Reparations Scholars Including Dr. Sandy Darity Launch Free ‘From Here To Equality’ FHTE Reparations Quick Guide, Issue 2

Reparations Scholars Including Dr. Sandy Darity Launch Free ‘From Here To Equality’ FHTE Reparations Quick Guide, Issue 2

Image: The Belle Brezing Photographic Collection, 2003AV1, Special Collections, University of Kentucky. Kentuckiana Digital Library via University of Kentucky

The FHTE (From Here to Equality) Reparationist Quick Guide Response was initially established in October 2020, as the ADOS Reparationist Quick Guide and is designed to be a civic engagement resource for anyone.

It allows supporters to take an ownership share in our online social justice advocacy. Authorship is being encouraged from every sector and community of citizens concerned with the restorative justice of black  American Descendants of Slavery (i.e., ADOS) and the closing of the black-white racial wealth gap.

The book “From here to equality: Reparations for black Americans in the twentieth century” (Darity & Mullen, 2020) will serve as our base source for the volumes’ invited authors. Each issue will contain four topics and five quick points from four featured authors who offer their responses to commonly held positions in opposition to reparations or frequently-asked questions about African American reparations. 

The inherited disadvantages of slavery and the inability to transfer wealth to ADOS  descendants have been a significant contributor to the bottom class positionality of this ethnic  group. This series is published to encourage study and dialogue. It is an instrument for  personal empowerment. The guide creates a space for the civic engagement participation of  Reparationist in national coalition-building, including petitioning for significant revision (or replacement) of the bill H.R. 40 (S.1083) currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress. 

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Civic Engagement and Adult Learning – Lisa R. Brown 

1. “Why can’t the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) give ADOS reparations?” 

• The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is the judicial and third branch of our nation’s  government; the other two are the Executive Branch (President) and the  Legislative Branch (Congress, made up of the Senate and House of  

Representatives). The SCOTUS is tasked with interpreting the law made by  Congress per the United States Constitution.  

In the 19th century, the SCOTUS adopted a pro-slavery stance, as reflected in the  1857 Dred Scott decision. A black family was living with a U.S. Army surgeon who had enslaved them in Illinois before moving to a territory where slavery was illegal (what is present-day Minnesota). The SCOTUS’s ruling against the Scotts’  pursuit of freedom upheld the Fugitive Slave Act passed by the U.S. Congress in  1850. The Act meant that runaway slaves escaping to slave-free states were in violation of the law and must be returned to their owner(s) (FHTE, paragraph 2,  pp. 90 – 92). Additionally, rights extended to Freedmen—such as voting rights— only were granted via Constitutional Amendment during Reconstruction and not by a SCOTUS proclamation. 

Coupled with the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) that upheld legal segregation in the  United States, a decision whose reversal did not begin until the Brown v. Board  (1954) decision, the SCOTUS has not been a bastion of support for black rights.  As the Brown decision itself demonstrates, the Supreme Court does not have the  capacity to enforce or finance its policy mandates. 

Therefore, even in the unlikely event that the SCOTUS declared African American  reparations valid, the Court would have no ability to make it happen. It must be the  legislative branch of our Government (i.e., Congress) that could offer and pay for  any sustainable framework of a national reparations program for ADOS citizens,  not the Supreme Court of the United States. 

2. “Why should ADOS consider the year 1776 as the start date for a Reparations  claim?”  

• At the time of the Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776, nearly 25%  of the inhabitants of the 13 colonies were black (about one-half million people). In  1790, the first post-Revolutionary War Census recorded that 90% of North  American blacks were enslaved, and only 8% were free. The Continental Congress  charted the establishment of the new sovereign nation on June 11, 1776. Five men  were appointed to draft the declaration. Although black patriots fought in the  Continental army on behalf of the 13 colonies to win victory and freedom from  English rule, emancipation was not given to the black enslaved population. In fact,  after the war victory, promises of freedom to slaves who fought in the Continental  Army were rescinded by whites.  

Of the five men selected to pen the Declaration of Independence, Thomas  Jefferson was its chief writer. The Declaration, by ushering the United States into  existence as a Slave Republic, allowed even the most impoverished whites to hold  dominance over blacks. Jefferson’s views on the humanity of enslaved Africans  and their descendants as being on par with whites were untenable. This claim’s  evidence reflects Jefferson’s aristocratic upbringing, where he inherited and  maintained slaves (FHTE, paragraph 3, pp. 69 – 70; 75- 76). Moreover, Thomas  Jefferson fathered children by a woman, Sally Hemings, enslaved by him and she  bore him sons and daughters who were not free-born human beings but Jefferson’s  enslaved chattel. 

