Forget Slavery Reparations

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryI NEVER thought in my life that I would agree with anything U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell has said, but for once I have to agree with the senator from Kentucky about something. The U.S. House of Representatives have scheduled hearings on seeking an apology and reparations for slavery for those African American descendants whose ancestors suffered in bondage. This issue is also gaining traction with a number of Democratic candidates for the 2020 election. At the heart of the issue is not only an official apology but providing special legal and monetary reparations for African Americans. No one today denies that slavery was an evil institution that dehumanized a whole group of people. No one denies the cruelties visited upon African slaves who were brought to the Americas against their will and torn away from the homes and continent they came from.

But this would be opening a dangerous Pandora’s Box. Here’s the thing. Most Americans before and during the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) did not own slaves—not even in the southern states. The majority of Americans today did not even have ancestry that lived in the United States when slavery was legal and during the Civil War. Many of their immigrant ancestors came to the United States well after 1865 during the great waves of immigration from the late 19th Century into the early 20th Century. Would it be fair to seek reparations from Americans whose ancestry was never here during the time when slavery existed? Finally, what about other groups of people who were badly impacted by the wrongs inflicted on them by the U.S. government? How about the Chinese Exclusion Acts where Chinese immigrants were largely prohibited from coming to the United States? What about the injustices visited upon Mexicans when the United States stole their lands and assets after the U.S.-Mexico War? How about Italian immigrants who were put into internment camps and Americans of Italian descent who were ordered to move further inland from the coastal areas they lived in because they were thought of as “enemy aliens” during World War II?

These and many other instances in American history can be dredged up to demand an official apology from the U.S. government and reparations for wrongs done to them. Where does the whole thing end, and can the U.S. government keep paying for everything that was done wrong in the past? McConnell said that this issue was resolved 154 years ago, and that African Americans were given their freedom. Anything more would be seen as favoritism towards a particular group and this will anger to put it mildly the rest of the electorate. If anything, a Republican presidential candidate could easily win the 2020 election over something as divisive as this. We as a country and a people have far more important and pressing problems in the 21st Century to really look at something from the 19th Century.

Comments are closed.