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REPARATIONS POLICIES AND RACIAL INEQUALITIES In the article “The Cost of Slavery” by Dalton Conley, the wealth gap is discussed along with reparations and a brief history lesson. After the Civil War, Union soldiers seized up 900,000 acres of land which some wanted to use to provide the newly freed slaves with 40 acres and a mule as compensation for slavery. As we all know this never happened and 140 years later, there has been no restitution for the descendants of these people and the hardships they endured. To come up with a solution there needs to be a way of not only calculating a financial amount but then deciding who to give this money to. THE COST OF BEING AMERICAN Slavery was an unjust institution but it is a fact that this nation’s wealth in the founding years was built upon this system. To live in this country is to benefit from the industries that flourished during the time of chattel labor such as the cotton industry. If you’re black, regardless of when your ancestors arrived, you live with slavery’s stigma. By taking this viewpoint it makes it easier to decide who gets the reparations instead of tracing lineage back six generations, giving families with one black and one white parent half and so on and so forth. By using this method to extend the reparations argument, Conley then delves deeper into the issue towards a formula for repayment. Throughout his research there has been one statistic that best captures racial inequality and that is net worth. White families, on average, enjoy a net worth that is more that eight times that of its black counterpart according to economist Edward Wolff. This disparity is partly because of the head start that whites received. Some people receive up to 80 percent of their lifetime wealth from previous generations and since no 1
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African-American could benefit financially until slavery was ended (and in most cases for a long time after during the racially backwards early part of last century) their ancestors haven’t caught up in terms of wealth. Conley argues that if the government used such net-worth inequality in a formula for reparations, it could address reparations by transferring about 13 percent of white household wealth to blacks. A two-adult black family would receive an average reparation of about $35,000. THE AFTERMATH While a plan like this would obviously be very unpopular to the majority, something needs to be done. With affirmative action only a portion of the people affected by the injustices of the past are really benefited. An African-American who doesn’t graduate from high school who can trace of their problems back to an impoverished childhood isn’t going to get that extra step up on the ladder from affirmative action because they’re simply to far below to be helped. These are the things that Conley believes would be changed. When families with the same net worth are compared, African-Americans are more likely to finish high school and equally likely to get a bachelor’s degree. A generation after reparations are given there should be no racial
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