- Liberalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
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He answered in the negative.
The exchange rested upon an erroneous comparison of the average American white family and the exceptional first family. In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama have won. But that comparison is incomplete. The more telling question is how they compare with Jenna and Barbara Bush—the products of many generations of privilege, not just one. In , the freedwoman Belinda Royall petitioned the commonwealth of Massachusetts for reparations.
Belinda had been born in modern-day Ghana. She was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. She endured the Middle Passage and 50 years of enslavement at the hands of Isaac Royall and his son. But the junior Royall, a British loyalist, fled the country during the Revolution.
Belinda, now free after half a century of labor, beseeched the nascent Massachusetts legislature:. Belinda Royall was granted a pension of 15 pounds and 12 shillings, to be paid out of the estate of Isaac Royall—one of the earliest successful attempts to petition for reparations. At the time, black people in America had endured more than years of enslavement, and the idea that they might be owed something in return was, if not the national consensus, at least not outrageous.
As the historian Roy E. Finkenbine has documented, at the dawn of this country, black reparations were actively considered and often effected.
Liberalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
In his book Forever Free , Eric Foner recounts the story of a disgruntled planter reprimanding a freedman loafing on the job:. In the 20th century, the cause of reparations was taken up by a diverse cast that included the Confederate veteran Walter R. Charles J. Ogletree Jr. But while the people advocating reparations have changed over time, the response from the country has remained virtually the same.
Not exactly. Having been enslaved for years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets.
And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear.
The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us. Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution.
For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested. But all we are talking about is studying [reparations]. As John Conyers has said, we study everything. We study the water, the air. This bill does not authorize one red cent to anyone.
That HR 40 has never—under either Democrats or Republicans—made it to the House floor suggests our concerns are rooted not in the impracticality of reparations but in something more existential. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time.
Many Countries Favor Specific Religions, Officially or Unofficially
The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. A nation outlives its generations. We were not there when Woodrow Wilson took us into World War I, but we are still paying out the pensions. If George Washington crossing the Delaware matters, so must his ruthless pursuit of the runagate Oney Judge. The high point of the lynching era has passed.
But the memories of those robbed of their lives still live on in the lingering effects. Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. There has always been another way. A merica begins in black plunder and white democracy , two features that are not contradictory but complementary.
Morgan wrote. Most of them had inherited both their slaves and their attachment to freedom from an earlier generation, and they knew the two were not unconnected. When enslaved Africans, plundered of their bodies, plundered of their families, and plundered of their labor, were brought to the colony of Virginia in , they did not initially endure the naked racism that would engulf their progeny. Some of them were freed.
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Some of them intermarried. Still others escaped with the white indentured servants who had suffered as they had. Some even rebelled together, allying under Nathaniel Bacon to torch Jamestown in One hundred years later, the idea of slaves and poor whites joining forces would shock the senses, but in the early days of the English colonies, the two groups had much in common. As life spans increased in the colony, the Virginia planters found in the enslaved Africans an even more efficient source of cheap labor. Whereas indentured servants were still legal subjects of the English crown and thus entitled to certain protections, African slaves entered the colonies as aliens.
For the next years, American law worked to reduce black people to a class of untouchables and raise all white men to the level of citizens. But at the beginning of the 18th century, two primary classes were enshrined in America. The state with the largest number of enslaved Americans was Virginia, where in certain counties some 70 percent of all people labored in chains. Nearly one-fourth of all white Southerners owned slaves, and upon their backs the economic basis of America—and much of the Atlantic world—was erected.
In the seven cotton states, one-third of all white income was derived from slavery. The web of this slave society extended north to the looms of New England, and across the Atlantic to Great Britain, where it powered a great economic transformation and altered the trajectory of world history. The wealth accorded America by slavery was not just in what the slaves pulled from the land but in the slaves themselves. Blight has noted. Loans were taken out for purchase, to be repaid with interest. Insurance policies were drafted against the untimely death of a slave and the loss of potential profits.
Slave sales were taxed and notarized. The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family became an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens of millions of dollars to antebellum America. In there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country. Beneath the cold numbers lay lives divided. Our affection for each was very strong, and this made us always apprehensive of a cruel parting.
Forced partings were common in the antebellum South. A slave in some parts of the region stood a 30 percent chance of being sold in his or her lifetime. Twenty-five percent of interstate trades destroyed a first marriage and half of them destroyed a nuclear family. When the wife and children of Henry Brown, a slave in Richmond, Virginia, were to be sold away, Brown searched for a white master who might buy his wife and children to keep the family together. He failed:. In a time when telecommunications were primitive and blacks lacked freedom of movement, the parting of black families was a kind of murder.
Here we find the roots of American wealth and democracy—in the for-profit destruction of the most important asset available to any people, the family.
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By erecting a slave society, America created the economic foundation for its great experiment in democracy. The consequences of years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, were profound. Like homeownership today, slave ownership was aspirational, attracting not just those who owned slaves but those who wished to. Much as homeowners today might discuss the addition of a patio or the painting of a living room, slaveholders traded tips on the best methods for breeding workers, exacting labor, and doling out punishment.
By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death. Imagine what would happen if a president today came out in favor of taking all American homes from their owners: the reaction might well be violent.
Terrorism carried the day. Federal troops withdrew from the South in The dream of Reconstruction died. For the next century, political violence was visited upon blacks wantonly, with special treatment meted out toward black people of ambition. Black schools and churches were burned to the ground. Black voters and the political candidates who attempted to rally them were intimidated, and some were murdered. At the end of World War I, black veterans returning to their homes were assaulted for daring to wear the American uniform.
The demobilization of soldiers after the war, which put white and black veterans into competition for scarce jobs, produced the Red Summer of a succession of racist pogroms against dozens of cities ranging from Longview, Texas, to Chicago to Washington, D. The work of mobs was a rabid and violent rendition of prejudices that extended even into the upper reaches of American government.
The New Deal is today remembered as a model for what progressive government should do—cast a broad social safety net that protects the poor and the afflicted while building the middle class.