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Education Not Reparations

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Autor: 24  •  December 18, 2010  •  1,680 Words (7 Pages)  •  538 Views

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If someone told you that you were eligible to receive money from the government with little or no trouble, would you take them up on the offer? I know I would. The issue of slave reparations has stormed our nation's capital. Many supporters of the ongoing battle for black civil rights have looked toward slave reparations as a step to provide more equality for black Americans. They believe such reparations will place blacks on equal turf with white Americans of similar socioeconomic situations. Supporters also claim that, had emancipated slaves been allowed to possess and retain the profits of their labor, their descendants might now control a much larger share of American social and monetary wealth. While agreeing that racism has not been expunged from the fabric of American life, I believe that the force of the civil rights movement and the '64 Civil Rights Act have knocked down most barriers blocking blacks from the economic mainstream. Reparations are not the answer to more equality. Black Americans, using the success of previous pioneers as a pedestal, need to seek aspects of expanding their human potential and not seek freebies or compensation as a means towards equality. Education, not reparations, is a practical solution to more socioeconomic equality.

If the reparations idea continues to gain traction, its most obvious effect will be to intensify ethnic antagonisms and generate new levels of racial resentment rather than alleviate them. So then, why are many blacks still in support of it? The root cause of this, says Walter E. Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University is, "Black people are taught that every waking thought of white America is racist; black people are perennial victims of white oppression ; we have no control over our lives and destiny. The only way black people can achieve anything is to prey upon white guilt, and seek special privileges like quotas, handouts, and lately reparations and apologies for slavery"(WilIiams). This "victimization vision," according to Williams, "teaches young blacks they have no choice or control over their own lives. Success depends not on their own efforts, but on handouts, concessions and leg-ups given by white people"(Williams).

Supporters of reparations, such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson contend that "It is the issue of repair for damage done" ("...Reparations"). He argues that there is evidence of precedence. Under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. government apologized for Japanese American internment during World War II and provided reparations of $20,000 to each survivor, to compensate for loss of property and liberty during that period. For many years, Native American tribes have received compensation for lands ceded to the United States by them in various treaties. Other countries have also opted to pay reparations for past grievances such as Holocaust reparations ("Reparations..."). While there is some degree of agreement of precedence, these should not apply to the situation of African-American slave reparations, however, because the people receiving compensation are direct victims of the governments' misdeeds. Contrast the Rev. Jesse Jackson's statement with that of Booker T. Washington, who, only 35 years after the end of the Civil War, argued the simple case of hard work. He said, when a black learns a skill or an occupation " well or better than some one else, they will be rewarded regardless of race or colour (sic). In the long run, the world is going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion, or previous history will not long keep the world from what it wants" (qtd in Miller 170).

The relevant question is. Should America pay? Some would argue that the injustices of slavery have caused a great deal of clash within the black community and feel that reparations would in some form dampen internal conflict with a sense of convergence. For instance, "Today, less than 40 percent of black children live in two-parent families. Illegitimacy, at 70 percent, is unprecedented in black history. Between 1976 and 2000, over 50 percent of all homicides in the U.S. were committed by blacks, and 94 percent of the time, the victim was black" (Williams). These are devastating problems, but they are not caused by the legacy of slavery, and reparations will not solve them. Bill Cosby admonished blacks who sought damages and blamed the white man for our problems. "This is a time, ladies and gentlemen," Cosby said, "when we have to turn the mirror around. Most of the problems many blacks face today have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination. In fact, a good number of devastating problems encountered by a large segment of the black community are

self-inflicted" (qtd. in Williams).

The consequence of such a pessimistic mentality of slave reparations bestowed on the black community, as described by Williams, can and has lead to "the victim attitude," which says blacks are too much the helpless victims of a foully unfair society to improve their standards of living. This mindset needs to be demolished. Instead, a better, more usable method would be one that gives greater emphasis to black successes in the face of seemingly impossible odds. That kind of education inspires, instead of breeds victimhood. This can be done through awareness as well as participating in programs dedicated to helping minorities achieve their goals.

Lenora Fulani , a political activist and educator has devoted the last, decade to tackling these issues on the street. With Dr. Fred Newman, she founded the All Stars Talent Show Network and the Joseph A. Forgione Development School for Youth, designed to change dramatically the way that teenagers in the ghetto behave and think about themselves and their career possibilities. As well as a grounding in finance, the students are taught practical skills, like how to comport themselves in the corporate world. They are taught, as Fulani puts it, "to act white," which, according to Berkeley Professor John Ogbu, means to exhibit behavioral signals that prove to yield success in our society ("Acting White"). Fulani also points out that the students are taught how " to gain employment, without sacrificing the values of their home and area: in other words, how to be black and function successfully in a white world. At the end of twelve weeks, Fulani's students are given paid internships on Wall Street" ("Bridging"). Through non-for profit programs such as this as well as programs like Fannie Mae, designed to make it easier for blacks to receive mortgages to purchase homes, progression of socioeconomic equality for blacks in society


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