Slavery is one of the greatest atrocities in American and pre-American history.
Slavery was not just an issue of black and white. It was an issue of rich exerting their power over poor. The Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French and English traders enslaved an estimated 20 million Africans, taking them from their land and their families to serve as economic property in Europe, Asia, Australia and much of the Americas.
Though the practice of slavery in America ended nearly 136 years ago with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the effects of the heinous system linger even today.
Racism is the most obvious effect that haunts modern America. Many African Americans feel the effects of slavery through racial profiling, discrimination, poverty, etc.
Some people would like to end racism. A recent conference on the subject occurred less than two months ago.
The United Nations held their World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8. Delegates from 163 countries and over a thousand journalists attended the conference. So why have Americans heard little about it?
Maybe because the United States left early. America’s requests to delete references to Israel were not granted and some African countries, such as Zimbabwe, requested an apology for slavery and colonization of their countries. These countries also seek reparations to descendents of slaves.
Was the conference highly unorganized or does the U.S. not want to face the issues of racism?
There are precedents for reparation payments. The U.S. has paid millions to Native Americans and to Japanese Americans for their respective mass genocide and internment during World War II. We also urged Germany to pay reparations to Jews for the Holocaust.
Reparations can never fully repay the losses of grave atrocities, but they are an important step in righting a wrong.
America couldn’t fully repay African Americans if we tried. Actual monetary estimates of losses from slavery range from $10 million to $10 trillion, according to experts like Georgetown University professor Richard America.
Reparations should be paid to descendents of slaves. This should not be a mere check or land contract, but actions that will benefit the sufferers of slavery’s lasting effects: better education, medical aid, returning stolen artifacts to Africa, even something as simple as a formal apology.
Sure, no one today is directly responsible for slavery, but as a country we bear the scars and reap the benefits of the past. America, like other powerful countries, has made disgraceful decisions. We owe it to ourselves and those wronged to face this reality.
America needs to strive towards a more truthful history. Our picture of the world is often quite vague or totally erroneous. Little details make a world of difference.
Following the abolitionist movement, the U.S. government did not willingly give former black slaves 40 acres and a mule. Farmers had to fight for their land like they had to fight for their freedom — like an entire half of our country had to fight for their freedom.
In the struggle for human rights, it is never too late to right a wrong.