Reparations: The March on Washington





Mr. Horowitz, author most recently of Uncivil Wars, is editor-in-chief of FrontPage Magazine.

In 1943, A Phillip Randolph organized a civil rights march on Washington to demand full citizenship for black Americans. At the time, the descendants of slaves were disenfranchised and legally segregated in the South and legally discriminated against everywhere else. Twenty years later Martin Luther King Jr. led a triumphant reprise of Randolph's protest and delivered what has become second only to the Gettysburg Address as the most famous speech in American history. Within two years of King's march, the Congress passed laws by eighty and ninety percent majorities of both political parties that guaranteed full citizenship rights and political equality to blacks. King himself won a place in the pantheon of American heroes, displacing Washington and Lincoln to become the only American honored with a national holiday in his name — a powerful symbol of the guilt Americans felt for the crimes of slavery and segregation, and a living reminder of the lengths to which Americans have gone and are prepared to go to right the wrongs of their country's racial past.

But since King's day of glory, the Washington mall has become the platform for a series of increasingly embarrassing displays of racial histrionics and anti-American bathos in the name of the civil rights cause. In 1991 America's most prominent black racist and spiritual guru of a crackpot religious cult led an improbable"Million Man March" to the hallowed site. On the mall where King gave his"I Have A Dream" speech, Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered a disquisition on the numerology of the integer"19" and denounced"white supremacy," which he identified as the most pressing problem in America and the world. This was a throwback to the era of racial charlatans like Marcus Garvey and Farrakhan's own mentor, the improbable prophet of Mohammed, Wallace Fard.

Two years ago, the Reverend Al Sharpton claimed the same podium for what he called his"Redeem the Dream" march, an appalling effusion of race-baiting diatribes. Malik Zulu Shabazz, the"Minister of Defense" of the New Black Panthers called for a race war. Farrakhan was absent but sent his"Queen" to represent him at the event. Participants included members of the congressional black caucus and HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, along with sometime felon and current boxing promoter Don King, who provided the only levity of the day.

This year witnessed a full-blown return to the buffoonery of pasts remote in time and not so remote. One speaker referred to the event as a revival of the Sixties, chanting"Black Power! Black Power! Black Power!" But the presiding spirit of the day was not Stokely Carmichael or Martin Luther King. It was Marcus Garvey, famous for launching a"Back to Africa" movement and then bilking those who bought tickets on his"Black Star Line" in the hope of going"home." The afternoon included many paeans to Garvey, whose 115th birthday it was, along with a genuine Garvey impersonator in Admiral Nelson hat and ostrich plumes. The only rival to this marvel was a white-robed gentleman calling himself the"Prince of Israel," who began by garbling a Hebrew prayer and then delivered a sermon on the evils of the Constitution and the racism of the American Way.

Malik Zulu Shabazz came for a return appearance, stepping to the microphone, tarted up in Salvation Army drag, which is apparently the uniform of the New Black Panther Party, to deliver the following message:"The President wants to talk about a terrorist named bin Laden. I don't want to talk about bin Laden. I want to talk about a terrorist called Christopher Columbus. I want to talk about a terrorist called George Washington. I want to talk about a terrorist called Rudy Giuliani. The real terrorists have always been the United Snakes of America."

New York City Councilman Charles Barron followed with a confession that he was so mad he wanted to go up to a white person —"any white person" — and"slap them," while explaining"it's a black thing." Barron was determined to show that he had more than mild mayhem on his mind as he repeatedly injected the word"fire" into his sentences and warned,"If they don't pay us reparations now, we're talking about scorched earth."

The theme of the march was"We are owed," and the afternoon provided many imaginative variations on this idea. One black rapper chanted,"Show me the money, or I'll show you my Glock," while another sang"Reparations, reparations … I want my house on the hill and my Coupe De Ville." When the theme of the speakers wasn't demands or threats it was an almost religious invocation of identity, and not the American one at that. A professor named Camille Yarborough, draped in a pink dashiki summed up these sentiments in a bongo-accompanied anthem with the refrain,"We are the people of Africa, we are the family of Africa."

While the platform mainly belonged to the fringe, Congressman John Conyers also spoke, taking time to gratefully acknowledge the presence of"Minister Farrakhan," and to demand"Reparations now!" Conyers is the author of the House reparations bill HR 40, which is the legal charter of the movement. If the Democrats win the House in November, Conyers will be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and his reparations bill will come to the congressional floor. That is definitely something to think about.

In the end, the best thing that can be said of the"Millions for Reparations" march was that it was a complete flop. At several points in the day, organizers of the march came to the microphone to urge the crowd to move to the center of the mall so that its pitiful numbers would look larger. The AP is reporting there were"hundreds" in attendance. Event" coordinator" Viola Plummer could not stifle her despair:"When I look out, it is an empty field," she said, then put on a brave front to call for a reparations demonstration at the UN in September 2003.