3. “How can reparations for ADOS improve our civic engagement as adults or remove barriers to higher education?”  

• Granting reparations to ADOS would validate black Americans’ full rights as  citizens and inspire their civic participation in preserving the only Nation their  families have known for centuries, dissimilar to AAFL (African Ancestry Foreign  Lineage) Americans. As a matter of justice, reparations would affirm for the  native black population that our Government was complicit in the atrocities visited  upon ADOS, including the denial of equal benefits to whites, for this ethnic group  from the Nation’s founding to the present day. Reparations open the door locked  against Thomas Jefferson’s proclamation, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,  that all men are created equal,” a proclamation unjustly refused to ADOS and their  families in America.

Post-secondary education at the college and university level provides adults with an expanded knowledge base about American history and how our democratic republic operates. The rising cost of higher education has stymied ADOS’s participation in this valuable franchise that can lead to a more robust electorate and civically engaged citizenry. Closing the black-white wealth gap via direct payments to those who this author describes as black ethnics possessing decades of  Ancestral Black American Lineage (ABAL) in this country is just. Reparations empower ADOS to become better stewards of their educational, economic, and civic futures in America. Moreover, elite colleges and universities profiteered from slavery, further strengthening the case that a debt is owed (FHTE, paragraph 3, p.  389). 

4. “Did the post-civil war 3/5th compromise mean that former slaves and their ADOS children were three-fifths of a human being?”  

• The three-fifths compromise meme is often used to gaslight native black  Americans. It is a simpleton’s insult to charge that the worth of an ADOS life was  only 3/5ths the value of a white life. First, the slight is ahistorical because the  three-fifths compromise was adopted in the new Nation’s Constitution—before the  Civil War—following the American Revolutionary War with Great  

Britain. Nevertheless, the compromise was a far more complex and egregious  decision than a simple snub towards blacks. It helped cement slavery into the new  republic’s ethos (FHTE, paragraph 6, pp. 80 – 81). Adopting the new nation’s  Constitution in 1787 included a three-fifths counting metric for the numbering of  enslaved populations held mostly in the South for purposes of Congressional  representation and taxation. 

Specifically, the arrangement was applicable to states where direct taxes were assessed by population size. Initially, taxes were calculated based on the white  landowner’s property value without accounting for their human property (i.e.,  slaves). However, Southern lawmakers negotiated a compromise in the  Constitution to increase their tax burden in exchange for slaves only being counted  as 3/5ths of the individual enumerated state inhabitant. This political move made  for a greater tax burden among owners of human property in the slaveholding  states, but also granted them greater surrogates in Congressional and Electoral  College representation. Hence, acceptance of the Southern planters’ legal  maneuver allowed them to elect representatives who would vote to uphold slavery  thereby locking in the institution as an economic engine for the South. The  formerly enslaved were not given the franchise until after the Civil War via the  Reconstruction Era passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870. It was not until the  1965 Voting Rights Act that all legal barriers were removed, such that their  descendants had, in principle, the right to vote. 

5. “Is it true that the first blacks elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate were Republican Reparationists, and how did President Lincoln’s successor Andrew Johnson (a Democrat) undermine their politics?”  

• During a period of great abolitionist activism, the two main political parties were the Democrats, primarily southerners, and the Whigs, mostly northerners. The Democrats split into Northern and Southern factions. A newly constituted anti-slavery Republican Party replaced the Whigs party and selected Abraham Lincoln as its presidential candidate (FHTE, paragraph 6, p. 147). 

After the war, the Reconstruction era witnessed the first black Senators elected to  serve in the upper house of Congress. They were Senator Hiram Revels in 1870- 71, and Senator Balance K. Bruce (1875-1881), the latter born a slave in Prince  Edwards County, Virginia. Both men were Republicans representing the state of  Mississippi (FHTE, paragraph 3, p. 227). Revels served during the Reconstruction  Era and was a minister of the AME Church and a college administrator. He was  born free in North Carolina and later lived and worked in Ohio, where he could  vote before the Civil War. Following Bruce’s term, Mississippi adopted a new  constitution that essentially denied the black residents’ vote (FHTE, paragraph 3, p.  227). Revels and Bruce were the only black Senators elected and seated until  Edward Brooke’s (Mass-R) general election victory in 1967 (FHTE, p. 379, Note  #33).  

