Personal Finance Guru Michelle Singletary Explains Why Reparations Are Not A Handout To Black Americans

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Written by Ann Brown
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Personal Finance Guru Michelle Singletary Explains Why Reparations Are Not A Handout To Black Americans. Photo: Young children in Rio de Janeiro being sold as slaves to men in cloaks and wide hats. Aquatint by Edward Finden, 1824, after Augustus Earle, ca. 1820. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Thanks to a major push by ADOS, the reparations issue is not going away.

Respected personal finance guru Michelle Singletary is weighing in on reparations as part of a 10-part series. The Washington Post columnist gets personal about common misconceptions involving race and inequality, tells her family’s story and argues for reparations.

Black Americans have earned reparations in many ways, Singletary wrote. Bottom line, “We’ve earned them.” 

Singletary shares a story her grandmother told her about her enslaved great-grandmother, Leah Drumwright. “Even her last name belonged to the plantation owner,” Singletary wrote.

As a slave, Leah was forced to nurse the infant of the white woman who owned her. And she had to follow this rule: A new mom herself, Leah could nurse her own Black baby only on her right breast. Her left breast was reserved for the white baby. “The reason she was given was that the left breast is closer to the heart, making the milk healthier, and the best milk had to be given to the white infant,” Singletary wrote.

Singletary
Personal Finance Guru Michelle Singletary Explains Why Reparations Are Not A Handout To Black Americans. Photo: Flickr /U.S. Department of Agriculture

One evening, Leah was caught feeding her own child on her own left breast. She was whipped as punishment. 

“This story of the beating Leah endured that day has been passed down through the generations of my family,” Singletary wrote. “It’s still very real and raw for me as another example of the indignities and brutality experienced by millions of Black people, and not just during the 246 years they were enslaved in America.”

Leah’s story is just one example of how Black Americans have been systematically ripped off. 

“It’s about the legal systems in America that permitted robbing Blacks, literally to the extent of stealing a mother’s milk from her baby — and that can’t be fully undone unless the thievery is redressed,” Singletary pointed out.

Over the years, Black Americans have been beaten, killed, denied their rights, denied fair and equal pay and even denied the right to their own bodies. Black people have been blocked from building wealth. 

White men who fathered children with Black slaves “never paid child support for the Black children they fathered. They were the ultimate deadbeat dads,” she stressed.

These are just a few of the reasons reparations are due, said Singletary.

The bill is due from the U.S. government, wrote William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen in their book, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.”

“While it makes complete sense to seek recompense from clearly identified perpetrators … the invoice for reparations must go to the nation’s government,” Darity and Mullen wrote. “The U.S. government, as the federal authority, bears responsibility for sanctioning, maintaining, and enabling slavery, legal segregation, and continued racial inequality.”

Darity explained in the book that if freed slaves had received the 40 acres and a mule they were promised by the government, they would have been able to start building wealth generations ago. “Had that promise been kept — had ex-slaves been given a substantial endowment in southern real estate — it is likely that there would be no need for reparations to be under consideration now.”

There are of course Americans who bristle at paying reparations to Black Americans, arguing, “I didn’t enslave anyone.”

“Your ancestors may not have enslaved anyone, but America benefited from the institution of slavery,” Singletary wrote. “Segregation and voter suppression gave advantages to white Americans in the form of cheap Black labor, reduced employment competition and the power to elect politicians who enacted laws that worked in the best interest of whites and against equal opportunities for Black people.”

Others argue that slavery happened too long ago to deserve reparations. However, when you think in terms of generations rather than years, it wasn’t that long ago, Darity said.

Singletary said her own family illustrates that point. Leah Drumwright’s son, Byrd Drumwright — her grandmother’s grandfather — was also born into slavery. His son Tobie lived under the brutality of Jim Crow. Tobie’s daughter, Singletary’s grandmother, lived under segregation.

“My mother was already a mother by the time the Civil Rights Act was passed. I was born just three years before the Voting Rights Act. Even now, with the Nov. 3 election, voter suppression measures are undermining this fundamental right. Despite my success, I’ve experienced racism. My children have also encountered racism,” she wrote.

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An award-winning Washington Post syndicated columnist, Singletary has written three personal finance books, including her latest, “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom.” Singletary also hosted her own national TV program, “Singletary Says,” on TV One, according to her website.