Reported by Michal Ortner
Jeff Neumann and Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn have compiled a startling series of statistics and information that points to what reparations would look like in 21st Century America. In their article for Yes! Magazine, the two give three reasons for why reparations is necessary and how these reasons have economically disenfranchised Black Americans.
“It began with 246 years of legal slavery which we extracted wealth from the lives of African Americans,” the article starts.
Neumann and Dunn begin by explaining how “slavery launched modern capitalism and turned the U.S. into the wealthiest country.” Much of America’s foundation of financial stability and success grew from the estimated 4 million enslaved Africans in 19th Century America. Slave-harvested cotton was the financial hub in the center of America’s trade, growth, and stability.
Slavery is typically thought of as the fault of the South, but the nation (as a whole) benefited. For every dollar of revenue that was produced from cotton trade, 40 cents was channeled into New York City because of insurance, shipping, and financing.
Another argument for reparations is that “emancipation did not bring economic freedom to former slaves.” Though General Sherman made the famous promise of 40 acres and a mule for every freed slave family in America, that was overturned by President Andrew Johnson. Slaves were also taken advantage of by their previous owners and those who were trying to get ahead.
In 1870, there was a licensing fee law listed under “Black Codes.” It outlined that Black people were charged $100 to own a business, and White entrepreneurs were not charged anything.
Their third point states that “discriminatory policies then kept African Americans from receiving help other citizens received.” Originally, Social Security excluded agricultural workers, which consisted primarily Black workers. Despite more than 1 million loans given to help homeowners avoid foreclosure in 1933, reportedly none were given to African-Americans in White neighborhoods.
Finally, the article shares the result that “African Americans have not been able to get a foothold in the economy” due to these deliberate setbacks. According to Neumann and Dunn, there is a high calculable rate of reparations due to the African-American community.
In economical damages, 40 acres and a mule would calculate to $20 a week since the late 1700s on behalf of 4 million slaves. This would total to around $800 billion. “They owe us a lot of money,” Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, according to the article.
They also have determined that for every dollar that White people earn, Black people are only bringing home a dime.
“The elephant that sits at the center of our history is coming into focus. American slavery happened — we are still living with its consequences,” said, Daina Ramey Berry, African and African Diaspora Professor at the University of Texas.