When It Comes To Reparations, Differences In Black Lineage Matter

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Written by Ann Brown
One of the questions about reparations is who should get them. This is why, say reparation advocates, Black lineage matters when it comes to reparations. U.S., army officers assigned to the occupation by U.S. troops of Surinam meet a group of bush people, descendants of slaves who live in the jungles by hunting, fishing and handicrafts. The officers are, left to right are: Lt. Col. Stanley J. Grogan, Press Chief, War Department; Col. Parley D. Parkinson, Commander of the U.S. Forces; Capt. John B. Mohun; and Col. John P. Neu. (AP Photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps)

One of the questions always asked about reparations is who should get them. Reparations advocates say Black lineage matters when it comes to reparations.

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The #ADOS movement is seeking reparations for only those Black Americans who can prove slave lineage. 

“This debt is owed not to the color of Blackness, but rather to the specific lineage that fully bears the cost of Blackness in America — a cost that is built into the very roots of #ADOS family trees,” Antonio Moore wrote in an opinion piece for USA Today.

Moore, a practicing Los Angeles-based attorney, is a reparations advocate. He co-founded #ADOS with Yvette Carnell. They describe #ADOS as a political project built upon their respective YouTube shows — ToneTalks and BreakingBrown.

Proving slave lineage is at the root of the American Descendants of Slavery movement. “It arises out of our nation’s failure to contend with its original sin of slavery and the remnants that occurred through Jim Crow,” Moore wrote. “Insofar as a discussion about that outstanding debt now burns in our political discourse, #ADOS helped light the match.”

According to #ADOS, not all Black people in America should be entitled to reparations. Only Native Black Americans are due. 

“To people who ask, ‘Why differentiate between Blacks who were slaves and Blacks who came to this country as immigrants long after slavery ended?’ I respond that such a question indicates a lack of understanding of the history and economics of this nation,” Moore wrote.

It might be difficult to prove slave lineage without a full genealogical workup. DNA tests can prove an African connection, but not an American slave lineage.

Scholar Alondra Nelson wrote about DNA in her book, “The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome.” DNA, she said, is being “leveraged to raise awareness of Blacks’ experiences and, in so doing, contribute to today’s racial politics, which are too often marked by historical amnesia.”

Nelson chronicled the story of Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a reparations activist who organized a class-action suit by descendants of slaves in 2002. Although reparations had been granted to Japanese Americans interned during World War II, a judge denied the suit. The judge argued that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate a precise connection to former slaves, and thus could not sue for injury as their descendants.

“The plaintiffs then turned to DNA to try to persuade the court that they could, in fact, trace back their ancestry to slaves,” The Guardian reported.

Despite how difficult it may be to prove slave lineage, Moore and #ADOS insist on it for the disbursement of reparations. One reason, Moore said, is because of the wealth gap between Native Black Americans and immigrant Blacks. 

“The significance of this is revealed in the recent ‘Color of Wealth’ reports issued by the Federal Reserve. They show that in cities across America, there are massive gaps in wealth holdings between #ADOS and Black immigrants. In Los Angeles, for example, native Black households have liquid assets with a median value of only $200, compared with $60,000 for African immigrants,” Moore wrote.

He concluded, “All of this injustice was birthed from a slice of American history that everyone wants to ignore.”