This march displayed the authentic roots of the reparations cause — the fringes of the kooky left. This is a fact of which even Conyers took note of while asserting that it was also a movement whose time had now come. Conyers' position as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee means that his claim must be taken seriously, reflecting the fact that while the Washington march exposed the shabby, not to say deranged origins of the movement, its future lies elsewhere.

The real fire power behind reparations comes not from Sixties leftovers and the politically disturbed, but from the black civil rights establishment and the African American elites it represents. The spiritual godfathers of the current reparations claim are Harvard luminaries Randall Robinson and Law Professor Charles Ogletree, whose writings and legal suits have energized the movement and made it a serious one. Ogletree's lawsuits will be unveiled in September, and that will be a moment to assess where it might end up.

On the other hand, Ogletree's Harvard contingent shares two common and essential themes with the rag-tag army of misfits who gathered on the Capitol lawn on August 17 and claimed Martin Luther King's day as their own. The first of these is the anti-American animus that inspires both movements. This is evident in Ogletree's article"The Case for Reparations," which appeared in a special section provided by America's largest newpaper, USA Today, on the weekend of the march. Ogletree's case begins with the following fallacious and misleading claims:

"Beginning in the early 1600s, millions of Africans were brought to this country against their will, auctioned off like cattle, kept in bondage and forced to perform hard labor under the most wicked of institutions. As many as 25 million lives were lost. This atrocity was compounded by the US government's resistance to issue even a formal apology in the 139 years since slavery was abolished."

Fact: The United States —"this country" — was not even in existence until 150 years after the first slaves arrived in 1619 — something Ogletree is well aware of and like every other reparations spokesman chooses to ignore. The figure"246 years of slavery" — used by everyone in the movement — refers to the years from 1619 (the arrival of the first slave ship in Jamestown) to 1865, the end of the civil war and the general emancipation of the slaves. But for more than 150 of those years there was no United States. A correct figure for the existence of slavery in"this country" would be more like 89 years.

This is not a small issue for Ogletree's argument since his intention is to make the"government" liable and not individual tax-paying Americans (although this is obviously an impossible distinction to make). If the government of the United States did not exist until 1776 or 1787, how can it be sued for what happened before?

This elision is in itself a statement, one that goes to the anti-American heart of the reparations movement. For Ogletree and his supporters, the American revolution was an insignificant event; the Declaration of Independence merely hypocritical; the 80 years of struggle by Americans who were not slaves to abolish slavery really nothing; the 600,000 lives and enormous national treasure the nation lost in a Civil War to free the slaves were actually not about slavery at all, and therefore should not be part of any reckoning in payment of the"debt."

And one could continue with the litany of acts undertaken by Americans and their government over the next hundred years, which have had world ramifications for minorities and oppressed people everywhere, including the civil rights battles to end segregation and discrimination, the trillions of dollars devoted to economic programs and affirmative action plans designed to uplift the poor generally and blacks in particular. These are all dismissed by reparations enthusiasts as nothing.

The same is true of Ogletree's claim that there has never been an official American apology for slavery, as though white Americans never noticed that an injustice had been done. Forget Thomas Jefferson's foreboding that he"trembled for my country, knowing that God is just" (a sentiment carved in stone on the Jefferson memorial). Recall only Lincoln's second inaugural, hailed generally as the greatest speech in the English language in which he said that slavery was an offense to God, that the Civil War was God's retribution on America for slavery, and that every drop of blood shed by the lash would be repaid by a drop of blood shed by the sword.

Robinson's and Ogletree's studied disdain for these facts reflect a seething hatred for the American heritage and the American achievement which is just beneath the surface of the reparations movement. This sentiment is as contemptible as it is dangerous — especially at a time when the nation is under attack.

The second theme common to all reparations proponents is the idea encapsulated in the slogan of the Washington opera bouffe, which is that"We Are Owed." Everything wrong with the civil rights movement for the last twenty years is summed up in this whine. Beginning with Tawana Brawley and working inexorably towards Rodney King, the principal subjects of civil rights campaigns in the last two decades have been disparate sentences for drug crimes, perceived injustice in the treatment of criminals by local police, and unsubstantiated claims about the disparate impacts of social policies among racial groups (so-called"institutional racism").

Reparations for slavery and its alleged legacies are just the latest unsubstantiated claims:"The legacy of slavery is seen today in well-documented racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, employment and insurance, and in the form of racial profiling, the high rate of single parent homes and the disproportionate number of black inmates." [Ogletree]

But this argument is spun entirely out of a thin air called"disparities." It is true that 70% of black children are born out of wedlock, for example, and this does constitute a"racial disparity" since the figure for whites is about 30%. But in 1965 nearly 70% of all black children had two parents, and that was 100 years after slavery's end. In other words, while this may be a racial disparity it would take an entirely different argument to establish that it is connected to slavery or segregation or discrimination. Lack of a father in the home, however, is a powerful indicator of poverty and crime. The commission of crimes is rather integrally related to"racial profiling …and the disproportionate number of black inmates." Ogletree's racial indictment of America is a house of cards built with a stacked deck.