President Lincoln’s successor, Democrat Andrew Johnson (1865-69), publicly  espoused anti-slavery rhetoric but held a secret disdain for black Americans  (FHTE, paragraph 1, p.161). He also avoided being harsh toward punishing ex Confederate leaders, which served to shape his less than enthusiastic approach to  Reconstruction and establishing black rights for the Freedmen (FHTE, paragraph  6;2, pp. 161-162.). Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives,  February 24, 1868. However, he was later tried and acquitted by the Senate in  May of that year. White violence led by Southern Democrats and the intimidation  of the black electorate increased throughout the South. By 1952, black voter  registration in the south dropped dramatically, in Mississippi to fewer than 6  percent of eligible black voters. 

What Group does U.S. Reparations Target? – William A. Darity Jr.  and A. Kirsten Mullen 

6. “Why not include all blacks in the U.S. reparations claim? Even those living elsewhere?” 

• The specificity of the case for black American descendants of slavery includes  only those subjected to all three phases of atrocities and their cumulative effects: 1)  slavery, 2) Jim Crow (plus massacres), and 3) post-Jim Crow era damages. Native  black American slave descendants (i.e., ADOS) are the only group with a claim on  the U.S. government associated with the unfulfilled promise of the 40-acres land  grants. Unique historical processes that determine their immense shortfall in  wealth, vis-à-vis white America, do not apply to the wealth position of more recent  black immigrants to the U.S. (FHTE, paragraph, 5 p. 42; paragraphs 1-3, p. 43) 

Other blacks in the U.S. do have claims for reparations, just not on the U.S. government. Other groups are proceeding, as they should, with claims that do not include black American descendants of U.S. slavery (e.g., CARICOM’s former  British colonies and the U.K., the Congo and Belgium).

7. “Wasn’t slavery so long ago? Shouldn’t we have moved past it by now?” 

• Slavery was not “so long ago” from a generational perspective. There are persons  who have lived into the 21st century with parents who were born into slavery. Ms.  Hortense McClinton, now 102 years of age, is the daughter of Sebrone Jones King  who was born in January 1865 in Texas as a white person’s property. There are  still large numbers of persons who are two, three, and four generations away from  slavery times. 

Moreover, the effects of slavery extend to the present moment because of the  failure to provide the formerly enslaved with any form of restitution for their years  of bondage. That failure has crippled the wealth position of living descendants of  U.S. slavery. 

Plus, the ADOS case for reparations is not tied exclusively to slavery. Of course,  slavery was the crucible that produced white supremacy in America and is the first  item on the bill of particulars for atrocities. But the basis for African American  reparations also is linked powerfully to nearly a century of legal segregation (“Jim  Crow”) coupled with a series of massacres that took black lives and seizure of  black property by white terrorists and post-Civil Rights era damages, including  mass incarceration, police lynchings of unarmed blacks, and discrimination in  employment, credit, and housing markets. 

8. “Won’t it result in wasted money if black American descendants of slavery are given monetary payments? At best, won’t it just mean giving the money back to white people”? 

• Why does the assumption that black people will do stupid things with the money  exist when that question did not get raised about other groups? To build assets out of  the funds received—e.g., buying homes, developing or expanding businesses,  purchasing financial assets, purchasing real estate, etc.—will likely mean some  purchases will be made from whites. However, they will be purchases that build  black wealth, which is the fundamental goal. To the extent that black Americans  with higher wealth can more effectively build a black business infrastructure, the  more likely any funds, from reparations or otherwise, will return to black hands.  

Plus, we have clear evidence now that higher levels of a previous generation’s  wealth will lead to higher levels of wealth AND income for subsequent generations,  changing the game altogether. (FHTE, paragraph 2, p. 36). 

9. “What’s the point if structural racism still is intact”? 

• Malcolm X made a comment in 1964 when he described a situation in which someone plunged a knife in his back. Malcolm distinguished between pulling the knife out and healing the wound. Reparations involve healing the wound, but it is important also to staunch the bleeding. The knife must be pulled out also. Pulling the knife out does not compensate the victim for the harm caused by the stabbing.  Reparations or compensation for the harm caused by the stabbing includes giving African Americans sufficient monetary resources to eliminate the racial wealth gap. Such provisions make ADOS more politically able to fight structural racism. 

10. Won’t the Supreme Court block reparations legislation anyway? 

• It depends on the Supreme Court’s alignment when Congress finally passes  reparations for black American Descendants of U.S. slavery. As noted, under the  Congress that passes such legislation must be prepared to appoint pro-reparations  judges to the Court. (see Negro Will; FHTE, paragraphs 4-6, pp. 89-90). Also, see  the answer to question 1 above. 

Who Pays U.S. Reparations and How – A. Kirsten Mullen and  William A. Darity Jr. 

