Does the resurfacing of slavery in today’s policy undermine racial barriers affecting black Americans today? As Coleman Hughes, an accomplished writer, stated upon appearing in front of Congress, “Our desire to fix the past compromises our ability to fix the present.” He then transitions into the bill, which would order these restitutions, and why the fact that it “mentions slavery twenty-five times, but incarceration only once in an era with no black slaves but nearly a million black prisoners” poses an emerging threat within contemporary policy. Ultimately, while these reparations bear positive intentions in attempting to provide restitution for the damages that slaves endured prior to and following their emancipation, reparations undermine the current racial struggles that African Americans encounter today.
Reparations for slavery are long overdue. Nearly a hundred and fifty years following the emancipation of slaves in 1865, the actions of compensating descendants of slaves for the nation’s historic promotion of the institution would indeed represent a bold push towards a potentially more equitable future. Yet, despite these actions illustrating the nation through a new light, such restitutions bear minimal effects in attempting to remediate the harrowing circumstances slaves encountered since slavery began in the United States in 1619. These impacts are irreversible, and financial restitution is solely applying a band-aid to a bullet wound.
In the possibility of reparations being issued, there lies a more prevalent population that would receive a direct benefit from such restitutions. African Americans who lived through the Jim Crow Era and suffered from the policies promoting segregation that positioned Blacks in a far inferior position. This period of recent history marks a moment in which segregation was not only considered moral and legal but a standard of society that seldom came under the scrutiny of the law. Only upon the advocation for change in the Civil Rights Movement led by prominent activists was the decision upholding segregation overturned in the monumental case, Brown v. Board of Education. Reparations compensating African Americans for the hardships they endured in this period place the national interest in a more recent issue, and although such policies have been declared unconstitutional, they still bear effects witnessed in society today.
Ultimately, while reparations are viewed as a necessary step in addressing racial barriers within society today, such actions undermine contemporary issues that develop a racial divide within our nation. In the state of California alone, reparations could cost the U.S. government an estimated $14 trillion: money that could otherwise be used to remediate incarceration rates, as highlighted by Coleman Hughes in his testimony before Congress. Moreover, such funds when applied in the correct manner bear the potential of creating a positive impact on national equality. Providing reparations for slavery to individuals who have never witnessed nor understood the full scope of slavery fails to address the greater issues affecting black America.