Reparation, also known as “compensation in money or material payable by a defeated nation for damages to or expenditures sustained by another nation as a result of hostilities with the defeated nation – usually used in plural” [merriam-webster, 2019], has been a question affecting our nation for years. There have been many examples of our nation ‘damaging’ many people of our nation. These examples can be having African Americans as slaves, Native Americans with stealing their land, and Japanese Americans being confined, etc. These problems have been happening since the 1600s and the impact is still affecting some people.
In 1619, slavery started with African Americans. “… people were kidnapped from the continent of Africa, forced into slavery in the American colonies…” [history, August 2019]. In 1831, the Trail of Tears happened, where Native Americans more specifically the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, had to walk 1000 miles (almost three months) from Ohio to the Mississippi Rivers, many of them dying. In 1942, the Japanese Americans were confined because of Pearl Harbor, even if they did not correlate with the people involved in Pear harbor.
When slavery first happened, it was a lot worse than how it ended up becoming. For example, as mentioned before African Americans were kidnapped from the continent of Africa to work on American plantations and as stated, “The state’s regime partnered robbery of the franchise with robbery of the purse.” [theatlantic, 2014]. Although this exact case took place in Mississippi, the idea of it is not ethical. Another case would be if enslaved farmers were seen to be in debt which most were, the debt would carry onto the next season. Men and women were allowed’ to fight for their right so this was not the case, doing so resulted in them either being beaten greatly or can result in death. One African American that slavery highly affected was Clyde Ross. “…Mississippi authorities claimed his father owed $3,000… the elder Ross could not read… did not have a lawyer…” [the atlantic, 2014]. Because of these specific reasons, the authorities of Mississippi seized his land, took their animals, and their car, and it resulted in the Ross family needing to become sharecroppers. Sharecroppers are “farmers that rent small plots of land from a landowner in return for a small portion of the crop to be given to the landowner at the end of each year.” [history, 2019].
Although slavery became illegal in 1865, the effect of slavery is still present today. When slavery was still legal, the white man thought of African Americans as less than them and that they were not actual human beings. To this day, racism is still present in ways such as medical care and poverty. An example of medical care would be when Serena Williams just had her child, her medical care was not as it needed to be. She was in a lot of pain and requested a CT scan however they didn’t listen to her and sure enough, she was right and needed to be put on heparin which is a blood thinner because there were blood clots in her lungs. It is scientifically proven that poverty runs more likely with African Americans then it does any other race. “21.2% of African Americans live below the poverty line while only 8.7% of white people do.” [talkpoverty, 2019].
Native Americans losing their land is another example of how this nation was unfair. In 1838, the deadline for the Indian removal got closer which in turn led, “thousands of federal soldiers and Georgia volunteers entered the territory… Americans hunted, imprisoned, raped, and murdered Native Americans.” [loc, 2019]. The Cherokees that did survive were forced to walk on what was known as the Trail of Tears which led to approximately 4000 Cherokees dying. “Indian nations held the full rights of ownership to their lands, and in many situations, these rights were recognized and guaranteed (not granted) by treaties with the United States.” [Indianlaw]. After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, when Native Americans lost their land, they also lost a piece of their identity. [nps, 2017]. Native American land for them was used as a place of worship, and a place that they could bury their ancestors which they lost so as a result, they lost their purpose. Languages known to Native Americans were lost as they were replaced with English, and example of this being Tsalagi which is the Cherokee language. Another way they lost their identity was by having to convert to Christianity. This, in turn, resulted in them, “changing their appearance, attending western schools, and abandoning traditional hunting practices in favor of farming…” [nps, 2017].
In 1942, Japanese Americans were detained during WWII. After Pearl Harbor, anyone that was Japanese including, American Citizens of Japanese descent, they were taken to internment camps. Leading up to it, the people had only six days to pack all their belongings, which included, clothes, and anything of importance, anything they could carry they could bring. [nps, 2019]. The Japanese Americans were forced to stay in the camps from 1942 – 1945. “Executive Order 9066 affected the lives of about 117,000 people – the majority of whom were American citizens.” [history, 2019].
After the Japanese Americans were released, they were either sent to richer regions or more poorer regions. “…who were sent to richer regions, where the local population earned close to the median income, had better opportunities upon release and did better economically than those who were sent to poorer places” [news.harvard, 2017]. However, when they got released and turned to their old living style and the place they were from, their jobs and houses more than half the time would be gone.
A political perspective agreeing to this issue would be Marianne Williamson, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Williamson has a plan for reparations that involve, “… a commission of African-American leaders who would decide how to disburse $200 - $500 billion in payments to descendants of American slaves…” [cnn, 2019]. A political view that disagrees with reparations is Barack Obama. In an interview, Obama stated, “I fear reparations would be used as an excuse for some to say we’ve paid our debt and to avoid the much harder work…”
In comparison, both Williamson and Obama believe that the nation needs to pay for the things that happened to the people in this nation. However, one (Williamson), took the ‘pay’ literally and wants to pay for the descendants, and the other (Obama), believes that we need to pay in a way that does not include money. In contrast, Williamson believes that a way to make what happened ‘better’ or pay for it would be to give out money. More specifically, anywhere from $200 - $500 billion, spread out to descendants for school and any sort of education. However, Obama believes that if the nation simply pays for what happened, the issue is not fixed. Instead, it is simply brushed over and nothing was solved.
Concerning that, I believe there are good things and bad things about reparation. For example, it is a good thing because of discriminatory ways, education might be something that is hard for some people to accomplish especially college and reparation, mainly paying for a good education or a good college would be a good way to repay for everything that has happened to that specific group. However, in contrast, I believe that there needs to be better ways than simply repaying somebody. For example, making sure that a specific thing does not happen again. Also, in relation to this, some groups might take advantage of it and there would need to be a way to either monitor what happens or come up with a specific system.
Especially Native Americans I believe should be involved in reparation because I am Native American more specifically Cherokee, and this has always been something that I hold close. Especially when people say that white men were the first here, but it was Native Americans and I also had family that died that day walking on the Trail of Tears. Native Americans had papers with the government stating that they owned the land and had every right to it however the government and soldiers still took the land away.
In my opinion, Reparation should happen for specific groups. African Americans and Native Americans have had a lot of hardship since the very beginning and deserve some sort of compensation for 1: African American being slaves and 2: the government going against Native Americans and taking their land. However, I don’t believe that reparation should take place for every single group because then it would just be handing out cash instead it should be for the groups that might desperately need it and were greatly affected. Another way reparation should take place is besides just handing out money, they can make sure in the future nothing like that happens again such as slavery and a removal act of any sort. However, I do believe that money especially for education is a good way to “payback” for everything that happened.
For reparation to happen, the first thing that would need to happen is that the government would need to get on board and come up with a plan to disperse the money. There would not be an easy way because if you offer money, anyone might go up and say that they qualify for that specific group, therefore there needs to be a system or a checklist of some sort to help. The money would come from a group willing to offer such as scholarship groups or the government itself.
Reparations would help greatly especially the kids who need help getting an education, this is something that might make or break what happens to them in the future. It would address problems by giving people especially people who are poor a chance and not put too much pressure on the parents to be able to afford something if there is no way that they could. I believe it would fix a lot of problems but not every problem because there are always going to be ways that something can change, or something can be better.
In conclusion, reparations should be made for certain groups especially African Americans for slavery and Native Americans for having their land taken away from them. All of these things as mentioned above happened which is why I agree with reparation. Although there are many viewpoints, I would choose to give reparations to descendants of these specific groups especially for education in the future.