The ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) Reparationist Quick Guide Response is designed to be a civic engagement resource for anyone and allows supporters to take ownership of our social justice advocacy. Authorship is being encouraged from every sector and community of citizens concerned with the restorative justice of ADOS and the closing of the black-white racial wealth gap. The book From here to equality: Reparations for black Americans in the twentieth century (Darity & Mullen, 2020) will serve as our base source for the invited authors of the volumes. Each issue will contain five topical quick points from four featured authors offering their responses to commonly held opposition to reparations and/or frequently asked questions (FAQ) about a reparations program.
The inherited disadvantages of slavery and the inability to transfer wealth to ADOS descendants have been a major contributor to the bottom caste positionality of this ethnic group. This volume series is intended to encourage study and dialogue. It is an instrument for personal empowerment by creating a means for active participation of Reparationist and national coalition-building which includes petitioning for significant revision (or replacement) of the House of Representatives bill, H.R. 40, currently before the U.S. Congress.
Education and Civic Engagement – Lisa Brown
1. “Why can’t blacks achieve academically on par with whites since slavery is over and nothing is stopping them?”
Notably, fear of full citizenship for ADOS and literacy parity with whites even disturbed white female abolitionists. A literate slave-class—that could supersede illiterate whites— was untenable and stoked concerns about slave insurrections. Hence some white abolitionists advocated an end to slavery coupled with a return of freed blacks to Africa; others sought to criminalize black literacy (FHTE, paragraph 4, pp. 86 – 88). There is a tendency to understate the extent to which, in some cases, white abolitionists also were white supremacists. An argument could be made those remnants of such mentalities are mirrored in today’s academic achievement gaps between blacks and whites, especially at the PreK -12th levels.
Additionally, years and years of inferior schooling under legal segregation must be evaluated via an impact assessment. This is especially important since blacks get more years of schooling and credentials than whites from homes with similar levels of income. The rate of return is not as much of a payoff for blacks pursuing additional education as it is for whites. Such results are often misinterpreted as black academic underachievement. For example, at every level of schooling blacks have an unemployment rate that typically is twice the white rate. Blacks with a college degree have two-thirds of the net worth of whites who never finished high school.
Moreover, school desegregation at the facility level gave rise to internal segregation by curriculum and instruction via racialized tracking in schools, continuing to disadvantage black students academically. And, to top it all, there is a renewed pattern of growth in outright school segregation at the facility level.
2. “As an immigrant or a descendent of immigrants post-slavery, why am I responsible for reparations when my family came to America with nothing and worked hard to achieve the ‘American Dream’ and their wealth position?”
Choosing to come to America because of the better conditions produced by the enslavement and exploitation of black people does not provide moral exceptionally (FHTE, p. 54, paragraph 7 and p. 55, paragraph 1). Moreover, publicly provided assets such as the Homestead Act (1860-1930), that included land and residential properties and disproportionate white access to the benefits of the New Deal and the GI Bill, greatly contributed to white wealth accumulation while blacks largely were excluded from these government benefits (FHTE, p. 37, paragraphs 1-3).
Moreover, it is important to realize that there are many people, white and black, who were alive during Jim Crow and are living today in the era of mass incarceration, police executions of unarmed blacks, ongoing discrimination in housing, credit, and employment markets, and the immense racial wealth gap. The wealth divide between native black Americans (ADOS) and whites reflect a cumulative, intergenerational economic effect of American white supremacy.
3. “We cannot keep throwing money at welfare and other social programs for blacks. Nothing is legally stopping them from attending the same schools and universities as whites. The fact that other minorities can come to American and outperform blacks academically proves it’s their fault!”
Opposition to negro education remained high among whites in the 19th century. Consequently, they would prohibit ADOS from obtaining physical school learning
spaces. Many ADOS Freedman sought formal education via one-room schoolhouses. However, whites formed mobs to burn down the school buildings and churches that educated the Freedmen. The inequity in U.S. public education remains a reality in today’s public schools where high-quality educational experiences remain elusive for ADOS children.
Advanced education for the formerly enslaved was pursued via the creation of the HBCU Howard University in 1867, whose first President was Civil War General Oliver O. Howard. Nonetheless, educational tyranny and disruption for the Freedmen occurred in intervals between 1865-1877 as white mobs flogged teachers or drove them away, and several of them were even murdered (FHTE, p. 141, paragraphs 5-6). Black ADOS students today are replete with personal testimonies of teachers/professors having low expectations for them or holding to deficit models about their intellectual capabilities throughout their Pk – 20+ educational experiences.
4. “It is not the Federal Government’s job to use reparations to educate ADOS with literacy and social educational deficits. That is the job of each State to do per their Constitution.”
