Who else finds all this “reparations” chatter amusing? Or dismaying?
Too bad the people who knew better, who could’ve smothered all this nonsense, now only mostly fill memories. If these. No, I’m not referring to freedmen themselves, but the second or third generation of duly recognized from birth as truly landed Americans who could still mingle among emancipated blacks.
Yes, as Juneteenth reminds us it took two further years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation before slavery officially ended throughout the sovereign United States. We have Texas to thank for that delay. Figures. Today’s Americans have declared the 1865 commemoration a federal holiday as worthy as Martin Luther King’s birthday.
Indeed, it is.
Now if only we can get this sort of recognition for Evacuation Day, November 22nd, 1783, the date King George’s redcoats departed New York City. Okay. If you’re not from there, aren’t a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee whose background stems from 1790, it means little. How sad.
American history is a near thing. Our society is not of an age where it can look back far. America is not England, Iran, Greece, Egypt, or China. The United States has existed for less than 250 years. So, any one in his or her middle 60s has lived through about a quarter of our nation’s being.
Therefore, those born in the early 20th century such as my maternal grandmother Alice (1900) or my father’s eldest brother (1910) or even father himself (1918) surely met people who’d once been chattel. Property. Two-legged livestock.
As those then could not have imagined 60 years hence of manned interplanetary travel, how could they have absorbed others’ bondage less than 60 earlier when these circumstances were lightly taught? That’s the bad thing about American history. If we can’t whitewash our past, we perfume it altogether.
True accountings of our emergence would make us better people today. However, there are countless Americans preferring sugary tales and incomplete and outright redacted versions of events and people who led us to become “Americans.” They’d rather remain mired in comforting falsehoods or lies that diminish everyone than walk upright along bright paths.
Reparations for blacks many lifetimes distant from any vestige of forced servitude is a suggestion. A bad one at that. One which enflames Anglos further weakened and made insecure and enraged through invented grievances. They refuse seeing how progress hasn’t so much left them behind but allowed the formerly excluded to finally advance and claim our rightful places in society. Perhaps if those who’ve enjoyed unfettered unquestioned advantages hadn’t slumped on others’ shoulders throughout their lives, they too would’ve stepped forward with the rest of us. Instead, they marinate in a rancid nostalgia which has tenderized them susceptible to manufactured pity.
On the other hand, who doesn’t the reparations suggestion demean?
If our society honestly intended compensating those whose bondage vastly enriched our nation, shouldn’t this have been offered during their lives? Bestowing such just due on their inheritors is a sop. It’s way too late now. Doing so today is a gesture done to assuage guilt other parties believe ought to be felt and salved. Money as the make-good and feel-good cure.
Isn’t there always some residue of resentment afterwards, though? After all, on one side there’s never enough received; while on the other a sense of being gouged through whatever amount given. And despite proclamations of honoring the long gone populace as well as rectifying past crimes, money habitually shortens memories and dilutes meanings. Or simply skews intent.
Of all the states, I’ve learned California looks to take the lead in recompensing black American. Naturally none of the states down in old Dixie would’ve proposed this remedy.
Are you kidding!? But California?
Not only was slavery prohibited in the Golden State but Californians fought for the Union. California has no need to atone for our nation’s stain. Nonetheless, bighearted though not very clear-eyed, talk bubbles up from the Coast about possibly dunning current Californians through reparations. Worse, there are a lot of possible recipients who think collecting money for nothing on behalf of themselves would be a swell idea.
And again playing on guilt others have assigned themselves, they would persuasively justify the unjust withdrawals from the public trough. What timing they enjoy that the generation which reared me has mostly declined or died out. Undoubtedly that entire cohort would ask the panderers this one pointed question:
done to deserve this payment?”
A good direct question intended to embarrass, not delve into the subject or parse reasons why. It wouldn’t have been asked to irritate. Just expose.
Again, the best interrogators best suited for such inquiry are either too old or have been memorialized. Tart and curt, their vigor swirled with the vinegar which would’ve sliced through to the bone of contention. There’s something about being drawn and quartered – rhetorically – by black elders, wise heads, one instinctively knows should be esteemed that renders almost every adult challenging them into targets to be scolded.
The judges would’ve consisted of the generation that strove forward alongside the civil rights movement with MLK. It’s amazing as decades progress and the sharpness of our past softens to accommodate succeeding generations’ new sensibilities, how our national advance gets seen through more and more grease-smeared window panes.
In our time the best example of this blurring is the Second World War’s conclusion. Dropping atomic bombs on Japan was necessary to force Japan’s defeat. Period. Combatants, participants, and survivors of the epoch know this as fact.
It became contentious when revisionism reared its scaly head. When we see eras through our glasses. Day by day, fewer remain alive who personally know of that death, terror, and misery. The West did such a superb job of making future consequences of releasing any rampaging global fascism and tolerationism so painful, the world had to make do with proxy wars through not ready for primetime fighters.
Now as total war ebbs from memory we forget the perils others faced and defeated. We are asked, to consider, to see “the other side.” The inevitable tail of this viper just may be seeing the West as the true fangs behind the destruction the Axis prosecuted.
In a way, people encouraging 21st century reparations for slavery are right down there with advocates endorsing mutual culpability insofar as World War II.
I wish that last sentence was as farfetched as it should be. It isn’t.
Successor black generations could use infusions of the same guidance instilled in mine. Our parents brooked little deviance and even less defiance. Judged through today’s standards maybe that discipline was harsh. Or in an extreme, merciless.
Yet effective nonetheless.
Ours is now a landscape wherein hard truths can be sidestepped, right or wrong. What lessons don’t contemporary parents eliminate while preparing their issues’ for the independence of adulthood? About this reparations subject, my parents, the whole host of wise heads imprinting black adolescents and teens, would’ve practiced no compunction remarking against the idea.
Insulting? That and belittling. Oh? To whom? To the bones of every American slave who spent any portion of his or her life in chains.
If you’re of a certain age and similar disposition, you too can envision the wise heads responses to intellectually superior but earnest nitwits establishing cases advocating reparations for slavery.
The wise heads would not have interrupted. They’d have let the speakers have their say. Part of that just stems from basic politeness. The other more historically rooted.
For the longest blacks in America were voiceless. And when allowed to speak could be arbitrarily cut off. As any gifted orator has proven, voices can be powerful.
So let the misguided have the floor. Let them deepen their holes.
Confident in their cause as the righteously young(er) are everywhere, they’d likely expect conviction laid out so convincingly to rally the opposition to their side and win the argument. To an audience full of contemporaries? Yes. To wise heads having walked much longer roads to today? Fat chance.
Older listeners – the older, the more aware – would’ve disdained what had been presented. What the younger would’ve insisted upon hypothetically, are truly insisting upon now, wouldn’t have been earned by them. Earning for onesself should mean a great deal. Which is why many of the older generation might’ve seemly taken solemn pride through what their efforts produced. This covers a wide expanse of life, by the way, not just money alone.
Being given is nowhere near on par with having been earned. Never is. Never will be.
How large an exaggeration is it stating our younger generations believe using 4G devices is a hardship when 5G ones abound? The subset demanding slave reparations is undeserving.
Only ex-slaves ever deserved reparations.