Since reparations is back in the news thanks to BET founder, Bob Johnson, let me break this down real simple. No political spin for Democrats or Republicans. Whites or blacks. Particularly though for my white friends who get so angry at the very mention of slavery and its lingering impact. Some even deny that it has had a lingering impact, admonishing black people to "just get over it."
I've been black all of my life and never can I recall any black person walking around with slavery top of mind. But one thing we do know, while it may not be top of mind, we all know that we're still at the bottom economically because of it.
It's easy to holler "get over it" when you're not the low man or woman on the totem pole, and have been for generations because you were for hundreds of years, treated no better than an animal and denied the opportunity to earn and compound wealth.
Slavery not only robbed us of our identity, culture and dignity, but it put us so far behind the 8-Ball economically that only by the grace of God, the sacrifices of many, including lives taken way too soon; and, sheer determination that we've made it this far.
I know many would disagree, but it is what it is. Truth is not subjective, neither do facts lie.
Let's examine further. Generational wealth is built over time, through generations and a generation is 40 years. Let's do the math shall we?
At the time of the Declaration of Independence (1776), African slavery was legal in all 13 colonies.
By the time of the American Revolution, slavery had become institutionalized. Blacks were considered by whites not as human beings but chattel (property). Whites considered only themselves as human. The chattel worked. They could not own the land they worked on. Only whites could who profited off their blood, sweat and back-breaking labor.
Whites in turn passed down not only the wealth earned by the chattel, but also the chattel.
Chattel was forbidden from learning to read though they built the schools. Knowledge and opportunities to become educated were passed on generationally by and through whites. Not so for the chattel.
Whites progressed through cohesive family units working together, building family-owned businesses. Chattel could not form cohesive family units. They were property not "people" and children, men and women were sold to work for no wages. No wages. And absolutely no opportunity to form lasting familial units.
White "family-owned" businesses, by way of free chattel labor, were made astronomically profitable because but for the minimal cost of some materials (even the trees for lumber were cut down by the chattel), there were no labor costs and no wages to be paid, so every bit of it was all straight profit. Making their businesses exponentially profitable as those businesses grew and were passed to the next generation and grew even wealthier, or sold at a profit. But for the chattel - nothing. Not one cent.
Slavery began in America in 1619 and didn't end until 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment. Folklore has it that blacks were enslaved for 400 years, but that's not accurate. Sounds good and it gives for many black Christians an affinity with Hebrews, enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. But slavery in America lasted 246 years not 400.
So do the math. Blacks in America have been free for less time than when we were slaves. We were slaves for 246 years, we've only been free for 155. It is mind-boggling to think that we were slaves longer than we have been free!
If 40 years is a generation (and it is), from 1619 to 1865 is 246 years; or, rounded six generations. For six generations, white slaveholders accumulated wealth, black slaves accumulated nothing!
During this period, slaveholders and their families built their legacies on the institution of slavery and generated wealth that African Americans could not have ever imagined. Still to this day, can't. Add to this, 100 years of Jim Crow laws, until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Segregation maintained wealth disparities and overt and covert discrimination in everything from housing to banking to education to employment significantly limited African American economic efforts.
So tell us again how we can just "get over" starting from being 246 years behind educationally, economically and socially?
To put that in context; in one generation whites accumulated thousands; the second generation tens of thousands; the third generation hundreds of thousands --- and the accumulation of wealth and the ability to create wealth kept right on rolling full steam ahead. For African Americans, zilch, nada, zero.
No African American earned, in 6 generations, wages. Free labor for 246 years. Generation after generation after generation after generation after generation after generation. Not to mention the inventions and recipes stolen in those 246 years which slaves conceived and developed, but couldn't own and patent. Whites claimed them as their own. Capitalized on them without paying one dime to the African American who conceived and invented it
African Americans were denied the opportunity to capitalize on their own concepts which would have assured economic viability. Instead, whites took, capitalized on, some even building their brands, empires and institutions on such (i.e., Jack Daniels). Handing down as theirs through generations profitable businesses and brands built on the backs of blacks. African Americans in turn received no pay, no residuals and zero net sum gain.
How could African Americans then build wealth? It's not that African Americans were lazy, far from it. It's that they were shut down and shut out of the very system of capitalism which they had labored to build, while being treated as less than human beings and compensated with nothing.
Add to this loses from systemic racism from 1964 onward. Negative economic impact? Astronomical negative economic impact. Who can put a price tag on such generational injustice and grave disparity?
So when many fall in with the untrue argument that blacks should be further along and the playing field is now equal - it is not. It was never equal and can never be equal. Such loses can never be regained, certainly not recouped. And never can be brought into balance.
White slaveholders for generations figuratively, had their boot on the neck of African Americans and even today, many still literally have their knee to the neck of African American men, as we have watched in horror the saga of George Floyd play out in front of our eyes.
But don't be deceived. White Democrats and white Republicans all benefitted, still are. It wasn't their party, but their race from which they benefited at the expense of generations of African Americans.
Yes, black people are and have been historically at an economic disadvantage because of the legacy of slavery and systemic racism.
It was impossible to build wealth while for six generations being physically and psychologically chained and not paid one dime of wages. And, for the 100 years post slavery, subjected to the most dehumanizing indignities second only to being enslaved.
It's like beginning a race, spotting a white runner six feet from the finish line with the black runner chained to the starting block. Then, shoot the starter gun, wave the flag as the white runner takes six steps across the finish line, while the black runner is never able to free himself from the starting block. How can the black runner catch up when the race has been thrown?
There is no catching up and there can never ever be any reparations. What price reparations? Lives destroyed. The potential for generational wealth and prosperity forever lost generationally to history. Forever lost.
And politicians on both sides need to quit politicking this issue. We deserve better than the cheap political theater.
Many should dispense with the carrot and stick routine. America could never, ever repay or pay for that which it has so richly profited at the expense of generations of black people. Building the very capitalistic system on which it prides itself.
Most recently BET founder Bob Johnson called for $14 trillion of reparations for "heirs of slavery." Where did that number come from? Based on what variables? A guessing game? So many variables make it virtually impossible to determine with any degree of accuracy, who these "heirs of slavery" are, let alone affixing a price tag is beyond human imagination or comprehension.
Do we still suffer the consequences of slavery? You bet we do. The damage is monetarily incalculable. The most basic yet invaluable casualty? The black family. Family is often the foundation and support system upon which generational wealth is built.
Newsflash! Contrary to what conservatives both white and black would want us to believe, the break up of our families didn't start with the welfare state but with the United States. Families were broken up beginning in 1619, long before welfare. And systemically and routinely broken up via auction blocks.
The same sinister minds that conceived slavery conceived welfare to keep blacks dependent on the very system that once enslaved them. The common denominator was white, not Republican or Democrat. Crude but true.
There can be no reparations for this. Never. The devastation is far too great.
American slavery was evil. Jim Crow was evil. Racism is still evil. We can't expect a government system built on evil to make a conscious effort to reverse and make right its own evil. Evil never reverses, reconciles or make reparations for evil. It's why racism is still such a scourge in this country and reparations not even a consideration for the powers that be today nor will be tomorrow.
Only the goodness and grace of God and not any politician or businessman can force reparations and right such devastating wrong. And left up to America, it will never happen. Not in our lifetime nor in lifetimes to come.
There is no political will for reparations, nor I make the argument should there be. Makes for great political theatre and airtime for someone like Johnson. But that window closed long ago. In fact, it never opened. It never will.
It is foolhardy to keep pushing even the notion that the hand that once enslaved will ever be the hand that repays. It won't. It can't.
So what do we do with this issue as it keeps coming up particularly during national election cycles? Some politicians are brave enough to champion the issue, garner some airtime, but even they know they are just whistling in the wind.
The glorified tale of the founding of America glosses over the fact that America was founded on stolen land. Native Americans were here long before Columbus and his crew set sail. The original sin of America isn't slavery. It is theft. Theft of a nation that didn't belong to it.
The original sin of America is theft, but the most egregious is slavery. Human beings created in the very image of God, dehumanized for capitalistic gain.
Prosperity built upon the goodwill of Native Americans and capitalism on the backs of slaves.
These are grievous sins and reparations for either will never be. But the same America that touts itself to be a "Christian nation" had better believe that God is a God of justice and righteousness. And while the nation will never repay, someday the righteous Judge will repay the nation.
And that my friends may be sooner than we think and may be happening as we speak.