Rodney King — the most celebrated civil rights"victim" of the last quarter century was in point of fact a convicted felon resisting arrest. The President of the United States and the U.S. Justice Department took up King's grievance despite his record, despite his race (more probably because of it) and despite the exoneration of the officers involved in the incident by a jury of their peers. The police were tried a second time — a procedure directly against the American legal grain — and Rodney King emerged triumphant. He received his"justice."

Since then Rodney King has squandered all three million dollars he was awarded in reparations. He has shown himself through multiple subsequent arrests to be a habitual criminal and a willfully unproductive member of society. What did his reparations do for him and what does his subsequent history tell us about the incident itself? Was he beaten because he was black or — as the officers contended -- because he was a felon resisting arrest and they were angry because of the 100-mile-an-hour, life-endangering chase he had led them on? Was his treatment a legacy of slavery or a by-product of the mean environment in which battles with urban predators take place? These are the crucial questions that neither Ogletree nor any other reparations advocate is prepared to answer.

When Martin Luther King gave his speech in Washington, he was disenfranchised; he could not eat at lunch counters reserved for whites or sit in buses when whites were standing; or use facilities other than those designated"for colored only." What exactly are Charles Ogletree and Randall Robinson, two men of Harvard, two counselors to presidents, and both the recipients of six-figure incomes owed by America? What are they owed by the ordinary Americans who must pay the taxes for reparations and who in their vast majority had ancestors who either had nothing to do with slavery, or gave their lives to end it? Or dedicated themselves to fighting segregation and discrimination?

Thanks in part to the efforts of the majority of Americans who were not slaves and who are not black, blacks in America today are the richest and freest blacks on God's green earth. Richer and freer than black citizens of any black nation in the world. Seventy-five percent of black Americans live above the poverty line and 50% are solidly in the middle class. In other words the greatest ambition of the civil rights movement has been achieved. The doors of opportunity have been opened and the rules have been made as neutral as they humanly can be to ensure that the competition is fair.

Is there a level playing field? There is no level playing field for anyone. Short of a totalitarian state that controls the families that individuals are born into,there can be none. A free society is inevitably a society of great inequalities, because individuals themselves are greatly unequal. This is a fact that is obvious — or should be — to everyone from the age of five and up.

America did not create black slavery, but ended it. The civil war was won. America has outlawed segregation and discrimination. The civil rights cause was victorious. It's time for everyone including Randall Robinson and Charles Ogletree to get used to it, and to move on to more productive debates.


This article was first published by frontpagemag.com and is reprinted with permission.


comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Tory - 10/21/2003

I personally do not beleive that reparations should be given to Native Americans or blacks. If one was to actually think about it none of the modern day Native Americans or blacks have been forced into slavery or had their land taken as an act of discrimination. My anscestors were very poor and were forced into unjust situatoins such as extremely poor working conditions and very low pay rates. Yet my family does not get any benefits because of this. Why should current descendants of historically opressed minorities recieve reparations, they did not suffer?


Guy S. - 8/24/2003

Mr. Seater

You (your ancesters) took a "seat" on the "train of economic development" we (as in my ancesters) built - labor free. Ever hear of Eistein's Theory of Relativity? That can be applied socially as well. Besides have you ever boarded a train without paying for a ticket???

Guy S.


Guy S. - 8/24/2003

DS

"ACTIONS 'SPEAKS' LOUDER THAN WORDS." And judging by the genocidal issues seriously facing our black communities today on so many fronts and in so many ways, that apology isn't taken seriously enough. It seems to me that when an apology has been sincerely felt, you would know it. From numerous social statistics that apology still needs serious work, therefore it's still an issue! I want to forgive and forget and move on too, but you just won't let me.


steve seater - 12/11/2002

Horowitz tells the truth and the leftists hate and despise him, but the fact is that America's black community has sabotaged itself. Extremely high drop out rates from school by black teenagers, a 70 to 80% illegitimacy rate and a general lack of appreciation for learning in general are the root causes of the problems in the black community and not slavery. The idea of reparations is insane. None of my ancestors had anything whatsoever to do with slavery, all having come to the US after 1912. Why should any of my tax money go for reparations. The very thought that millions of Americans whose ancestors came to America long after the Civil War was over should pay reparations to blacks is simply absurd.


Phill Jones - 11/1/2002

I would answer you back Gus but your answer to me was (is) arrogant and pompous.


Al Byrd - 10/30/2002

Well written ! I'm a descendant of the Wicocomico Indians (William Taptico) and we have written proof that one our Taptico ancestors was held as a slave. If blacks receive reparations then descendants of the Indians on the east coast are also qualified to receive reparations and their land that was stolen from from them . If we are striving to be politicaly correct then we will bankrupt the country. But if blacks receive reparations, then we will have lawyers filing class law suits against England and the United States for the east coast Indians. I believe that responsible people on both sides of the color spectrum should speak out forcefully against this foolish scam by folks like Jesse Jackson.


