A Conversation About Reparations

This column appears in the August 10, 2017 edition of Urban Pro Weekly.

A few weeks ago, my dad told me about a conversation he heard on the radio. The topic — reparations for Black people.

The conversation, he said, ended with a white man’s comments about how Black people have already received reparations through “handouts.”

If I would’ve talked to that silly man myself, I would have explained to him that nationally, most of the people who receive SNAP benefits and food stamps are white. According to 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 40 percent of food stamp recipients are white, while just over 25 percent of food stamp recipients are Black.

I would have also outlined why Black people deserve reparations right now.

• The country’s economic foundation was built on slavery. Black people built this country with free labor.

• After slavery, America denied Black people economic freedom and flat-out stole from Black folks at every opportunity through measures such as land grabs and exorbitant housing rates.

Those bullet points are two of the main reasons why economic disparities are so great.

Over time, these disparities have gotten larger.

THAT’s why reparations are needed. Reparations aren’t “entitlements” or “handouts.” They are payment for services rendered and freedoms denied.

Glad we got the easy part out of the way. Now, all we have to do is find a feasible way to pay every Black man, woman and child in this country. Not “people of color.” I mean, BLACK FOLK.

How many Black people are in America, you ask? The 2010 Census says 42 million. So, what’s a respectable amount to pay everyone?

For the sake of argument, let’s say $100,000 per person. For a family of five, that’s half a million dollars.

This lump sum accomplishes a number of things. For the working adult, it could mean severe debt reduction or a chance to invest. For the aging adult, it could represent a shot at a much less stressful retirement.

Personally, I don’t think that lump sum is enough. Remember, there’s the matter of interest for lack of payment over 400 years. How could American possibly make up that deficit? It can’t.

What America CAN do is start with a formal apology to Black people. It can follow up its formal apology with no taxes for five years and a free college education. I’ll take that deal every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

So, I can already hear the haters.

“How do you pay for something like that?”

The number is $4.2 trillion. That’s how much it would cost to pay $100,000 to every Black person in America.

Believe it or not, that’s not a lot of money for our government. How do I know? Because there was a Reuters report that came out last August about how the U.S. Army “fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars,” according to an audit:

The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.”

If the government has money to blow, then it has money to pay off its debts, especially to Black people.

Some of you still have heartburn about this, I understand.

Truth is, you’re scared. You’re scared of how white folks will respond to this. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, white folks already think Black folks receive “entitlements.”

Despite wealth and welfare numbers, white folks still think “the Blacks” get everything for free — college, food stamps and all!

Here’s my take on it — I don’t care what white OR Black detractors think about reparations.

Some people will say it’s a bad idea because “all we’ll do is blow the money.”

Speak for yourself! I know what I can do with $100K and five years without taxes.

I just wish we had the courage to send the invoice.

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