The following statement is in the interest of full disclosure:
I have not submitted this letter to the editor for possible publication, nor will I submit it. I am satisfied with its publication on Word Press. I have submitted many letters to the editor in the past—some were published, some were not—with Word Press, all are published.
To the editor: Express-News
San Antonio, Texas
July 19, 2009
Re: Apology and reparations for slavery:
The Metro Section of July 14, 2009 included an editorial (Slavery apology is long overdue) concerning the U. S. Senate’s attempt to formally apologize to African-Americans “on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws.”
The Senate resolution is imperiled because it includes a disclaimer that “disallows its use as a basis for reparations.” The disclaimer is opposed by the Congressional Black Caucus, although it does not prevent individuals from seeking reparations—it “simply states that it can’t be used as the basis of such suit.”
A source of funds for reparations exists. The only problem with the source of funds is the unequal distribution of income it generates. I refer to the incomes of African-Americans in the United States. Some African-Americans’ earnings catapult them into the stratospheric level of our earnings atmosphere—many are multi-millionaires, some perhaps even billionaires, while other African-Americans must struggle along on modest incomes—or on welfare, albeit it rather substantial, distributed by a beneficent government. That wealth, whether earned income or entitlements paid, should be distributed equally among African-Americans.
Many will say that today’s African-Americans, some 12 percent of our population (from the 2000 census), were not exposed to the indignities, repression and cruelty of slavery in America—I am emphatically in agreement with that position—they were not exposed to the horrible conditions of slavery, and now demand that they be compensated monetarily for the suffering of their ancestors.
Moreover, neither was the remaining 88 percent of our population exposed to, nor are they responsible for, the system of slavery imposed on the ancestors of today’s African-Americans, and that segment, the “other than African-American,” should not be held accountable for it—not by paying reparations individually and not through government payments—either way the money is coming from the pockets of “other than African-Americans.” And we cannot demand reparations from those responsible for slavery—they are all long gone, either to that great plantation in the sky or to the nether regions below—regardless of their current addresses, reparation from them is neither practical nor possible.
Many, perhaps most, of today’s African-Americans appear to be united in their belief that they were somehow adversely affected by the treatment accorded their ancestors, and feel that they should be monetarily compensated through reparations paid by the federal government. I believe they should also be ready and willing to unite in “sharing the wealth,” a concept clearly voiced by our president in his campaign for the White House.
I believe that given the opportunity every African-American will willingly share with other African-Americans less fortunate, and it’s fairly certain that those less fortunate will willingly accept their compensation. It’s all a matter of racial pride, and their firm belief in the “share the wealth” concept.
Our government should take the total compensation of all African-Americans—income earned, or received through entitlements—and divide that total by the number of African-Americans in the United States, then dispense the resultant amount to each of more than 36 million African-Americans (statistic is from the 2000 census). By distributing the total compensation equally, the incomes of those existing on entitlements will be upgraded, and those earning millions each year should not be too significantly discommoded—sorely disappointed, perhaps, but not discommoded. They will simply descend from the rarified air of the millionaire strata to become part of our nation’s much-heralded “middle income” families.
Some will say that the compensation, including entitlements as well as earned income, of Americans other that those of African lineage should be part of the reparation effort, either by direct deductions from each individual’s pay or by payments from the government.
I believe that if a particular segment of our population receives monetary compensation, any part of which is taken from any group other than African-Americans, then our courts will be buried under an avalanche of law suits from other hyphenated Americans for the shameful treatment which they have endured at various periods in America’s history—Irish-Americans, for example, for their treatment early in the 19th century—the same for Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Polish-Americans (how many Polish jokes do you know?), Japanese-Americans (remember their internment and our confiscation of property in World War II?), and by the horrible working conditions, low pay and oppression endured by the many thousands of Chinese workers that were imported to help build our intercontinental railroad.
And everyone is aware of the treatment accorded Native Americans—we slaughtered their warriors, their medicine men, their women and their children and their old people indiscriminately—the official government mission in the final years of the Indian Wars was to “kill the breeders” on the assumption (correct, of course) that without the women there would be no children to grow up and become warriors—a threat to expansion.
