A. Peter Bailey: For Black folks, reparations by the federal government is not a gift

by A. Peter Bailey

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—It’s time for serious Black folks in this country to make it clear that when we advocate for reparations, it is not requesting some kind of gift from the federal government. Reparations to us means that as descendants of enslaved Africans, we are due payment for the 250 years for which our ancestors were forced to work for absolutely no payment. The only thing provided by the enslavers was enough food and clothing that would enable our African ancestors to continue working so that the enslavers could fill their pockets with money.

That’s why reparations, which is defined as “broadly understood compensation given for an abuse or injury.” Our enslaved ancestors were not paid for either abuse or injury. 

Columnist Courtland Milloy, in a Washington Post column entitled, “Fight for reparations widens understanding of history,” provided solid comments on reparations from Roslyn Mickens and Kelly Matthews, leaders of the organization DMV Freedmen. According to Ms. Mickens, “We have reached the conclusion that the U.S. Supreme Court will never honor a reparations claim that is rooted in racial terms….Reparations is not a cure for racism. This is not about reparations for ‘Black’ people. Anybody can say that they are ‘Black’ these days. This is about reparations for the descendants of America’s emancipated people. The past is not the past….Racism endures, the legacy of slavery lives on. But a new generation of freedmen will always be there demanding that the nation makes amends.”

Ms. Matthews noted that “When America was being built, we were being excluded from economic development. What we got were massacres, were burned, lynched, bombed, drowned, water-logged. Anytime we tried to make it our Black excellence was met with White violence, Black Codes, convict leasing, school desegregation.”

The analysis put forth by Ms. Mickens and Ms. Matthews, based on how this country has treated people of African descendant, its right on target. However when it comes to reparations I have a slight difference with them. I strongly believe that reparations should focus solely on what is owed to the descendants of our African ancestors for 250 years of free, forced labor. Payment for post slavery labor is a separate issue to be dealt with. Reparations for the direct descendants of those Africans who were forced to work for 250 years without being paid a single penny is absolutely clear. That’s why demanding reparations to direct descendants is not requesting a gift from the federal government.

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