich white people (Williams). Therefore, the blacks and their families worked for the white families while the white families made more money and became richer. As a result, more significant disparities grew in wealth accommodation. The result of this was that the blacks in America remained poor while their white counterparts became richer. Coates, for instance, writes that more than six hundred million US dollars, which was about half of the economic activities in America, was received from the slave trade. The most common slave trade that brought such a tremendous amount of wealth to the United States was the cotton produced by the black slaves working on farms of white people. Therefore, by America paying victims of slavery, some form of compensation, fairness and justice have been promoted, bringing equality in the distribution of resources.

Another positive impact of reparation is that it has brought about improved health services among the American minority tribes. During slavery, the blacks in America worked for the wealthy white families for poor pay. They worked under poor conditions without any form of health insurance. As a result, the slavery that blacks served for left them with considerable deficits in health. Because of the poor working conditions and low pay that the slaves received for their work, they remained poor; hence their families remained poor. They could also not afford health insurance as their white colleagues who had premium health insurance. The people who worked as slaves also got new diseases, some of which came from Europe (Filler). Also, during their transport from where they were captured, they went through harsh conditions resulting in poor health. As a result, some of them died on the journey, while others were left sick with severe diseases. Moreover, during the slavery days, the doctors and other medical professionals used black bodies for experiments and threw them away. Even after slavery, the black people who worked as slaves still had no access to quality health due to poverty. Therefore, reparations have promoted better health among families who served as slaves hence improving health services.

Another positive consequence that reparation would have is that it would bring about justice to the minorities. The United States is made up of people from different ethnicities. It consists of blacks, Asians, people of Hispanic origin and native Americans. Most of the people who worked as slaves were black people who were taken from Africa. The blacks comprised most slaves because they were seen as inferior due to their color. Moreover, at the time, Africa was a traditional continent; hence there were few developments. On the other hand, Europe and other parts of the world were more advanced. Therefore, when African people were employed as slaves, they were involved in forced labor. They were also paid low compensations despite working for long hours. Moreover, the slaves had no health benefit and worked under poor and sometimes dangerous conditions. Thus the black people remained poor as their white employers became richer. The low pays and poor working conditions show the injustice that the blacks had to persevere. Reparation is, therefore, a way of ensuring justice for the black people who suffered during slavery days.

Negative Impacts of Reparation

Although reparation was intended to bring justice by compensating victims of unfortunate acts of slavery, it would come with some negative consequences. One of the negative consequences it would have is that it would discredit African Americans. The act of compensating itself is not demeaning; however, when the African Americans are compensated for things done when some were not even yet born, it would discredit them as people who only rely on help to survive. Moreover, paying the victims of slavery through cash or in-kind would mean putting a price on the act of slavery (Aiyetoro 329). This act would be unfair to the African American families because the consequences of slavery they have had to endure over generations are immense and cannot be recovered through cash payment. Reparation would also bring about more divisions among the American people. Currently, the United States consist of various forms of divisions due to the differences existing in the country (Balfour 43-56). Reparation would therefore increase the divisions in the country hence limiting the unity required for economic development.

The Execution of Reparations in Other Cases

The concept of reparation is aimed at providing some form of compensation to the victims of slavery or other forms of injustice. It aims at bringing about material or other forms of benefit to the victims or families of the victims. There are various ways in which the government or the justice system would execute reparations. One of the most commonly used ways is through providing financial compensation. It involves calculating a given monetary value to the victim of slavery to compensate for the problems suffered during slavery (Craemer 639-655). In offering financial reparation, the victims social and economic status before deciding on the amount that could serve as compensation.

Another execution of reparation involves administrative programs. Administrative programs can be organized after legal programs have been established to settle the negative consequences of slavery. In such cases, reparation would involve ways intended to stop the inequality brought about by slavery. On many occasions, using administrative programs as reparation may have some adverse effects, especially if it brings about an unhealthy competition of competing with programs initiated to cub poverty and other inequalities in society. Finally, another form of reparation involves admitting the violations done to the people and promising that they would never happen again. It may also include apologies and commemorations that are often used to promote healing to the victims and the victims’ families.

If not reparations, then what

Although reparation is a good way of compensating the victims of an unwanted incident such as slavery, it is not the only way of compensation. Other people might resort to using different forms of compensation rather than using reparations. Some of the reasons against reparation include that it may bring about further divisions among the people living in a country. It may also imply attaching a financial value for human suffering, which is not the case. Therefore, other ways have been promoted to write past injustices. One of the ways of writing past injustices includes promoting reconciliation among the people living in the country (Philpott). Reconciliation can be promoted through fostering harmony and peace among the people by guidance and counselling. Alternatively, instead of compensating through cash compensation, the government can make new laws that fight against the victims’ injustices. New laws and regulations can be promoted by promoting equal development across all neighbourhoods. Through such actions, people would be able to write past injustices done to a community.

Works Cited

Aiyetoro, Adjoa. “Achieving Reparations While Respecting Our Differences: Model for Black Reparations.” Howard LJ 63 (2019): 329.

Balfour, Lawrie. “UNTHINKING RACIAL REALISM: A FUTURE FOR REPARATIONS? 1.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 11.1 (2014): 43-56.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic, 2021, Accessed 20 Sept. 2021.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. The case for reparations. Columbia University Press, 2015.

Congress. Gov. “H.R.40 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.” | Library of Congress, 2021, Accessed 20 Sept. 2021.

Craemer, Thomas. “Estimating slavery reparations: Present value comparisons of historical multigenerational reparations policies.” Social Science Quarterly 96.2 (2015): 639-655.

Filler, Louis. Slavery in the United States. Routledge, 2018.

Williams, Eric. Capitalism and slavery. UNC Press Books, 2021.


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