Then we systematically slaughtered the buffalo herds, confiscated their lands, confined them to reservations and fed them on rotten beef and weevil-infested flour and meal. I realize that today’s Native Americans want their share of the American pie, but I do not recall the present population of Native Americans demanding monetary reparation for the suffering we heaped on their ancestors in our “march to the west” to build our empire.
There are many more similar groups that have suffered over the years, one way or another, since this nation was founded—they will be heard. The lawsuits might never end. Other groups will feel that reparation is due them for their ill treatment in the past—that treatment continues in many such groups, including Redneck-Americans, Gay-Americans, Hillbilly-Americans, Lesbian-Americans, ad infinitum.
I have a slogan to help make this equalization palatable for all African-Americans who feel that they are due monetary compensation for the conditions imposed on their ancestors, all of whom are long dead and gone—the slogan should be well received and endorsed by the living—those giving as well as those receiving. It is based, in part, on the dictum that “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and is compatible with the “share the wealth” concept voiced by our present administration. That slogan is:
From each African-American according to his ability, to each African-American according to his needs.
The slogan is not original with me—I simply added the term African-American in two places to identify those Americans who would most benefit from its use—some will benefit financially, and others will benefit from the altruistic nature of the system, knowing that their efforts have helped their brothers and sisters to a larger piece of the American pie.
The original slogan was coined by Karl Marx, and the system was first applied way back in history by the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It is still in use, at least in concept and in one degree or another, in several nations around the globe—since none are thriving as of this writing, it’s probably because the system is applied equally among the population rather than to a specific segment.
My suggestion applies to only one segment (about 12 percent) of our population. Unless my memory is faulty, I believe our president used a truncated version of this slogan at least once in his highly successful presidential campaign. When he resp0nded to a question from a man known as “Joe the plumber,” he used the phrase “share the wealth.”
I really admire his ability to reduce a wordy slogan to just three unforgettable words.
Let’s take a look at just two of today’s professional sports organizations—the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. In its 2004-2005 season, player salaries in the NFL totaled $3 billion, and player salaries in the NBA totaled $1.74 billion, a total of $4.7 billion for the two sport leagues (that compensation includes each player’s share of related revenues).
If just two of our sports organizations pay their players almost $5 billion each year, then we might reasonably suspect that by adding all the other sports in which African-Americans excel—nay, in which African-Americans dominate—tennis, golf and various Olympic sports, for example (Olympic stars earn millions in endorsements). In addition to sports, add in the compensation earned by African-Americans in the entertainment venues of music and movies, including rappers, actors, producers, directors, singers, song writers, record producers and others.
And let’s not forget persons of the cloth—our nation is blessed with a goodly number of African-American reverends—the actual compensation of many such persons is difficult to determine and impossible for some, but one can reasonably assume that some share the same rarified atmospheric strata of African-American millionaires and billionaires.
Oh, and there also are numerous African-Americans who have profited immensely from their writings, including historical, political and autobiographical tomes. In fact, one that comes to mind is our current president, an African-American who has done very well in his struggle up through the repressive atmosphere that exists in America. He can well afford, and should be willing, to participate in sharing the wealth with less fortunate African-Americans.
The combined compensation of all the above might possibly be enough to provide reparations to all African-Americans for the injustices they have suffered from the effects of slavery and Jim Crow laws without the need to call on anyone other than African-Americans.
My system for compensating African-Americans for the pain and suffering wrought by slavery—pain and suffering which still lingers almost 150 years after slavery was abolished—is therefore:
“From each African-American according to his ability, to each African-American according to his needs.”
Under the system suggested by that slogan, it should not be necessary to call on government entities or on any of our numerous hyphenated-Americans—Polish-Americans, Asian-Americans, Iranian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Mormon-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, and Lower Slobovian-Americans, to name just a few. Should any other segment of hyphenated Americans—Irish-Americans, for example—be forced to participate in reparations for African-Americans, then that segment would also demand reparations.
Government entities should not be involved in this system, other than to manage the equalization of the total compensation earned or otherwise received by African-Americans. Government participation would be limited to determining entitlements and distributing them to the affected persons.
In theory the reparations could continue forever, unless at some point in the future the recipients feel that they had been adequately paid for the sufferings they endured during slavery and for many years afterward. At that point the system could be dismantled and African-Americans could return to the old system, a system under which “some have,” but others “have not.”
That, of course, would never happen.