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    Reparations? Maybe a good idea, but not what you think.

    To understand why i feel that the discussion about reparations makes no sense (as it is today), we need to go through a politically incorrect (but historically correct) story of slavery, the "original sin" to which reparation arguments tend to refer.

    Was the Atlantic slave trade a horrible stain on human civilization? Of course. Alas, not the only one. But history is not so simple. I don't want to get into the details of the slave trade, but many slave traders were black Africans, and probably most black Africans were sold by black Africans to the white and Arab traders. It feels a little unfair that the descendants of the states that bought slaves (e.g. white US citizens) should feel guilty for the Atlantic slave trade but the descendants of the states (like Benin, Mali and Ghana) that sold the slaves should not. Think of it: it is actually racist to imagine that Europeans could easily capture and ship slaves, all by themselves on lands that they didn't control. Were the Africans so dumb? No, they were not. They had their own states, their own kings, their own traders. Most European slave traders risked relatively little: they bought the black slaves from the black traders who were doing the risky job of enslaving their fellow countrymen. If you are a black person in the USA, are you sure that your ancestors were not slave traders? Many African slave traders ended up as slaves themselves when their business failed or when another tribe conquered theirs. So the responsibility of what happened should be shared also by the descendants of those black trading societies of Africa, which could be the very ancestors of many of today's African-Americans.

    If you are a black person in the USA, and are you sure that you are not the descendant of a freed slave who became a slave trader himself? In 1830 about 25% of South Carolina's free negro slave masters (blacks who had been freed and owned black slaves) owned 10 or more slaves: that is a much higher percentage (ten times more) than the percentage of white slave owners.

    See "The Origins of the African Slave Trade" for more details.

    There's another point that further weakens the claim of today's African-Americans of being penalized by the history of their race: whatever you are today is due to what happened in history. It is pointless for me to argue that my Italian ancestors were colonized by France, Spain, Germany, etc: there is no way to prove that i would be better off without those invasions (in fact, more than one Italian jokes that it's too bad that Switzerland never invaded Italy, given that the Swiss went on to build a more efficient country than Italians did). As politically incorrect as it sounds today, there is no way that a black US citizen can prove that s/he would be better off if her/his ancestors had never been sold in slavery to a white trader and shipped to America. If you are a black US citizen, are you sure that you would prefer to be born and raised in Ghana or Angola or Congo? Are you sure that your ancestors would have lived a better life there than they did in the plantations of Georgia? It is obviously impossible to prove. Hollywood doesn't make movies about black Africans of Africa who were never deported to America and remained in Africa. What happened to those (the vast majority) who never became slave? We do know what happened to their descendants: much of Africa has been run by dictators and torn by civil wars. So much so that not many US citizens want to move to Ghana or Angola, while a lot of citizens of Ghana and Angola would like to move to the USA (despite the discrimination and all). History is complicated. Many of today's African-Americans would be peasants in an African village if their ancestors had not been taken to the USA as slaves. Those ancestors were NOT lucky but a black kid that is being raised today in a US city may be lucky that they were not lucky. History is complicated.

    The Africans who were deported to the Americas suffered a terrible injustice, but their descendants are generally better off than the descendants of those who remained in Africa. If your great-great-great... grandfather was deported as a slave and his brother was not, you are probably better off than your distant cousins who were born in Ghana, Congo, Angola and so on. Like it or not, you too benefit from the fact that there was an Atlantic slave trade. So your argument that you are a victim of discrimination is absolutely correct, but you are less "innocent" than you think you are: you probably own a car, a smartphone, an A/C unit and so on that your cousins in Africa can only dream of. I don't want to say "lucky you" because i would be insulting your ancestors who were deprived of their freedom and sometimes of their life, but that is the bottom line: the descendants of the slaves are generally better off than the descendants of those who were not enslaved and sent to the Americas. History is complicated.

    Ditto for everybody else on this planet: i may be the descendant of someone who was horribly wronged centuries ago but the result could be that today i am better off than someone who was not wronged back then. History would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

    That's why i find the talk about "reparations" devoid of any historical rationale. It is pointless to talk about the torts that hurt past generations. Even in the few cases in which we can scientifically prove that one is the descendant of a victim, the idea that the descendants of a victim are entitled to reparations by the descendants of the others is preposterous: if you think you are the descendant of the victim of an injustice, how do you know that the other is not himself/herself the descendant of someone who was the victim of some crime against humanity? and maybe a crime committed by one of your own ancestors? Why should i pay you for what happened to your ancestors but nobody should pay me for what happened to mine?
    On the other hand, there is a kind of reparation that would make sense. The African countries still suffer from the effects of colonization. One century of colonization left behind a devastated continent. This is true of almost every place that was under Western occupation at one point or another. The West got rich by colonizing, killing and stealing, and the rest of the world is still paying a price for it. Hence, the people who live in a Western country owe their relative wealth to the forced poverty of the former colonies. It would make sense for former colonies to demand reparations from the former colonial powers. But this implies that African-Americans too should pay reparations to the former European colonies. Why? Let me explain the paradox.
    The median income of black households is $40,000 (2018 data), certainly a lot lower than the median income of all races ($60,000) but also certainly a lot higher than the median income of most countries in the world: is lot higher than Brazil's median income ($32,000), higher in fact than the average salary in any Latin American country, in any Eastern European country (the highest is in the Czech Republic at $21,000), in any Asian country except for Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan (Russia's is $20,000 per month, China's is less than $10,000). The media publicize the fact that the unemployment rate in the USA is much higher for black people than for white people (or any other ethnic group), but the media don't mention that black unemployment is often lower than unemployment in, say, Italy (such was the case between 2014 and 2019). The truth is that, should the black population of the USA declare independence, they would be one of the 20 richest countries in the world. The truth is that the black population of the USA is the beneficiary of that very colonization that enslaved their ancestors. The blacks of the USA are among the privileged people of the world who benefit from the unfair advantage gained by colonial powers. The blacks of the USA de facto share in the responsibility of the former colonizer (and slave traders and slave owners). If you are a black person born in the USA, sorry but you are a privileged citizen of a country that has benefited from slavery. Therefore you are not owned reparations: you own reparations. Insert a "smiley" here. Obviously i am not serious, but, again, i am trying to explain that history is complicated, and would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

    See also
    Only Black Lives Matter?
    Decapitate Columbus? Decapitate yourself!
    What is Wrong with White Christian Men?

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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TM, ®, Copyright © 2017 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.