Gus Moner - 9/13/2002

Thank you for your comments, Phil. I’d like to address your comments now. I never meant to imply Mr. Horowitz hadn't the right to his opinion, nor do I believe that the phrase you quote means what you imply it does. It is a pity we have to tolerate the likes of him implies indeed that we DO have to have the respect and tolerance for his opinion. According to the dictionary, pity means regrettable. Have to means obligation to do something, external, as from an authority. For example, we have to stop at a red light. And tolerate means to permit, or put up with. Thus, I have dissected the phrase so that you can understand it. I am sorry you were unable to sort that one out.

The false and anyway irrelevant fact you claim to be true and use as an excuse, “Africans sold their own willingly” to justify whites buying bound blacks does in no way shape or form justify their being bought into slavery into the colonies and the USA. Africans are not a race; it just means people from Africa. In Africa there are thousands of ethnic tribes and cultures. There is no evidence, for example, that any Saharawi sold people from his own tribe into slavery. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, that they would hide their people from hunters. Different African nations, cultures, tribes or ethnicities in their conflicts and wars, would capture and sell as slaves the captured men of the vanquished, not unlike white tribes doing the same in what I presume to be your ancestral roots, in Europe. I have read no evidence citing as fact your assertions that “repatriated slaves entered the slave procurement business”. Nor do I think it or anything else is enough to justify codifying slavery into your nation’s laws, as the USA did.

You and Mr. Horowitz seem to be grasping at the wind, trying to avoid at all cost and suing many sound bites and falsehoods rather than confronting the nation’s past to which all its citizens are heirs, its good deeds as well as its bad deeds. You cannot just take the bits of history you like and bugger off the rest as irrelevant anymore than you can play football with just the bits of the rulebook you like because it favours your team’s strengths.

Please elaborate on what you mean by “historically inaccurate” regarding the comparison of Afro-American slave labour reparations with other (Jews, Gypsies, etc.) slave reparations. Many Jews sold off their brethren in the camps and en route to save their necks. Extreme situations bring forth extreme reactions. Seldom are they justified in the light of later, sober evaluation. It is far more telling of the character and humanity of the people involved seeking reparations after WWII that in fighting for their reparations, the Jews, the best funded slave labourer victims enjoying the world-wide support of their fellow travellers refused to acknowledge the suffering of their cellmates and did not seek for their fellow captives from other religions and ethnicities reparations as well.

Why cannot one form of slavery, slave labour camps in Europe be compared to another, plantation labour camps in the Southern USA? I am bewildered by the unfounded assertions you make. Nothing justifies the German Nazi camps, does it? Nothing justifies Southern white’s labour camps, does it? If one form of slave labour deserves reparations and apologies, why does the other not? Why is it historically invalid, what does that phrase mean? If you want to make that case, give evidence, don’t just throw out the sound bite “historically invalid” and hide. Historically means pertaining to history. Invalid means not having a conclusion following from the premises. Please list your premises to make such an assertion.

In any event, you don’t want to apologise nor feel guilt. You are entirely within your rights to do so and to express it. I respect and thank you for your opinions.

However, don’t I would add that if you had read my article thoroughly, you would have come to the part where I do not believe reparations are the solution either. However, I disagree with his entire line of reasoning as irrelevant to the topic, racist and factually inaccurate, and gave my reasons for that.

I shall await your reasons, premises and evidence regarding the assertions you claim to be true.


phill Jones - 9/4/2002

I believe that Mr. Horowitz has the Constitutional right to express his opinions, whether you agree with him or not. I take it your are of a liberal persuasion, yet you say: "it's a pity we have to tolerate the likes of him"; that, sir, is a perfect reflection of the greed and intolerance of the dashiki wearing racists demanding whitey to give them their dues. Your assertions, in a previous response, which equates slave reperations with the return, by the Swiss, of Jewish money is historically invalid and cannot be compared with American slavery. Let's not forget that Africans sold their own willingly, and that on numerous occassions repatriated slaves entered the slave procurement business. As I have note before I will never apologize to a person of color for slavery nor succumb to their wish for collective white guilt.
Mr. Horowitz sees the playing field quite clearly, those who dont live in a fantasy world.


Gus Moner - 9/1/2002

Recently I responded to Mr. Horowit'z Reparations comment. He was unknown to me at the time. I remained curious about who would write such a distorted article, so some hours later I decided to enter his website. Now, having read Front Page magazine's web site, I am appalled at Mr. Horowitz's right wing fundamentalism and Judeo-Christian cultism.

The entire operation seems set up as a front for a financial scam to bilk people of their money for his "causes". He hides his ultra-right conservatism in his purported do-good charity and social work of the 60's and 70's. Whatever he may have believed and fought for then has nothing to do with his views today, as the Reparations article pointed up.

His views do not reflect those of a thinking person who looks at all sides of a subject and practices reason, but rather a bombastic fanaticism resembling other fundamentalist movements in the world the US is now engaged in fighting.

It's a pity we have to tolerate the likes of him, whilst people and nations the world over suffer and fight against his kind. However, it’s best to have him out in the open, for to beat your opponent you must know him or her.

I hope people are not foolish enough to send him money for his multiple right-wing "causes".


