Definition of ReparationDefine "reparations" in your own words. should reparations be paid to African Americans for the damages done to them by slavery and segregation? Why or why not?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are different types of proposals for reparations. Many activists for reparations simply advocate apologies, admissions of guilt, etc. Others, though probably a minority, advocate for actual direct payments for African-Americans, which is, in my view, problematic. But a middle course, which has usually taken the demanding admissions of culpability from corporations that profited from the slave trade, (Aetna is but one famous example) makes a little more sense to me, as their efforts often lead to the creation of scholarship funds and investment in African-American community. Anything that raises awareness of how fundamental slavery was in the creation and growth of this country is, in my opinion, constructive.

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Who would pay the reparation? Is there a statute of limitations? Those responsible are long dead.  What current entities?  The government?  Surviving corporations?  Brown University?  If there's any way to quantify the pain and misery inflicted by slavery, I can only hope it's been mitigated by the non-prejudice of people now.  Certainly an institution like Brown has made the effort to discriminate only by intelligence, not color. Because of the time lag regarding this issue, reparation at best can only ever be partially realized.  Current cultural colorblindness suggests that at least something's been achieved. Is that enough?  Will it ever be enough?




bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I also do not agree with reparations being paid for past civil rights violations. African-Americans would not be the only group that deserves considerations. Native Americans certainly suffered equally extreme hardships, and Japanese-Americans who were unjustly interred during World War II would also claim compensation. Too many generations have passed for an equitable solution to be considered, and those who feel their ancestors have been slighted should simply be happy that America is much more tolerant toward minorities today than in the past.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree. While the historic record is awful and the damages are still not equalized or the discrimination completely removed, trying to create any system for payment of reparations would be absolutely unfeasible. There would be complications on top of exceptions on top of entanglements - impossible to devise a method that would be fair to all the parties.

More important than monetary compensation, we all need to commit to working to end the continuing presence of discrimination and segregation. That would be the greatest repayment of all.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reparations should be paid to African Americans as well as Native Americans. It is not feasible for this to happen without it creating many problems, but something (even in the form of an apology) should be done. These two groups had their cultures destroyed at the hands of the government. To this day, the government still benefits from the people who "built this country for free." Furthermore, the descendants of these groups still suffer many injustices at a rate much greater than whites. Indeed, reparations should be paid.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think paying reparations for offences committed in the past would create more problems than it would ever hope to solve. Too much water has gone under the bridge for us to be able to effectively deal with this problem and establish with any precision who should receive such reparations and how much. One possibility would be to look at the model adopted in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which does not pay reparations but nevertheless strives to identify and recognise what wrongs were committed.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, I don't think that reparations should be paid if we define reparations as money that is given to compensate for past wrongs.  Among other reasons, I think that there is no way to meaningfully determine who is owed how much and who should pay.  How much have I benefitted from being half-white and half-Filipino with a father who was an immigrant?  Is it more than what my wife owes for being 100% white?  Other such questions abound.  It just wouldn't make sense to do this.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting thread. No one seems to think that reparations should be paid mainly because of the many difficulties that this would create. I am sure that there will be may difficulties. However, if we redefine reparation as post 7 suggests, then I can see some merit for reparations. In light of this, can we not see affirmative actions as a part of this? If so, I am in favor of it.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that reparations should be made only if they are being made to a person who has suffered first-hand. Given that the issues arising are being brought up from from decades ago, I have a hard time believing that anyone today necessitates reparations made for their own individual past. I agree that it would be very hard to negotiate how much and to whom without causing more problems.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In my view, reparations are emotional repayment. The idea is to put a number on the pain, suffering and loss of a people. The problem is that the process of identifying the number is also painful and offensive. You reopen old wounds. Sometimes offering any amount at all only causes more pain because no number can ever be enough.