Not everyone is a fan of the California reparations task force’s vote on March 29 to limit reparations to Black people whose ancestors were enslaved in the U.S.
The task force approved a plan to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans, with special consideration for those who are descendants of people enslaved in the U.S.
Cultural critic Michael Harriot, senior writer for The Root, doesn’t like these ideas. In an opinion piece published by TheGrio, Harriot, author of the book “Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America,” presents 10 reasons why he thinks lineage-based reparations are a bad idea.
As a descendant of Africans enslaved in America, Harriot would benefit from lineage-based reparations.
However, he opposes them, he said, because they are based on “white math.”
“This entire concept of tying reparations to ancestry is based on a white supremacist construct used to demonize welfare queens, social programs, and the MAGA form of racism known as ‘economic anxiety.’ According to the ‘zero-sum’ philosophy, if everyone gets a piece of the American pie, there will be less for everyone,” Harriot wrote.
Reparations are the only way to close the wealth gap, according to reparations scholar William “Sandy” Darity, an economist and wealth inequality expert at Duke University.
“There is an enormous gap in wealth between Blacks and whites in the United States. This gap is fully captured by the fact that Blacks make up about 13 percent of the population but possess only about 2 percent of the nation’s wealth. This corresponds to a condition where the average Black household has $840,000 less in net worth than the average white household,” Darity said.
Darity added, “We think that this wealth gap is what should be the primary target of a reparations initiative, that any well-designed reparations plan for Black descendants of U.S. slavery must be designed to eliminate the racial wealth differential.”
Darity is the co-author of the new book, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century,” written with folklorist and arts consultant Kirsten Mullen.
Harriot, however, said the California reparations proposal excludes actual descendants of enslaved people such as Haitians and free people of color who lived in Louisiana before America purchased it from France. “They are Americans; they are descendants of slaves, but they were not Americans when they were enslaved nor were they enslaved by American citizens,” Harriot pointed out.
Yvette Carnell, co-founder of American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) has repeatedly said that enslaved people from the Caribbean, for example, can seek reparations from their enslavers. This is something that the Caribbean Reparation Commission is seeking for Caribbean descendants of slaves.
In response to Harriot’s article, Carnell tweeted, “Is this some kind of experimentation in comedic writing? It can’t be serious. Am I missing the joke? Seriously asking.”
She added, “Black America has way too many people who talk for the sake of talking, just to play the roll of contrarian, and not nearly enough serious, dedicated advocates. This article just pollutes the reparations discussion w/ nonsense. It doesn’t help. The world doesn’t need more mess”
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Harriot also insisted that reparations for African Americans “should not be limited to slavery.” In the case of California, which did not participate in the slave trade, reparations are for the legacy and racist policies that were the result of slavery. Even on the federal level, reparations, Darity has stressed, are not just for slavery only but would be for repairing the damage done by slavery and its legacy.
Harriot said the legacy of slavery affects all Black people. “White supremacy does not differentiate between ‘kinds’ of Black people,” he wrote. “To white America, we all look alike.”
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who spearheaded the push in California for reparations, said that reparations for African Americans should be limited to people whose ancestors were slaves.
Weber acknowledges that Black immigrants also suffer from racism in the U.S., but she said there is a distinction. Immigrants have the option to return to their native country. Black descendants of slaves have no land they can return to.
Additionally, slavery was more than a physical condition, she pointed out. Its psychological impact affected Black people’s ability to strive beyond survival.
She said she saw the generational psychological effects of slavery as a child.
“The fear my grandfather felt, I remember as a child, was palpable, and it crippled him and his family’s ability to dream beyond the cotton fields,” Weber said at a Jan. 27 meeting of the task force to study and develop reparations for African Americans.
Photo: Michael Harriot, cultural critic and senior writer for The Root, screengrab from YouTube video by The Root, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hYHMJXsic8