Length: 9:23 (21:28)
Access: Atlanta Blackstar (Full episode: YouTube)
Summary: Is it time for the West to begin paying reparations for its role in enslaving African people? The question cannot really be about the timing of reparations, for if blacks are owed any money at all for the chattel slavery their ancestors experienced, then the time for reparations is certainly long overdue. The real question is whether reparations should be paid at all, and as with so many other issues pertaining to race and racism in the United States, one's view of the matter will likely depend on one's race. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates recently penned a data-driven cover story on the topic for The Atlantic, and in the above video, scholar-activist, Esther Stanford-Xosei comments on the fact that in March of this year, Caricom, the organization Caribbean nations work through to coordinate economic decisions, approved a plan for seeking reparations from colonizing countries including Great Britain. I want to use this video to help explain why discussions about reparations—and so many other issues pertaining to racial inequality—frequently result in a deadlock between whites and people of color, colonizers and the colonized. At about the 35-second mark, the white conservative politician, Daniel Hannan, argues that reparations should not be paid to the descendants of slaves because, as he puts it, "Slavery was universal...if you're looking at paying reparations, anyone whom you choose to pay is statistically certain to be descended both from the owners and the owned." By this logic, whites are just as entitled to reparations as blacks. Hannan's position is common among whites in the West and cannot be easily dismissed as simply evil or consciously racist; rather it is important to see that he and others hold this conclusion because they subscribe to a set of ideas, which together form the basis of what sociologist Lawrence Bobo calls laissez-faire racism. Bobo uses this term to refer to the fact that the institutionalized disadvantages people of color continue to face—which are both measurable and observable—are now accepted and even condoned based on the faulty premise that within the framework of a modern free market, people of all races have an equal shot at economic success. Thus, for the laissez-faire racist, if it is true that people of color are more likely to be poor than whites, it can only be because they are not lifting themselves up by their bootstraps. The fact is the experience of colonialism has left an enduring mark on the way modern institutions dole out privileges and resources, but in more tangible terms, the machinery of colonialism has meant that wealth accumulated for the white colonizers, and that wealth continues to be passed down to their descendants. Even if the market and its institutions truly regarded people of all races equally, people of different races are not participating in the market with anything close to the same chest of resources.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist