It’s insane that I would even have to say this in the year 2016. The first promises of reparations for slavery that came from the United States Government were made in 1865. They were retracted a year later by president Andrew Johnson, who, when he vetoed the bill stated that he believed the reparations “it proposes would not be consistent with the welfare of the country.” [Strangely, in that same veto, he says that it was also bad for the Freedmen it was supposed to benefit because white men were exploiting the system for personal gain at the expense of the Freedmen. Even when the president acknowledged that white people were the problem, he still chose to punish Black people.]
Since then, Black people in America have been forced to deal with the KKK, Jim Crow laws, housing redlining, mass incarceration, and so much more than all of that. Today, in 2016, people all over the country are trying to re-segregate public school systems and make it harder for Black people to vote. In Louisiana, a state where 32% of the population is Black, we have elected outspoken white supremacists into public office in the very recent past. And now the government acts like it owes Black people less than ever?
Reparations are overdue. It’s embarrassing. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) has proposed legislation every year since 1989 asking the government to simply acknowledge the damage slavery has done to the Black population and form a committee to study options for reparations for that damage. A committee! Imagine, a committee so frightening that even a government--the #1 producer and consumer of committees--does not want to form it. If Congress is so convinced that reparations are too complicated, or not necessary, why not at least do the research to back up the argument? Why not at least know you’re doing the right thing, instead of just insisting that you are? Sometimes that’s enough, but in this situation, too many people bear the direct impact of the guess. The percentage of the population of Louisiana that is Black is second in the nation only to Mississippi, and Louisiana’s legislators should be vocally supporting this research out of obligation for it’s citizens.