Reaffirming ‘the moral case for reparations’

Submitted by Tendai Kamba
Posted 7/23/20

Dear Editor:

I am grateful to the reader who responded to my letter to the editor on July 7. The reader inquired about some questions that needed a response from me.

First, my grandmother was …

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Reaffirming ‘the moral case for reparations’


Dear Editor:

I am grateful to the reader who responded to my letter to the editor on July 7. The reader inquired about some questions that needed a response from me.

First, my grandmother was born and raised in Powell. She lives in Laramie now and is a frequent subscriber of this august newspaper that is known throughout the state. Each week she read me articles from the newspaper, hence I got hooked to it.

Second, yes, it is true that voting rights were given to slaves in 1870. Soon after, the blacks participated in elections and elected other black leaders to represent them in Congress. However, this was short-lived in the South, when the states rolled back these rights. It took until the Voting Rights Act of 1963 for the former slaves to have access to the ballot. During this period, due to the Jim Crow era in the South and racial discrimination in the North, blacks were denied access to public services and state support such as housing, education, social programs, welfare and loans for businesses. Despite these odds, some blacks managed to create successful businesses and communities.

Yes, in the South some black people live in poverty. It can be attributed mainly to legacy of discrimination, lack of investments in good schools and employment opportunities. The problems of teen pregnancy are not only limited to poor black girls, but it cuts across poor communities of all races. The U.S. welfare system is non-discriminatory and major benefactors are the poor white teen mothers. If we can say such things about black girls, I wonder why don’t we attribute the same behavior to poor white girls? Also, if the welfare is so generous of a pool, why do these young black mothers still live in poverty?

Third, yes, one or two black farmers might have owned slaves. That does not remove the societal moral obligations for reparations. When the slaves were emancipated, they were penniless, broke, no education, did not know how to read or write; they were left on their own to figure it out. The 40 acres and a mule promised by the government never materialized. At the same time the government was conducting affirmative action for the new white immigrants from Europe, through the Homestead Act. The government transferred millions and millions of acres in the West to white settlers. The government created and funded land grant universities to teach farmers how to farm, they hired agricultural experts to help the farmers and provided low interest and sometimes interest free loans to farmers. Also the government provided transfers in form of farm subsidies that still exist today. Most of us in the West are beneficiaries of these programs, yet we ask the African American who was never given a hand, nor has boot straps as in our case, to pull themselves by the boot straps.

Many slaves also fought and died during the Civil War fighting for their freedom, which they were never given when the South was defeated. Soldiers that fought in the war were compensated and given a pension. The black slaves that toiled for hundreds of years in the South were never compensated. Each year, Congress allocates money to help victims of the Holocaust. Yes, we can in the same spirit help descendants of slavery.

Yes, the black Africans rounded their own people from other tribes and sold them to slave ships. They are morally responsible for capturing their kin into slavery. However, the main beneficiaries of the whole slavery enterprise triangle were North America and Europe, while Africa actually suffered in the end. As the society that benefited from more 200 years of free slave labor, it would logically be wise for us to make reparations before pointing fingers at the Africans who were left with an empty bag.

Galatians 3:28 states that, before the creator, we are all one people. Throughout the history of our nation, we have poured more money into one community of white people. It’s time that we considered inviting the black descendants of slavery and fill their empty hands with a small token of reparations. Let them sit as equals at the table of opportunity in our great country of these United States of America.

Tendai Kamba



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