Slavery’s ‘lingering’ effects, reparations, and a hope of reconciliation

“A societal debt”

At the end of February, I heard a talk by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her landmark 1619 Project in The New York Times. She set my mind whirring when she described the Founding Fathers as “liars who didn’t believe in the values they touted.”

Reparations under discussion — and underway

Now that I’m paying attention, I’m seeing a number of important developments. Driven in part by Georgetown University’s history, Jesuit priests pledged in mid-March to raise $100 million for the descendants of people enslaved by the Roman Catholic order.

“Lingering negative effects”

My reading has made me wonder what reparations can and should repair. Are they a remedy for systemic racism? If so, they should target specific government programs and policies. Or are they a form of restitution for the crime of slavery? Many argue that the cost of the latter would be too many trillions to pay. However, we have two recent examples as precedents. Germany has paid some $91.9 billion to countries and people harmed by the Holocaust. And in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation authorizing $1.25 billion to be paid to the survivors of the 120,000 Japanese Americans interned during World War II — $20,000 per person. Another suggestion that might be easier to implement would be exempting several generations of African Americans from paying federal income taxes.

  • Federal and state governments’ role in supporting slavery
  • Public and private discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants
  • “Lingering negative effects of slavery” on Black people and society

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Jacqueline Adams

Jacqueline Adams

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Jacqueline Adams is an Emmy Award winning journalist. She is the co-author of “A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive.”