Gus Moner - 8/31/2002

Mr. Horowitz, of whatever nationality, religious, ethical or moral persuasion, (or fashion preference) he may be, must be commended on a very strong attempt to discredit the leaders of Afro-American movements in their efforts to support reparation for slavery. One has to wonder why. Mr. Horowitz is particularly hard on those from that group who practice Islam. He describes some of them as belonging to a “crackpot religious cult”.

Given that Jews and Muslims are both the descendants of Abraham with the sole differentiation being that from a married spouse came one group and from a mistress the other, what description would Mr. Horowitz give Jewish worshipers of any cult? It seems beneath any serious commentator to attack someone’s religious persuasion, life style, dress preferences or whatever to dismiss his or her political or legal point of view. It bears no significance on the merits of a lawsuit that one group or another is in favour or opposed.

Deriding the participants and organisers’ ideology backing reparations for descendants of slaves, Mr. Horowitz describes them as part of “the shabby, not to say deranged origins of the movement”. What is most incredible is that he’s spent 4 pages or about 2679 words and who knows how much researchers’ time on what Mr. Horowitz would have us believe is an insignificant an irrelevant group of “charlatans” (or occasionally “racial charlatans”) who gave us “buffoonery”, “diatribes”, (or race-baiting diatribes”), “bathos”, “histrionics”, who nonetheless, by all accounts, could not have numbered more than a few hundred!

Mr. Horowitz is particularly keen to ridicule their manner of dress. I suppose in Mr. Horowitz’s mind, wearing anything but a suit and tie is to be “tarted up in Salvation Army drag”. (How do Salvation Army volunteers feel about that comparison?) Indeed, Mr. Horowitz’s obsession with their appearance is intriguing. One victim of this clothing-obsession was (mercifully) only described as “a white-robed gentleman “, whilst another who apparently met none of Mr. Horowitz’s good standards was described as “draped in a pink dashiki”, the group in general merited this standard: “the rag-tag army of misfits”.

After demeaning and lambasting the participants during the first 35% of the article, (some 1,000 out of the 2673 words), Mr. Horowitz finally gets to the (apparently only) root of his argument, which is that the slavery reparations lawsuit lacks merit because it encompasses the entire slavery period, from the 1600’s till abolition. If there is another point, it is that reparation has already been paid, by enforcing their civil rights under the law and ending segregation, having a civil war and providing economic assistance in welfare/ anti-poverty schemes, and affirmative action programmes.

In Mr. Horowitz’s words, “The figure "246 years of slavery" — used by everyone in the movement — refers to the years from 1619 (the arrival of the first slave ship in Jamestown) to 1865, the end of the civil war and the general emancipation of the slaves. But for more than 150 of those years there was no United States. A correct figure for the existence of slavery in "this country" would be more like 89 years.” My question is, so what? Is that any better?

Anyhow, let’s indulge the gentleman and make some analogies. By this shorter method of counting and assessing responsibility, Mr. Horowitz tries to diminish the merit of the claim for slavery reparations. However, from sound precedent, the claim is indeed valid for the entire period, because the USA is the rightful heir to the events of the administration prior to its foundation when it took control of administration of the colonies, inheriting all institutions, slavery included. It is just as the situation is with Russia now regarding the USSR’s legacy, property, treaty obligations and the like. Otherwise, every nation could elude responsibility and/or reparations for past deeds by re-inventing themselves with a new charter.

Imagine Mr. Horowitz’s harangue in the event the Federal Republic of Germany would have said the new republic born in and from the ashes of the Nazi government was not responsible for the holocaust and used that argument to pay no reparations!!! Moreover, both the new US constitution and government apparatus accepted existing slavery in the national territory, even maintaining a balance between slave and non-slave states in the process of admission for decades. It wantonly and conscientiously accepted the heritage inherited from colonial Britain, organised itself accommodating the slave states and further institutionalised slavery by keeping a studious and well debated balance of salve and non-slave states, often harking back to colonial roots for arguments, for well over 70 years. This continued until the Mexican War, Manifest Destiny and the addition of so much territory made equal expansion of slave and non-slave states untenable, one of the factors hastening the Civil War. If the USA had not accepted and enshrined slavery, it would never have been joined by slave states and history would have developed quite different.

Mr. Horowitz then asks rhetorically (and naively) “If the government of the United States did not exist until 1776 or 1787, how can it be sued for what happened before?” I ask him, rhetorically, if the German Federal Republic did not exist before 1949, how can they have been held liable for Nazi slave labour before its existence?

There is such a thing as inherited social and moral responsibility for the acts of one’s nation and forbearers. Just look at Canada, Australia and New Zealand and their recent treatment and settlement of aborigines’ claims and those of other natives overrun by colonisation. And we are not even talking about enslavement. Mr. Horowitz calls the date matter “an elision” by the plaintiffs in dismissing the argument of the attorneys bringing the slavery reparations case before the US courts. I call his derision shallow and crass opportunism by Mr. Horowitz. Was not Switzerland just held accountable for its actions and omissions during the holocaust? Most of the Swiss now paying reparations were not around to make the decisions that they are now held liable for.