ADOS education is a matter of government repair and a federal responsibility above and beyond state practices and policies. During the Civil War, the federal government paid the housing expenses for critical employees (including teachers) with aid from the National Freedman’s Relief Association of New York (along with other philanthropic groups). They provided education to 2,500 students on weekdays, one-third of whom were adults who came to classes at the end of the workday. The notion of a federal national teacher workforce of ADOS educators should be explored. (FHTE, p. 132, paragraph 6; p. 133, paragraph 1).
5. “Why should you people get college debt forgiveness? I worked hard and race-specific favor for blacks is not fair and illegal!”
Student debt forgiveness, particularly for students who have attended public institutions, should be a benefit for all Americans. Nevertheless, the goal of closing the racial wealth gap between blacks and whites should remain a priority. Therefore, measures that serve to increase the economic debt burden via student educational loans among black ADOS families —who are not yet made whole through a reparations program—should be abolished.
Lost Cause Advocates’ Objections to Black Reparations – Sandy Darity
6. Hasn’t the debt already been paid in the blood of 700,000 lives lost during the Civil War?
First, close to half of those lives were lost by the Confederates who were fighting to preserve slavery. Second, among the Union losses were a significant number of black soldiers who were fighting for their liberation, and they died at higher rates than white soldiers. Third, ending the harm of slavery, even at great cost, is not the equivalent of compensating for the harm of slavery. Fourth, and finally, had the south agreed to compensated emancipation far fewer lives would have been lost. Depending upon when compensated emancipation was agreed upon, slavery could have ended without the great war being fought in the first place (FHTE, pp. 245-246).
7. Only 1 percent of white southerners owned slaves, so why place a burden on the overwhelming majority of Americans who had no connection to slavery?
In fact, in the southern states that formed the Confederacy with the smallest proportion of whites owning enslaved persons, at least one-quarter of whites lived in families that owned at least one black body. In South Carolina and Mississippi, more than half of whites lived in families that owned at least one black slave. More than half of white slave-owning families held between 2 and 10 persons in bondage. Non-slave owning whites frequently were strongly connected to the system of slavery via work as slave catchers, overseers, traders with plantations, and the entire structure of policing the enslaved population. Even in the north, the cotton sector played a monumental role in economic growth, particularly via the textile industry and the development of the stock exchange (FHTE, pp. 65-68).
8. What about the fact that thousands of blacks owned slaves in the south?
About 3,000 free blacks owned 20,000 people in 1860. Approximately 0.5% of the total of 4 million enslaved. The 3,000 slaveholding blacks, themselves, were less than 1% of the 477.000 free blacks in the United States (FHTE, p.313 n.83).
9. Native Americans deserve reparations. What about them?
There is some ambiguity about whether some reparations already have been paid to Native Americans. However, if you think there still is an additional case, we encourage you to develop that case. It simply is not the same case as the one for black American descendants of U. S. slavery. The Native American case was primarily a sovereignty claim; the black American case is a claim for full citizenship. They should not be merged.
10. Slavery was so long ago. Why do you keep bringing it up?
The effects of slavery extend to the present moment, particularly, since the formerly enslaved never were granted any form of restitution. At least three enslaved blacks were alive deep into the 20th Century. Two of them, Cudjo Lewis and Redoshi, who had been kidnapped in Benin, and smuggled into the U. S. in 1860–fifty-two years after the importation of enslaved blacks into the U. S. was no longer legal, died in 1935 and 1937, respectively. And William Casby, who was born in Algiers, Louisiana, in 1857, and died in 1970. As of August 2020, there is at least one living black American who is the daughter of an enslaved person. For most black Americans, the enslaved ancestor is only four generations in the past. Many blacks living today have a grandparent who was acquainted with an enslaved ancestor (FHTE pp.240-243).
“Common Sense” Objections to Black Reparations – Kirsten Mullen
11. Reparations payments on the scale that you advocate would bankrupt the country.
What underlies this comment is a belief that the scarcity principle underlies federal government expenditure, that if the government spends on Peter it must take from Paul. But the federal government’s budget does not operate in the same way as a household’s budget. While state and local government expenditures are constrained by tax revenue and a household’s expenditures are constrained by its income and wealth, the federal government faces no such constraint. As the recent episode of “stimulus” spending, in response to the coronavirus crisis, has shown the federal government can mobilize huge sums of money without raising taxes. The only barrier to additional government spending is the inflation risk, a matter that must be taken into account in crafting any new federal expenditure program (FHTE, pp. 264-268).
12. All of these problems would be resolved if black people just got their family life in order. Aren’t these inequalities due to blacks having so many female-headed families?
The family structure does not explain the disparities. White single-parent families have more than two times the wealth of black two-parent families (FHTE, p.33).
13. Why should America pay reparations to Black Americans for being unable to manage the land they acquired?
The failure to grant ex-slaves an initial stake in American property ownership and the subsequent land taking from blacks under threat of white terrorism has contributed to the comprehensive denial of black wealth accumulation. In addition to the barriers to land ownership, black homeownership was restricted throughout the twentieth century by discriminatory redlining, differential access to government finance for home mortgages, and most recently, by the subprime mortgage crisis induced by the banking system’s loan-pushing schemes (FHTE page 212, paragraph 4).
