Damage From Slavery Merits ReparationsTo the editors:
I found your editorial against reparations for descendents of American slaves (Editorial, March 8) wanting on several accounts. First, The Crimson editors should have been above throwing around silly insults by suggesting that serious activists in civil and human rights affairs are "digging through history for political or financial gain." The Crimson staff discusses favorably the reparation claims of Jews and Japanese-Americans during World War II and wouldn't dare attaching this "gold diggers" insult to these reparation quests. Furthermore, The Crimson staff ignores that those advocating reparation for slavery make it clear that reparations can take a variety of forms. These include both financial payments and public policy responses. Examples of the latter include attacks on American poverty and addressing the shameful neglect by Western states of the economic development crises in African societies.
The Crimson staff's thinking on the reparations issue is both shallow and riddled with confusion. The shallowness is seen in The Crimson's bid to absolve contemporary American citizens of judicial and moral responsibility for the cruel violations of human life and happiness of millions of African Americans under slavery. And The Crimson's phrase "the exact agent who harmed them," meaning European Jews and Japanese-Americans, reflects their plain confusion. It has been successor governments to both the Nazi German state and wartime American Roosevelt Administrations that have met reparations claims.
In short, the bid by The Crimson to absolve today's white American citizenry of obligation for reparations for the human rights violations under American slavery and racism is groundless.
Martin L. Kilson Jr.
March 9, 2000
The writer is the Frank G. Thomson Professor of Government.
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