Mr Horowitz then goes on to brazenly distort history. Any US educated person over 16 years old knows that the US Civil War began because the northern states refused to recognise the right of secession by the southern states who tried to exercise it. It is ingenious at best, and a lie if coldly examined, to suggest that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves. The Emancipation of slaves came much later in the war, (check the date, I shan’t make it easy for you): indeed it was promulgated when the outcome was still in doubt and an impetus had to be found to maintain northern morale.

It is one thing to fight a war to have (or not) the seceding states leave to protect their perceived right of free association to safeguard their economic and social organisation around slavery, as cruel and immoral as it was. It is quite another, and a rather long leap to claim that the US has made payment to descendents of slaves with “…the 600,000 lives and enormous national treasure the nation lost in a Civil War to free the slaves…including the civil rights battles to end segregation and discrimination, the trillions of dollars devoted to economic programs and affirmative action plans designed to uplift the poor generally and blacks in particular. As if the war was started and fought to free the slaves!

It is probably true, as Mr. Horowitz claims, that Messieurs “Robinson's and Ogletree's “studied disdain” for these “facts” reflect a seething hatred for the American heritage and the American achievement”, then the claim begs the question, why? Fortunately for me, Mr. Horowitz answers it in the following paragraph. A good way to start looking at the reasons why Afro-Americans cannot buy into the “American heritage and the American achievement”, is by reading his assertion that the recent civil rights movement has been “whining” about “…disparate sentences for drug crimes, perceived injustice in the treatment of criminals by local police, and unsubstantiated claims about the disparate impacts of social policies among racial groups (so-called "institutional racism").

It is much clearer as Mr. Ogletree states it; "The legacy of slavery is seen today in well-documented racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, employment and insurance, and in the form of racial profiling, the high rate of single parent homes and the disproportionate number of black inmates." Sounds like a fair place to start the analysis. Where is the thin air? Is Mr. Horowitz actually denying these things occur?

The argument about the number of single parent households given by Mr. Horowitz is a fallacious one and anyway incomplete, because Mr. Horowitz compares the figures for 1965 only for Blacks, failing to give the accompanying figure for whites he so gladly gives for the present. And Mr. Horowitz does not cite his sources. Perhaps it is Mr. Horowitz who sits on the stacked deck in the house of cards.

Dismissing victims of police brutality by using one example, Mr. Rodney King, is an insult to the intelligence of any person, white or black. Mr. Horowitz devotes two paragraphs to dissecting one obviously sick man’s anti-social behaviour and decries the two trials the officers who brutalised him were subjected to. Being anti-social does not merit a brutal and savage beating when caught speeding, nor when resisting arrest.

Mr Horowitz does pose a good question: “Was his (Mr. King’s) treatment a legacy of slavery or a by-product of the mean environment in which battles with urban predators take place? Assuming the latter, as Mr. Horowitz would undoubtedly wish us to, it begs another question: why are so many Afro-Americans in such mean environments? Is it a legacy or racism stemming from slavery? Mr. Horowitz delves not into that topic; he just leaves it dangling.

And to say that because Rodney King could not, because of his psychological problems, take advantage of his “reparations” does not automatically mean that all blacks cannot therefore make good use of any reparations. Nor is it an issue what people do with their court awards.

Mr. Horowitz denounces that the police officers that turned Rodney King to pulp were tried in twice, in criminal and civil court, being found innocent in criminal court but guilty in civil court for violations of human rights. Mr. O.J. Simpson was also tried twice, and found criminally innocent but civilly responsible, (just as the police officers were). Are we to deduce that Mr. Horowitz is opposed to this procedure used by the US government to protect a person’s civil rights imbedded in law?

At the end of the article, Mr. Horowitz presumes that the authors of the lawsuit, Messieurs Ogletree and Robinson want money for themselves. Mr. Horowitz belittles them by saying: “What exactly are Charles Ogletree and Randall Robinson, two men of Harvard, two counsellors to presidents, and both the recipients of six-figure incomes, owed by America? What are they owed by the ordinary Americans who must pay the taxes for reparations and who in their vast majority had ancestors who either had nothing to do with slavery, or gave their lives to end it?”
As if to say that if you get a big salary, we can abuse your human rights in any way we like and you won’t require reparations. But, it is exactly the fact that so few Afro-American men or women have reached these positions and levels of development that makes the case for reparations.

In addition, I would say it’s a stretch to state that “Lincoln's second inaugural, hailed generally as the greatest speech in the English language” is either the greatest speech in the English language or an apology.

Sadly, Mr. Horowitz’s condescendence bursts out when he spews that …”Thanks in part to the efforts of the majority of Americans who were not slaves and who are not black, blacks in America today are the richest and freest blacks on God's green earth. Richer and freer than black citizens of any black nation in the world. Seventy-five percent of black Americans live above the poverty line and 50% are solidly in the middle class”blacks in America today are the richest and freest blacks on God's green earth. (The emphasis is mine). I am flummoxed that Blacks should thank whites for what they have. Can someone show me a better example of plantation mentality this year?

