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Should there be reparations for slavery? Two views on whether the U.S. should provide compensation for the past suffering of slaves.

YES The United States must acknowledge the horrors of slavery and apologize for it and the government-supported terror inflicted on African-Americans after slavery.

Reparations are a remedy for a past wrong. In this context, reparations include acknowledgment of the injury, an apology for it, and some kind of compensation. Victims of the Nazi Holocaust and Japanese-Americans interned in camps during World War II have received reparations.

Enslaved Africans were brutalized, raped, killed, forced to work for free, separated from their families, and denied the right to learn to read and write. U.S. law allowed all of this.

Conditions for most enslaved Africans were only slightly better after slavery was abolished. Most were freed with no money. Many could not find work. For almost 100 years, most African-Americans lived in segregated communities with poorer services and facilities than white neighborhoods.

Segregation became illegal in the 1960s, yet the vestiges of slavery continue. Predominantly African-American communities receive fewer resources than predominantly white communities for schools and hospitals. Studies show African-Americans are discriminated against in employment, housing, and education, and often receive harsher punishments than whites for the same crimes.

Official acknowledgment of and reparations for slavery and its continuing vestiges will make real the promise of the 13th Amendment and help heal a racially divided society.

--Adjoa A. Aiyetoro

Assistant Professor of Law

University of Arkansas, Little Rock

NO The idea of reparations for African-Americans was first suggested in 1829. The latest drive for reparations has been inspired by the compensation received by Jews and Japanese-Americans for atrocities visited upon them during World War II.

But today's reparations movement has become a vehicle to make white people feel guilty, as opposed to achieving justice for the truly victimized slaves themselves or their direct descendants. To proponents of reparations, all of white America has come to represent the evils of slavery.

The tragedies of slavery and segregation (and America's admittedly imperfect resolution of these chapters in our history) still haunt us all. But the Holocaust and the internment of Japanese-Americans--both of which involved living victims as opposed to descendants of victims--were better suited to resolution with reparations.

Despite the great progress America has made in race relations, there are still large segments of black America that are alienated from that progress and America's promise. Worse yet, popular culture and today's civil rights establishment have created a culture of victimization within black America that paralyzes, not liberates. The reparations movement feeds into this culture of victimization without providing justice for the real victims.

The greatest tribute that blacks in America today can pay to the real victims of slavery and segregation is to take advantage of the opportunities that were not available to those who came before, instead of dwelling on the injustices of the past.

--Niger Innis National Spokesman Congress of Racial Equality
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Title Annotation:Debate
Author:Innis, Niger
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 15, 2004
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