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Emereth Griffin
Christie Bogle
English 1010

Reparations for the Transatlantic Slave Trade: Preface

Most of the perspectives on this topic begin by denouncing the slave trade, which I will
also do. The transatlantic slave trade, by all definitions and without any hesitation, was an
atrocity. Africans were reduced to beast of burden, abused, beaten, raped, murdered, neglected,
and in more ways than can be named mistreated and violated.
I believe Esther Stanford-Xosei justified the purpose of defining reparations best when
she said there is an attempt to impose on us, the descendants of the enslaved, a definition of
reparations where it is synonymous with compensation (Stanford-Xosei, paragraph 1). Many
people believe reparations equals money and, intentionally or not, try to force that definition on
every argument. Reparations as used in this article is defined as; acknowledgment from any who
profited from the slave trade, any measure of justice that may be attained, and monetary

The Conversation
I found this to be a varied and complex discussion, as it has a large audience there are
hundreds of different perspectives. I was mesmerized by the logic used to defend and object to
reparations. The following are summaries of some perspectives that most influenced me.

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A Moral Debt
While European nations and their people flourished, 300 years of brutality and
dehumanization left in its wake broken nations, desolate people, and dysfunctional societies. For
hundreds of years it was an accepted practice to hold African as slaves. One of the first
declarations in The Abuja Proclamation declares they are Fully persuaded that the damage
sustained by the African peoples is not a thing of the past' but is Painfully manifest in the
damaged lives of contemporary African(s) (Abuja Proclamation). The people of Africa want the
world to know that the problems slavery created did not disappear with the abolition.
Progress is slow and sporadic, yet a few nations have begun to acknowledge the state
their ancestors cruelly forced Africans into. The General Assembly of the State of New Jersey
has legislation that states during the period of slavery hundreds of thousands of persons of
African origin were brought to this country against their will, deprived of their liberty, their
property, their children and often their lives. Slavery assaulted the dignity and humanity of the
persons who were enslaved, treating them as property and forcing them to work under brutal
physical and psychological conditions. (American Reconciliation Act, a.) This act declares the
horrific treatment of Africans, and in turn recognizes there is a moral debt. However, many other
states and nations do not acknowledge the damages of slavery.

Who Shall We Hold Accountable?

It is easy to say that slavery was wrong, and that somebody should be held accountable.
The question is who? The crimes committed were done by people who died years ago. Walter
Williams wrote the problem Is both slaves as well as their owners are all dead. Thus,
punishing perpetrators and compensating victims is out of the hands of the living (Williams,

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paragraph 3). Unfortunately, we have no one living today that is guilty of these crimes. While the
trans-Atlantic slave trade was wrong, is it not also wrong to punish children for the crimes
committed by their parents?

Economics 101
The Western Nations made a significant amount of wealth from the trans-Atlantic slave
trade. In many ways the slave trade damaged and built economies around the world. The base of
any economy can be simplified into two categories, goods and labor. Western Nations abducted
workers from their home in Africa and forced them to labor for the economic prosperity of those
nations. It was in the best interest of the nations to undermine any attempt by African nations to
establish a source of goods that was not its own people. The end result is; African nations lag
behind Western nations in nearly every economical aspect.
The effects of this loss are still felt today. While the trans-Atlantic slave trade was
stopped a long time ago the economic disparity allows for neocolonialism. On the website
Colonialism Reparation it is stated In the last decades of the past century, most of the
countries which had been colonized have had access to an independence that in many cases
proved to be an economic neocolonialism. (Colonialism reparations, history). With the base
of their economy crippled many African nations and former slave colonies find themselves so
completely dwarfed by Western Nations that they lack any ability to break ties with them.
Western powers can force them to make trade agreements that are in favor of the Western power
at the cost of the nations own self-interest.

Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

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Monetary reparations are not the only solution and it might do more damage than good.
No one is going to be particularly pleased with coughing up large sums of money. The most
practical outcome of reparations would be government to government transfers of money which
rarely does much to alleviate individual economic depression. Reducing pain and suffering to a
dollar value often has the effect of detracting from the wrongs committed.
In David Mascis article Reparation Movement he acknowledges that Opponents also
argue that, rather than correcting economic disparity, reparations would take money and attention
away from more pressing social and economic issues facing black Americans, such as a
substandard education system and high incarceration rates. (Masci, paragraph 13). Those
opponents are saying that Africans would be better off with money going to programs to
provide better education and decrease incarceration rates. Williams asked the question Would
reparations payments accomplish what the six trillion dollars spent since 1965 on the War on
Poverty didn't? (Williams, paragraph 7). Truly we should consider what reparations would do
that other government programs dont or cant?

My Answer?
Reparations should not be ignored but cannot be solved with money either. As far as Im
concerned failing to acknowledge reparations is like standing in the corner with your eyes
covered saying that everythings all right, while your house is burning down around you! You
cant ignore something that affects millions of people, even if you could it would be wrong to do
so. I dont think pumping money into a nation can repair that nations economy. It may be
supplemented for a time, but when the money is gone the economy falls back. We need a more
lasting solution.

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Works Consulted
Jobbins, David. "Has The Commonwealth A Role To Play In The Row Over Reparations For
The Slave Trade?." Round Table 103.3 (2014): 343-345. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9
Dec. 2015.
Hochschild, Adam, Verene Shepherd, John MacKenzie, and Ayesha Hardaway. "Are TransAtlantic Slave Trade Reparations Due?" The New York Times. The New York Times, 7 Oct.
2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
Meeting David Wilson. Films On Demand. Films Media Group, 2010. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

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Works Cited
Colonialism Reparation. "Colonialism Reparation". Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
Eddo-Lodge Reni, Muir Hugh, and Stanford-Xosei Esther. Should Britain pay reparations for
slavery. The Guardian, 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
The First Pan-African Conference on Reparations. "The Abuja Proclamation. 1993. Web. 23
Nov. 2015.
Masci, David. "Reparations Movement." CQ Researcher by CQ Press. SAGE Publications, 22
June 2001. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Williams, Walter. "Reparations for Slavery." Reparations for Slavery. 26 June 2000. Web. 24
Nov. 2015.
210th Legislature, State of New Jersey. "New Jersey African-American Reconciliation Act." 3 Feb. 2003. Web.