Reparations For What?
by Bruno VanderVelde [May 12th, 2000]
Many hope the dawning of the 21st century will help bring about a new, more progressive mentality, one to accompany the baseless emotions that come with a transition to a new era as we know it.
This mentality, as idealists have been hoping for throughout time, will be one when rationale takes over for ignorance, when the future looms larger than the past.
Even though the 21st century hasnít technically begun yet, things arenít looking up for the eternal optimists of the world. Instead of looking forward, humans seem to be glaring into the past.
ďYou deserve nothing but the freedom your forebears have earned.Ē
While remembering the past is vital to humanity, living it is downright irresponsible if not dangerous.
Here are a few recent examples:
It turns out now that descendants of African-American slaves want monetary reparations for the sins of those who have been deceased for over a half dozen generations. There is a school of thought that the Confederate flag, a symbol of a corrupt, long-defunct republic, should still be allowed to fly over the property of a nation that defeated it, thereby offering the Confederacy legitimacy 135 years after its demise and dissolution. Sign seen in 1999 on the back of a semi-trailer: "Happiness is a north-bound Yankee." Descendants of Jews butchered in the Holocaust want not only the money their parents/grandparents supposedly had, but now their alleged art collections, art which has been on display in museums for 50 years for the PUBLIC to enjoy. Some Americans, many third- or fourth-generation Americans, wonít stand up for the American national anthem at meetings or sporting events for a variety of reasons: it flew on the backs of ships that brought African slaves to this country, it represents the persecution of Native Americans, etc. etc.
The one I think that causes the most division in America at this moment is the slavery issue.
Slavery, while legal at the time, was still a gross violation of the basic human rights the Founding Fathers claimed to espouse. Thatís why it no longer exists.
To the descendant of the slaves, I say this: if your ancestors were truly slaves, then you have been descended from some of the most horribly subjugated people of the modern era.
However, you are not a slave. You never were, and barring an alien invasion whereby small green beings with great black eyes come to kidnap you and sell you into bondage on their home planet, much as "civilized" America and Europe did to Africans throughout the years, you never will be.
If there are any slaves still alive, they deserve monetary compensation at the least for what they have been forced to endure. (There arenít.)
However, you donít. You deserve nothing but the freedom your forebears have earned.
Because if you are eligible for money, so am I.
My grandfatherís farm in the Netherlands was "annexed," as was everything else in Holland, by the Nazis in 1941. I havenít contacted the German government for payment yet. My great-grandfatherís plantation in the then Dutch East Indies was stormed by the Japanese in 1939, causing my ancestors to flee, never to return, their fortune destroyed. I havenít contacted the Japanese government for reparations yet.
The point of this selfish track is to indicate that I never had any part in these unfortunate moments in history. By sheer coincidence, I happened to be descended from these people. (Canít pick your family, is the old saying.)
ďFace it: somewhere along the line in history, every group was on the short end of a stick, to put it mildly. It happened. Get over it.Ē
Everyone was persecuted at one time in history. Gypsies, Irish, Jews, Chinese, Native Americans, Mexicans, Italians, Slavs, Japanese, Poles, Africans, Greeks, Middle Easterners, the list goes on and on, twisting its way through time.
Every country has skeletons in its closet. Every flag represents the history, fortunate or not, of the country who flies it.
This is especially true for America, where discrimination and subjugation were once a way of life.
That was a long time ago. That said, the African-American community would do well to overcome the victim mentality that continues to hound it. As always, progress is visible, but for every story in Time or Newsweek about the growing black upper-middle class and black entrepreneurs succeeding, when the subject of reparations comes up, the black community as a whole moves two steps back, even if not every African-American person agrees on this issue.
Face it: somewhere along the line in history, every group was on the short end of a stick, to put it mildly.
It happened. Get over it. And stop living in the past, waiting for someone else to give you money for something youíd better be happy youíll never have to endure.
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