WORTH REPEATING: Reparations Today, Reparations Tomorrow, Reparations Forever


GAWKER: The latest census figures show that in 2013, the median black household earned just under $35,000, while the median white household earned more than $58,000. The black unemployment rate has been twice as high as the white unemployment rate for the past 50 years. These are not random economic fluctuations. When you enslave people, steal their labor, and then oppress them for countless generations afterwards, the economic effects persist. When considering what sort of reparations are appropriate, it is important to keep in mind that the institution of slavery did not just set back black people—it also greatly enriched white people. It is not just that when slavery ended, black people were starting from farther behind—white people were starting from farther ahead, having reaped enormous profits for hundreds of years by stealing the fruits of black people’s labor. If the public refuses to calculate the cost of slavery on human lives and souls, at least calculate this: money was stolen. Lots of it! Broadly speaking, white Americans today have benefited from a great infusion of wealth that slavery provided to their ancestors, and black Americans have lost out on that wealth to at least the same degree (if not more, given the opportunity cost of all the wealth-building activities that slaves never got the chance to undertake). Just how much of white America’s historic wealth was derived directly from the exploitation of black people? In the 1820s, a full one-fifth of America’s wealth consisted of slaves. In the South, the effect was magnified. “In the seven cotton states, one-third of all white income was derived from slavery,” Coates writes. “By 1840, cotton produced by slave labor constituted 59 percent of the country’s exports.” By 1860, just before the Civil war, “slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together.” MORE

RELATED: The Case For Reparations

RELATED: Ta-Nehisi Coates Makes The Case For Reparations @ Penn