11. Don’t reparations at the municipal or state level establish strong precedents for a  national project?  

Local or piecemeal reparations are problematic and, to a large degree, a detour.  Elimination of the racial wealth gap will require an expenditure of at least $10 to  $12 trillion. The combined budgets of all state and local governments combined  amount to approximately $3.1 trillion used for all purposes. Therefore, it is  impossible for municipal and state level acts of restitution to approach the sum  required to erase the black-white wealth difference. Only the federal government  has the capacity to foot the bill.  

Plus, the federal government is the culpable party, having established and maintained the legal and authority framework for slavery, nearly a century of  official American apartheid, and ongoing atrocities directed against black  American descendants of U.S. enslavement. 

12. Why not rely upon “baby bonds,” a program for all American children, to close the  racial wealth gap, rather than reparations, which only target black Americans? 

• “Baby bonds” is a policy designed to provide each newborn infant with an  endowment calibrated on the basis of their parents’ wealth. The objective is to  ensure each child of receiving a trust account that will bring their resources to a  level consistent with the intergenerational transfer received by the child in the  median wealth family (FHTE, Chapter 13 notes, pp. 390-391). 

There are two reasons why “baby bonds” will not accomplish what can be  achieved by true reparations. First, “baby bonds” is a universal program, and, in  general, universal programs, even if they have, on the margin, a disproportionate  benefit for black people, cannot eliminate the racial economic inequality because  the gains go to everyone. 

Second, because “baby bonds” target gaps at the median, they will leave  untouched 97 percent of the wealth held by white Americans. Closing the racial  wealth gap requires targeting the racial wealth gap at the mean rather than the  median. That is a core attribute of a true reparations project. At best, baby bonds,  after being fully executed after 40 years might reduce the 2019 racial wealth differential by twenty percent (https://socialequity.duke.edu/wp 

content/uploads/2019/10/Running-the-Numbers-8.4.19-FINAL.pdf). “Baby  bonds” is a complement to a full-blown reparations plan for black American  descendants of U.S. slavery, not a substitute. 

13. Won’t debt relief do the job of closing the racial wealth gap, rendering reparations  superfluous? 

• Student loan forgiveness, while a good idea, it will do even less to close the  collective racial wealth gap for black Americans than the projected effects of a  baby bonds proposal. In part, this is because the proportion of blacks (36%) who  enroll in college and university and acquire debt is lower than the proportion of  whites (4l%), although average black debt levels are about $7,400 higher. But the  more compelling reason why there will be a sharp shortfall in closing the racial  wealth gap by debt relief is simply that the size of the black-white gap is so large.  At best, student loan forgiveness will reduce the gap by about one percent at the  median difference and by an imperceptible amount at the mean difference. (https://socialequity.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Running-the-Numbers 8.4.19-FINAL.pdf). Comprehensive reparations at the national level are essential  to eliminate the immense gulf in wealth between black and white Americans (FHTE, paragraphs 1-2, p. 240). 

14. “What has been the response of ADOS advocates to disparities in health outcomes particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic?”  

• The health of black people is placed in constant jeopardy in America (FHTE,  paragraphs 4, pp. 235-236). There has always been a clear acknowledgment that  the calamitous outcomes to health, employment, and remote education requiring  adequate digital infrastructure, were fears held for ADOS children and adults due  to the COVID-19 pandemic. A reparations position paper written by two co authors for this issue of the FHTE quick guide was published by the American  Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) last June. The paper  served to highlight these types of problems and emphasizes how reparations were  imperative to provide community preservation and to shield ABAL from economic  devastation due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

15. “Which political party is responsible for the atrocities?”  

• All the political parties that existed—or subsequently changed political party  names—and have led our Federal government during the three phases of American atrocities (FHTE, paragraph 4, pp. 5-6) targeting ADOS are responsible. The  reparations claim for black Americans of ABAL ethnicity begins following the  winning the War of Independence from Britain and the establishment of a new  nation in 1776. That new sovereign codified and embedded the chattel slavery  enterprise into its Constitutions providing the human capital that fed the economic  engine which produced that Nation’s wealth and society. Therefore, pure  reparations for black American ethnics are unique in this regard.  

ADOS holds no opposition to Pan-Africanism or immigrant groups whose  reparations claims involve attention to global or international anti-racism  petitions. These groups have promoted slavery reparations claims under the aegis of CARICOM, not including African Americans. Select groups of AAFL  Americans have exercised—with some success—social and political activism in  America that do not center native blacks, not even include ADOS. We applaud  those victories and seek to emulate them via pure reparations for ABAL ethnics. 

Anti-Reparations Equity Arguments – Gabriel Piemonte 

16. “Didn’t white people already pay for slavery by fighting the Civil War to free black  people?” 

