The slavery reparations argument is built on a false premise

The growing debate on reparations for African-Americans finally intensified to the point that Democrats held a congressional hearing to discuss H.R. 40, a bill that proposes a commission on reparations.  Many African-Americans believe that they are owed reparations (payback) from the U.S. government for the enslavement of their ancestors.  They want payback not only for slavery, but for the discrimination endured as a result of Jim Crow laws.  However; the debate on reparations is based on a few false premises.  In fact, the main false premise is what causes such intense debate among many uninformed black Americans.

One false premise is the assumption that every white American's ancestors owned slaves.  Just witnessing the hate and vitriol spewed from race-baiting black so-called leaders proves how deeply this belief is held.  Testifying at last week's reparation hearing, Episcopal bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton said the following:

When I'm talking reparations, I'm talking about those left behind, but I'm talking to my white brothers and sisters.  You need this more than we do.  You need this for your soul.  You need this to be able to look black persons in the eye and say I acknowledge the mistake, and I want to be part of the solution to repair that damage.

According to historians, there was a white class structure in the South, and only 6.6 percent of whites owned more than 50 slaves, whereas over two thirds of white households in the South did not own any slaves at all.  By 1860, only 0.1% of whites owned more than 100 slaves, and 76.1% of whites were non-slave-owners.

The main false premise that the entire reparation debate is built on is that the slaves built America.  This false premise is difficult to break down and explain to angry blacks who feel that all of today's rich white Americans are living off the wealth earned from the free labor of their ancestors while they, on the other hand, are living from paycheck to paycheck.  The first problem with this belief is that it exposes a lack of knowledge about money and finance.  However, what I find most difficult to believe is the revealed ignorance of American history.  To believe that slaves built America, you would have to ignore the fact that there were some states that were not part of the Union during slavery.  Are we to believe that the wealth in those states came from African slave labor?  Alaska had slaves, but they were indigenous people from other tribes, not African slaves.  The state of Hawaii was not part of the union during slavery, and African slaves were never transported there.  Does all the wealth in Alaska and Hawaii come from African slave labor?  The false premise also ignores the fact that other groups like the Chinese and Irish helped build America as well.

The worst part of the false premise that slaves built the America we live in today is the fact that it overlooks the different periods in America.  After slavery was abolished, we had the Reconstruction period and the Second Industrial Revolution.  Whatever parts of the South the slaves built, it was destroyed in the Civil War.  Everything had to be rebuilt.  The same goes for buildings and infrastructure destroyed by natural disasters.  Slavery was over during the Second Industrial Revolution.  What about the roaring 1920s, when America saw the large-scale development of inventions like the automobile and the building of skyscrapers?  During that period, America gained dominance in world finance.  What part did African slave labor play in that period?

To claim that all of America today is enjoying the wealth that was built by slave labor is ridiculous.  The pro-reparations crowd also believes that every wealthy white person today inherited his wealth from his ancestors, who earned the wealth from slave labor.  To believe that preposterous claim, one has to assume that every white person's ancestors were wealthy to begin with.  It also overlooks the fact that many wealthy white people today are first-generation millionaires and billionaires.

Contact the author at patdickson@earthlink.net.  Follow her on Twitter at @Patrici15767099 and YouTube.

The growing debate on reparations for African-Americans finally intensified to the point that Democrats held a congressional hearing to discuss H.R. 40, a bill that proposes a commission on reparations.  Many African-Americans believe that they are owed reparations (payback) from the U.S. government for the enslavement of their ancestors.  They want payback not only for slavery, but for the discrimination endured as a result of Jim Crow laws.  However; the debate on reparations is based on a few false premises.  In fact, the main false premise is what causes such intense debate among many uninformed black Americans.

One false premise is the assumption that every white American's ancestors owned slaves.  Just witnessing the hate and vitriol spewed from race-baiting black so-called leaders proves how deeply this belief is held.  Testifying at last week's reparation hearing, Episcopal bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton said the following:

When I'm talking reparations, I'm talking about those left behind, but I'm talking to my white brothers and sisters.  You need this more than we do.  You need this for your soul.  You need this to be able to look black persons in the eye and say I acknowledge the mistake, and I want to be part of the solution to repair that damage.

According to historians, there was a white class structure in the South, and only 6.6 percent of whites owned more than 50 slaves, whereas over two thirds of white households in the South did not own any slaves at all.  By 1860, only 0.1% of whites owned more than 100 slaves, and 76.1% of whites were non-slave-owners.

The main false premise that the entire reparation debate is built on is that the slaves built America.  This false premise is difficult to break down and explain to angry blacks who feel that all of today's rich white Americans are living off the wealth earned from the free labor of their ancestors while they, on the other hand, are living from paycheck to paycheck.  The first problem with this belief is that it exposes a lack of knowledge about money and finance.  However, what I find most difficult to believe is the revealed ignorance of American history.  To believe that slaves built America, you would have to ignore the fact that there were some states that were not part of the Union during slavery.  Are we to believe that the wealth in those states came from African slave labor?  Alaska had slaves, but they were indigenous people from other tribes, not African slaves.  The state of Hawaii was not part of the union during slavery, and African slaves were never transported there.  Does all the wealth in Alaska and Hawaii come from African slave labor?  The false premise also ignores the fact that other groups like the Chinese and Irish helped build America as well.

The worst part of the false premise that slaves built the America we live in today is the fact that it overlooks the different periods in America.  After slavery was abolished, we had the Reconstruction period and the Second Industrial Revolution.  Whatever parts of the South the slaves built, it was destroyed in the Civil War.  Everything had to be rebuilt.  The same goes for buildings and infrastructure destroyed by natural disasters.  Slavery was over during the Second Industrial Revolution.  What about the roaring 1920s, when America saw the large-scale development of inventions like the automobile and the building of skyscrapers?  During that period, America gained dominance in world finance.  What part did African slave labor play in that period?

To claim that all of America today is enjoying the wealth that was built by slave labor is ridiculous.  The pro-reparations crowd also believes that every wealthy white person today inherited his wealth from his ancestors, who earned the wealth from slave labor.  To believe that preposterous claim, one has to assume that every white person's ancestors were wealthy to begin with.  It also overlooks the fact that many wealthy white people today are first-generation millionaires and billionaires.

Contact the author at patdickson@earthlink.net.  Follow her on Twitter at @Patrici15767099 and YouTube.