14. What is the basis for black’s reparations claim?
In the case of black American descendants of US slavery, the case is anchored not just on the horrors of slavery, but also on American apartheid or Jim Crow, and contemporary, ongoing discrimination and the devaluation of black lives. Slavery set everything that followed in motion, but the bill of particulars must include the host of barriers to full citizenship for black American descendants of US slavery that continue to the present day. These include ongoing segregation in neighborhoods where safety and amenities are markedly diminished, where there is greater exposure to inferior schooling, and where there is an increased likelihood of violent encounters with the police and the criminal justice system–all of which are a consequence of the general social disregard for black lives. (FHTE page 5, paragraph 4, and page 6)
15. Haven’t blacks already received Affirmative Actions as reparations?
Affirmative action is an anti-discrimination measure. While, when properly enforced, it can mitigate or stymie employment discrimination, it is not designed to compensate victims of such discrimination for the harms they have incurred. Moreover, affirmative action only can have a significant impact on income, not wealth, which is produced primarily by intergenerational transmission effects (FHTE pp.248-250).
Paraphrasing Malcolm X, affirmative action and debt forgiveness help pull the knife out of a back that has been stabbed, but they do not heal the wound.
Entrenched Mindsets/Anti-black Sentiment – Steven Cannon
16. Wouldn’t reparations only create more animosity between the races?
Congressional adoption of a black reparations plan will require wide popular support. White America must come to terms with its false beliefs about “Black Behavior” and with the sanitized version of the nation’s history. (FHTE p. 244, paragraphs 2-4). There may be a hostile minority that continues to resist the nation meeting its 155-year-old debt, and we should be prepared to address their opposition.
17. Why is urban gentrification a reparations issue?
Predominantly black independent districts were produced due to the constraints imposed upon ADOS by whites, who preferred residential segregation. This phenomenon led to the development of black-owned commerce sectors and stable middle-income black communities. However, over time the Jim Crow neighborhoods inhibited by blacks were subject to demolition. “Negro removal” practices demonstrate how racial inequality evolved to the detriment of ADOS today. More than half a century after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “negro removal” processes (in the form of gentrification) still operate specifically to undermine economic opportunity and family well-being for Black Americans (FHTE p. 221, paragraph 4).
18. Why are reparations a current political issue?
As W.E.B. DuBois observed only seven years after Andrew Johnson’s notorious 1866 Swing Around The Circle, northern white’s appetite for the vigilant support of black citizenship was already in eclipse. The nation betrayed Freedman and compromised by paying the price (renewed subjugation of Blacks), demanded by Southern whites, as part of the defeated Confederate’s reconciliation package. Americans–particularly ADOS– have been besmirched as a consequence of that decision in the form of vehement anti-blackness and generational childhood poverty for blacks (FTHE page 204, paragraph 3).
19. Why is the overall poorer health and life expectancy for Black Americans a reparations issue?
The health of Black ADOS people is more consistently placed in jeopardy than that of white Americans. Blacks are far likelier than whites to live in communities located near hazardous-waste sites and to suffer from nitrogen dioxide exposure. The ADOS citizens are two times more likely to lack potable water and acceptable public health sanitation than whites. (FHTE page 235, paragraph 3) Black mortality from the COVID-19 pandemic is at least three times as high as the rates for other racial/ethnic groups.
20. Why are Americans as a whole responsible for the conditions of black Americans and why should we support reparations?
The United States government bears responsibility for maintaining the legal and authority framework that produced the atrocities directed against black American descendants of U.S. chattel slavery. After 1877, blacks were left fully exposed to white supremacist brutality and armed domination. The consequences were palpable in the enormous death toll resulting from white murders of blacks throughout the south. Reconstruction which served to elevate black political influence had been violently overthrown. The promise of emancipation was stymied and in tragic ruins at the behest of an alliance for white supremacy between both the white north and white south. A national debt owed to ADOS to achieve the material conditions for full citizenship remains unfulfilled (FHTE page 166, paragraph 4). The terms of acknowledgment, redress, and closure must be met by the federal government.
ADOS Reparationist Quick Guide – Volume 1 Issue 1 prepared by Reparationists:
Lisa R. Brown, BS, MPA, University of Akron; Ph.D. Adult Education, University of Georgia Twitter: @Ambidextrous_X
Steven C. Cannon, BBA, Business Administration, LeMoyne-Owen College (HBCU). Twitter: @SonMemphis
William A. Darity, BA, Brown University; Ph.D. Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Twitter: @SandyDarity
A. Kirsten Mullen, BA, University of Texas – Austin, Folklorist and Arts Consultant and the Founding President of Artefactual Twitter: @IrstenKMullen