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October 23, 2003

Slaves In The Family

Every time I run across another story on slavery reparations, I start to wonder. Assuming someone, say President Kucinich, convinces Congress to start handing out dollars to the descendants of slaves, how much money do the descendants of those who passed as white get?

The family is pretty sure at least one of our ancestors passed as white at some point, though family tradition has it that she was of American Indian descent rather than African. How much of that is truth versus wishful redneck thinking, I don't know. In any case, American Indians were also enslaved by the white man, so surely their descendants, i.e. me, deserve a cut of the guilt lucre, right?

Of course, other wings of my family owned plantations, two that I know of, and probably more. One of my directs was the Grand Poobah or Elder Hostel, whatever the term is, of Jefferson Davis's Masonic lodge.

Some of my ancestors owned slaves, some of my ancestors of color may have been slaves. If so, can I just pay myself and call it even?

What about my long lost cousins, the offspring of the master and the slave girl? If they or their kids passed for white later in life, do they get less or owe more because they successfully joined the culture in power, or get more/owe less because of the presumed rape of their great great plus grandmother by a honky with a whip?

Would cousins descended from the same act of interracial sex who didn't pass be entitled to more money than those who did? Should monies be passed out based on the particular percentage of slave genes possessed by a person, or the degree of darkenss in their skin? Nearly a hundred years after they passed from common usage, would the advocates of slavery reintroduce "quadroon" and "mulatto" to the language, not to mention "high yella" as a measure of how much money is owed an African American?

Mind you, the words themselves might not come back, but the concepts they represent certainly would.

Should Dr. King's words have been "not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, unless cash money is at stake?"

What about Liberians, Canadians and other foreigners who are the ancestors of slaves? Having escaped the oppressive culture that has retarded the advancement of American Black all these years, are they then not owed money, or is the 140 year old spectre presumed to still haunt them as well to some degree?

And what about the families of slave that remained in Africa? The familial structure of a number of tribes in Western Africa is extended in nature. Many generations live under one roof, with the younger supporting the older. The capture and subsequent removal across the Atlantic of many of the younger generation of those tribes would have had a definite economic impact on a clan's well being. Are the clan descendants owed money for the lost economic activity of those slaves?

Given the incredibly poor record keeping of the age when it came to slaves, how does one even go about determining who is a descendant of one? Once again, is the criteria simply the color of one's skin, even though there are black Americans who are not descended from slaves, or does one need to show at least some documentation of a possible slave ancestor in order to dip one's hand into Uncle Sam's pocket?

If documentation is all that's needed, then members of my family will have a better claim than many of a darker hue will.

If skin color and facial features are the determining factor when it comes to reparations, then the advocates of such are just as racist as the KKK. At what point do you look a person in the eye and say, "Sorry Holmes, you're just not black enough?" If descent rather color is the deciding factor, then some portion of the reparations would end up going to blue-eyed blondes and brunettes who tan well. I can't imagine either scenario would be acceptable to the American public, though the sight of slave reparations going to white people would certainly appeal to the American penchant for irony.

Either way isn't fair, which is perhaps the strongest argument against handing out reparations. No matter how reparations are theoretically divided up, it is impossible to do so in an equitable manner.

People like Robert and Crystal Foster don't care about fairness, of course. They just figure it's up to them to get as much as they can, then call it theirs. It's a grab for cash, pure and simple, cloaked in the language of oppression.

And unless a serious attempt is made to answer the questions I raised above, and others like them, before one red cent is even asked for from the government, that's all slavery reparations will ever be, a cash grab.

Of course, naked grabs for government cash are part and parcel of the American experience. Just ask former Klansman Robert Byrd, or this guy.

Certainly we shouldn't judge the advocates of slavery reparations by the color of their skin, though seemingly that is what they are asking for.

But maybe we should judge them by the company they keep.

Posted by Bigwig at October 23, 2003 04:42 PM | TrackBack
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I don't know, I hope they make out, and the idea catches on across the pond. I've got Irish ancestors, they were certainly oppressed by the dispossessor class, and it's a tough economy.

Posted by: clnsmi at October 24, 2003 03:56 AM

And let's add in there those of us whose ancestors fought the slave power, even when it might have been dangerous to do so. I have ancestors from Virginia who joined the Union army during the Rebellion - I have the documentation to prove it and the graves a various National cemeteries to boot. Does our sacrifice of blood and treasure count for anything?

Posted by: Roderick Coates at October 24, 2003 09:25 AM

Roderick,the answer to that would be "No".Original Sin and group guilt and all that jazz."Marxist historian" Eric Foner has been hired to re-write the history of Gettysburg to make it PC,your ancestors will be airbrushed and ethnically cleansed from the story.Mine,however will have their horns enlarged and their tails lengthened.

I think the practial consequenses will be a great deal of racial biterness,economic chaos and a poltical bloodbath for those idiots who push this nonsense.

Or we'll simply pay up and mutter sourly to ourselves.

Posted by: M at October 26, 2003 08:11 AM

Of course, the obscene end of this ca$h-for-ancestral-paybacks gives everybody in the US of A some of our tax money.

Who gets the most and who pays?

My parental units were po' white trash - but our family has had a piece of every one of the nation's wars until Grenada. (Thankfully, my son is at school, and almost too young to help defend our land.)
Due to the ugly fact of slavery - which the US of A recognized early on -our country prospered. So did ALL of the people whose ancestors were slaves. So did the folks whose ancestors bought and sold slaves.

God Bless.

Right now ANYONE can aspire to be whomever they would like. Seems to me this works......

Posted by: Larry at October 26, 2003 11:45 AM
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