To The Editor:
I’ve been reading recently about making reparations to African-Americans for the terrible things that have happened to them since they were ripped from their homes in Africa to become slaves to white men in this country.
Those things are unimaginable to us white people and they continue, in different ways today, with marginalization and a systematic prevention of African-Americans to have equal standing in our society and opportunities to gain wealth and an adequate standard of living. A recent article in the Boston Globe pointed out that just nine of 270 faculty in the Harvard Business School are African-Americans. I don’t know, but I suspect that this same percentage is represented not only at Harvard but at other major universities. Surely there are more intelligent, well-educated and capable African-Americans than these figures reflect.
Several of the current Democratic candidates for president have expressed support for reparations, but none have apparently given it more than token attention except for Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts. In an understatement, she pointed out, “It’s a complicated problem on both who gets it and what it’s going to look like,” and “Let’s really push a more national, bigger, more front-and-centered conversation about this.” She says she has a plan but doesn’t reveal it.
I doubt this will happen. The concept of making reparations at first sounds like an idea whose time has come, but how in the world could it be done, and how many trillions would it cost? In my view, real reparations would comprise a fundamental change to the way African-Americans are pushed aside in all of our society. This will not be easily or quickly accomplished. Despite comments by many that “I’m not bigoted at all,” the reality is not the case: otherwise, why would we nonbigots not be strongly and actively involved in making changes in our society? We are largely driven by money, and there seems to be a conviction that, “If you get more, I’ll have less.” If we bring African-Americans into equality, we will all have more, and not simply in riches.
To my mind, there is a strong, workable case to be made for reparations to Native Americans, who were here thousands of years before America was “discovered” by Columbus and others, bringing the gifts of diseases to which the natives had no immunity. Those who somehow survived were lied to and pushed back over and over again, and many Native Americans now live on reservations where their lives are, if possible, worse than those of African-Americans. Reparation to these people would be much less “complicated” and costly by doing the same for them that we must do for African-Americans.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” and Lord knows we need to be lifted if we are to remain the greatest country, for many reasons, in the world.