October 3, 2016

Pointing to Institutions’ Ties to Slavery, Speakers Call for Federal Reparations

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Prof. William Darity, public policy, Duke University, and Kirsten Mullen, a folklorist and art consultant, addressed racial discrimination and its profound effect on economic inequality in the United States at a lecture Thursday.

Mullen discussed how some of our country’s most prominent investment banks, insurance companies and institutions — including Wachovia, Lehman Brothers and Ivy League universities — have ties to slavery.

Slavery in the United States was “not that long ago” from a generational perspective, according to Mullen.

“It ended … 149 years ago,” she explained. “If a new generation comes into existence every 30 years, the youngest generation is the fifth generation since the end of slavery on average, but in some families, the generational distance is much narrower … I, Kirsten Mullen, am a member of the third generation since slavery.”

Mullen described the effects of slavery on today’s society, saying there have been “many long lasting effects of the slave trade on the fortune of white Americans.”

Darity, an economist and researcher with over 200 published articles, focused on economic stratification and inequality, explored how discriminatory legislation and unequal education have greatly hampered the upward mobility of African Americans. He said reparations for African Americans are just and necessary.

“The wealth gap originates in the initial failure to provide ‘the 40 acres and a mule’ that was promised to the ex-slaves and has been perpetuated by the theft and destruction of
black property that has been accumulated for many years, making it very difficult for
black families to transfer resources to the next generation that would create the foundation for a greater wealth,” he explained.

Darity added that the historian’s task is “to explain how we arrived at where we are today” and “to explore where we should go,” referencing the work of Prof. Edward Baptist, history, Columbia University.

“I think the work of historians is central to making the case for black reparations in America,” he said. “It is the work of historians that already has functioned and can continue to function to overturn a set of claims that have been mobilized to block the reparations effort.”

In response to an audience member’s question, Darity called Georgetown’s atonement act — in which the University promised preferential admission to descendants of slaves — “easy and virtually meaningless,” saying it is no different from affirmative action.

“The act of atonement needs to come from the federal government,” he said. “It needs to be national in scope, and it needs to be done for all African Americans.”

There should be three components to the reparations program, according to Darity.

“First is an apology — an apology for each and everyone of the indignities and injustices that have been heaped upon by Americans,” he said. “Second — restitution, and third — closure.”

Darity and Mullen are currently working on a book scheduled for release in 2017 called From Here to Equality. One chapter will detail specific proposals for a system of reparations for African Americans.

The lecture, entitled “The Arc of Justice: Reparations for African Americans,” was part of Cornell’s annual History of Capitalism conference. It was facilitated by Dara Canchester ’18, Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the College of Arts and Sciences.

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  • George

    Billions have already been poured into the black community. Reparations are a slap in the face of every working person in this country.

    • Antonio pankey

      Better thay family being hung raped burnt to death work 145 years free if charge Jack ass my mom work two jobs raised 5 kids bye here self in lowest part haMilton ohio were I was lucky most mu friends had no one dummy from us being short change doing out desriminanted against all are life in. To compare that to your petty excuse you should be ashamed of yourself so called American you would disgrace to the human race

  • Paul Ortiz

    “Billions”? Trillions in wealth have been taken out of the black community since the early 1600s. Entire industries were built on slave labor, not to mention the century after slavery where African Americans were underpaid for their labor, taxed, and schools under-resourced, land stolen by racial pogroms in Rosewood, Florida, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Forsyth, GA, and many other places. Even the great majority of the money spent on the short-lived “War on Poverty” went to white social workers, police, and bureaucrats. Affirmative Action has primarily again benefited white families as white women were the primary beneficiaries of that program. Programs such as Head Start and laws such as the Civil Rights Act, Title IX have benefited all. Just once, it would be nice to create a social policy designed to help black families that does not involve paying money to build prisons and staff court systems–which again primarily benefit white Americans.

    • Lamar Wallace

      I agree with this one hundred percent. Almost everything they come up with that is supposed to benefit Black people, never does. It always benefits whites, who have already benefitted tremendously from slave labor in America…

  • To add, it is not the fault of so-called African Americans if the American government has refused to own up to its reparations obligations to date with a PERMANENT SOLUTION (which is reparations that makes Black people free and self-sufficient VS a form that enables more bloodsucking of the Black community). Reparations should be given that is in a form that does not bleed back into the coffers of America. That is true reparations. Learn more about the Honorable Silis Muhammad’s Blueprint:

  • Jim

    Democrats are mentally Ill.

  • Ejk

    We had reparations. It was called the Great Society.

  • Rick H.

    mo money mo money mo money!