Where does Mr. Horowitz get these figures anyway? What about average income? What about the 25% below the poverty line and the 50% below the middle class? Well, shall we just ignore them? Are Afro-Americans to be content just with being better off than black people in Africa? How about comparing how many whites are above the poverty line and in the middle class, proportionately? How about comparing Appalachia and the Andes and telling cyclically poor white West Virginians they ought to be happy?

Mr. Horowitz ends his triumphal, racist attack on Afro-Americans by boldly stating: “America did not create black slavery, but ended it”. I beg to differ. When the nation was founded and slavery was accepted as part of the compact, the USA accepted the heritage of slavery its forefathers bequeathed it for itself. Just like one accepts the good things they bequeathed. Otherwise, it would be worse, it would have been the Founding Fathers that created slavery on US soil by acquiescing in 1787! Mr. Horowitz had best learn to accept the facts of history rather than write the history he wishes had been. We’d all be quicker about ending the debate and finding a solution then.

Finally, I’d like to add that three comments that go beyond Mr. Horowitz’s demagoguery. Firstly, that like Mr. Horowitz, I do not believe slavery can be compensated now. Too much time has passed and there were entirely too many factors (none, however, of those listed by Mr. Horowitz) in play in an era too distant and far away to pass effective judgement today.

I believe it has to be recognised as the great injustice it was and righted even more than it has been. But the reparations scheme is too far off the mark from reality. Reparations make sense when the event can still be seen in the same light and some or most of those involved participate. Instead, a blanket scheme to address the backward development of Afro-American people through education, health and housing would be a better solution, much as is and has been done with Hmong, Vietnamese, Cuban and other refugee groups.

Secondly, that this is a good debate, eventually a healing one and with merit not only for Afro-Americans but also Native Americans, Mexican Americans whose lands were stolen, the interned Japanese and other minorities (Eskimos, Hawaiians) who have been trampled on by white Manifest Destiny.

Thirdly, that none of those anyway agreeing with Mr. Horowitz need fear reparation payments. The USA solemnly promised by treaty loyalists’ that were chased away or fled to the adjacent British lands that are now Canada, to pay reparations for their stolen property and businesses lost in the rebellious domains of King George. To this date, 215 + years later, not one penny has been forthcoming.

This broken treaty has the distinction of being the first of dozens of treaties broken by the USA with nations. Imagine the interest to be paid if the Canadian descendants of the displaced filed claims!


Alec Lloyd - 8/30/2002

I’m sorry, I don’t see the point of an apology. Apologize for what, abolishing slavery at great cost in blood and national treasure? Shall the descendants of indentured servants also get an apology?

And what of those who are already dead? How do we apologize to them? And those who are not yet born, will we have to go through a ritual of national self-flagellation every few years to remind everyone that bad things happened more than a century ago?

The great tragedy here is that the constant harping on slavery reinforces a myth of inferiority; that because your ancestors were kept down, you yourself cannot achieve your full potential.

Last week I was watching my daughter play with our neighbor’s child. Though one was black and the other white, they thought nothing of it. They played quite happily and without any inhibition. For them, color didn’t matter.

What a shame that in a few years they will learn otherwise. The white girl will learn guilt for things she never did, and the black girl will nurse a sense of grievance for a crime she never experienced. All because professional rabble-rousers need a cause to justify their foundations.

An apology is simply another way to drive home this wedge, to send a message that Americans who happen to have dark skin are different; that they can’t be expected to succeed for some reason and that because of an increasingly remote injustice, they can never be full-fledged Americans.


DS - 8/28/2002

Apology - an expression of one's regret...

Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:
"as the woe due to those by whom the offense [of slavery] came. . . . Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still must it be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Apology expressed. Next issue please


Celeste - 8/28/2002

You're completely missing the point, David. Or maybe you failed to read the entire article. Horowitz pointed out comments by Lincoln and Jefferson both, that could be construed as apologies. And it isn't an apology for slavery that so many Americans object to giving blacks; its money that they worked for and earned, that's going to be given to people they don't know, didn't do anything to harm, and who were never directly harmed in the first place.

And I resent the implication that making a welfare program available to white women is an insult to blacks. How the times have changed, when the civil rights movement was about equal access and opportunity... to now, when its about screaming that america owes you a living that you shouldn't have to work for, just because of your race.


David - 8/28/2002

Mr. Cramer's smug suggestion is ridiculous and mean-spirited.

The issue is simply respect as citizens for what African-American's forebears sacrificed for THIS country. Yes, apologies are free - so why can't African-American's get one? Surely, one is deserved.

Mr. Cramer should answer that question before passing the buck off on others.







Clayton E. Cramer - 8/27/2002

Good points. One of the first cases where a black man (sold as a slave on the ship, but treated as an indentured servant in Virginia) ended up a lifelong slave was as punishment for running away. Why? His master, an African immigrant, demanded it.

Slavery developed during the 17th century in the American colonies. There were a surprising number of free blacks present in the American colonies, including one member of the Maryland legislature in the mid-1600s named de Sousas.