• The war to preserve the Union certainly did cost many white Northerners their  lives. But equating their service as compensation to slaves and their descendants  dishonors them and would arguably be an inaccurate accounting of history and the  costs of the war. The massive expense of the Civil War, intended to end a vicious  system of slavery that held millions of the country’s inhabitants in bondage and to  preserve the Union should not call for any additional burden to be placed on those  aggrieved (FHTE, para. 1, p. 308). Furthermore, the cost to the nation to end the  practice of slavery was not exclusively shouldered by white soldiers. One out of  every ten Union soldiers was black, numbering about 180,000 people. Moreover,  one-third of soldiers killed in the Civil War were blacks fighting on the side of the  Union (FHTE, para. 1, p. 309). 

Besides, the war which ended slavery was not the only path to dismantling the  practice. Compensated emancipation was also a viable alternative to war and the  loss of life. The brutal duration of the war would have been shortened, substantially, if compensated emancipation had been realized (FHTE, para. 3, p.  308). No payments for African American reparations have been made by the  United States government. The debt owed in restitution for the triad of atrocities  toward ADOS is still outstanding. 

17. “My ancestors struggled and didn’t get any special treatment or programs to  help them advance. Why should I give someone else an advantage over me?”  

• Virtually every other group that has come to the United States, mainly from  Europe, has been provided with special programs to allow them to build assets for  their families. Many immigrants and refugee groups get extended American social  service benefits that aid in their comfortable living as new arrivals. A major  example is the provision of 160-acres land grants to 1.5 million white families  under the terms of the Homestead Act, first enacted during the Civil War in 1862.  In contrast, newly emancipated black people were denied 40-acres land grants that  they were promised as restitution for their years of bondage. 

In the twentieth century, black soldiers returning from World War II were denied  benefits such as in-demand training in the form of post-secondary education that  other non-black soldiers enjoyed as part of the GI Bill (FHTE, paragraph 1, p.  311). Banks gave loans to non-ADOS veterans which were denied to native black  American soldiers (FHTE, paragraph 1, p. 311). Also, in the United States, the  benefit of Social Security was refused to native black agricultural and domestic  workers when it was first implemented, effectively banning a vast majority of the ADOS workforce in the South from any chance at retirement resources (FHTE,  paragraph 4, p. 310). The aggregated effect of these discriminatory practices was  an economic leap forward for whites, further exacerbating the black-white wealth  gap and fewer American opportunities for ADOS. 

18. “Shouldn’t black people just build up political power and then try to get reparations? What good is economic power without influence in policymaking?”  

• In America, economic power is a precondition to political power. In fact, black  communities that have enjoyed financial success have been targeted not just for  harassment and abuse but for utter destruction. With the development of economic  power, black citizens will gain a concomitant growth in political power (FHTE,  paragraph 2, p. 31). 

19. “Don’t we have to provide financial literacy to Black people before we start giving  out money?”  

• Black Americans are among the most economically sophisticated citizens in the  country. More economic innovations come out of the black community than any  other group. Every economic configuration is present in the black community. For  example, whether it is housing co-ops, credit unions, or buying clubs, black  citizens who have been deprived of individual affluence longer than any other  group, have been compelled to be economically resourceful. ADOS on many  occasions has been forced to do more with less irrespective of calls for financial  literacy (FHTE, paragraphs 4-5, p. 32) and community-based classes; reparations  are the fail-stop. 

20. “Isn’t there already a bill to study reparations? Why not just support that?”    

• H.R.40 is a bill to establish a “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation  Proposals for African-Americans,” but it is not adequate to the task of producing  true reparations for black American descendants of U.S. slavery in its present  form. In a recent Boston Globe opinion piece, Darity and Mullen outlined a series  of essential revisions to HR40 that can better lead us to development of a viable  national reparations project (see https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/12/03  /opinion/flaws-reparations-bill/). 

ADOS Reparationist Quick Guide – Volume 1 Issue 2 prepared by Reparationist: 

  • Lisa R. Brown, BS, MPA, University of Akron; Ph.D. Adult Education, University of  Georgia @Ambidextrous_X 
  • William A. Darity, BA, Brown University; Ph.D. Economics, Massachusetts Institute of  Technology @SandyDarity 
  • A. Kirsten Mullen, BA, University of Texas – Austin, Folklorist and Arts Consultant and  the Founding President of Artefactual @IrstenKMullen 
  • Gabriel Piemonte, BA, Suffolk University @gabrielpiemonte

From Here to Equality (FHTE) Reparationist Quick Guide Issue 2 is reposted here with permission from Dr. Lisa R. Brown. Read the original here.

Read more: ADOS Reparationist Quick Guide October 2020, Volume 1 Issue 1