There were thousands of black slaveowners before the Civil War (though some "owned" family members to get around restrictive manumission laws in the South). Do their descendants deserve a check?


Clayton E. Cramer - 8/27/2002

The economic programs are not targeted at African-Americans, but that is has been disproportionately the beneficiaries--although as a number of reformed liberals have acknowledged, the "benefits" of these programs have played some part in why the racial disparity is larger today than it was 30 years ago.

You want an apology? Fine with me. Apologies are free. You should also be demanding some apologies from Britain, the Netherlands, and Spain (who transported the slaves), and West Africans (who sold the slaves to the Europeans), and Arabs (who have were engaged in the African slave trade 1000 years before the Europeans, and a century afterwards). Until I see that movement under way, it's just another anti-American beg session.


Phill Jones - 8/27/2002

The idea of Reparations needs to become a dead issue, and the sooner the better. The so-called march on Washington showed most of us that reparations (and an apology) are nothing but a psychological con-game ie., "to get whitey to pay and pay and pay." Its the concept of endless guilt and examples of that abound in History. For example Jew, even today, are tainted with the smear of "Christ killers" and a number of articles, by so-called progressives, make sure we are reminded of Japanese internment camps implying that American-Arabs are its next occupants...I for one do not apologize for slavery, slavery whose roots are deep in the African and Arab world..


David - 8/26/2002

Mr. Horowitz sidesteps the issue of an official apology. Ending slavery is not an apology. Ending segregation is not an apology. Whatever the calculation of years of slavery and legal discrimination (also side-stepped) African-Americans endured, it is a national tragedy that needs an official state apology to even begin asking for closure on the issue.

It is folly to suggest that "economic programs and affirmative action plans designed to uplift the poor generally" suffice as an apology... it is not targeted at African-Americans so how can they be grateful as a people if the programs are available to anybody - especially white women? Those programs are less like an apology and more like a left-handed thank you.


C.S. Everett - 8/21/2002

Concerning reparations for slavery, I think historians need to more commonly acknowledge that the jury is still out deciding whether or not the first “Negars” documented in Virginia in August of 1619 were slaves or common servants. Certainly, records of the 1620s indicate that several of the English colony’s “Negros” were free, had come to the colony on ships carrying other colonists, and at least one was baptized in England prior to his departure for Virginia.

Horowitz says that “If the government of the United States did not exist until 1776 or 1787, how can it be sued for what happened before?” This is a good point. And we ought to also remember that “this country” at that time territorially consisted of little more than thirteen states clinging more or less to a portion of the East Coast. Florida was not part of the United States, nor for that matter were the vast territories claimed or occupied by France and Spain, that is Louisiana and California.

Horowitz then goes on to remind us of the heritage of abolition, what he calls an 80 year struggle to bring an end to the institution of slavery. I would add simply that even in Virginia—the very cradle of the institution of slavery in British North America—Quakers, themselves oppressed for the most part, though white and free, toiled for decades, at their own expense, enduring threats and actually suffering bodily harm, to bring dozens and dozens of freedom suits to county, district, and superior courts. Through these suits, no less than 400 slaves—and perhaps as many as a thousand—gained their freedom.

Horowitz continues, reminding readers of the enormous cost in lives of the U.S. Civil War, a lengthy series of bloody battles, a conflict over the very meaning of “America.” That the contest was in large measure over slavery is undeniable. Even if the war was not waged specifically to end slavery, it was fought to limit its expansion. In the end, it did both.

Overall, I thought David Horowitz’s article was on the mark. His statement about “America” no creating black slavery is taken, though I think what he meant to say was "the United States" did not create black slavery. And Horowitz is correct when he argues that the United States ended black slavery.

I would like to add, still, for all those out there who think slave reparations are a good idea and a viable pursuit, that in my own research, I have found white, English slaves in early Virginia. In one case, an English boy is mortgaged off along with a Native American Indian and an African. On that note, Allan Gallay in his recent book on Indian slavery in South Carolina argues that from 1670 to 1720, more Indian slaves were exported from the South than African slaves were imported. By the same token, my work shows that not only were upwards of 1,000 Indians retained as slaves in Virginia over the course of its pre-Civil War history, but that the colony’s first actual “slaves” were American Indians, not Africans. There were also “East Indian” servants and slaves across the Chesapeake, as well as a few Turks.

Should all Indians in North America also receive “slave” reparations? What about the descendants of the English and East Indian slaves? Can we even determine who is clearly a descendant of a slave? If I am “white,” but I have a “black” great, great, great, great, grandmother, am I, too, entitled to reparations?

I think the notion is entirely far-fetched.


Dave - 8/21/2002

Kudos to Mr Horowitz for having the courage to write this article.


Hugh Jardohn - 8/20/2002

This "rally", if it can even remotely construed to be such, may be the final nail in the coffin of this misguided idea. Horowitz, as usual, hits the nail on the head.


brian - 8/20/2002

Wow! David,that was a fantastic article.

History News Network