Did You Claim Your Slavery Tax Credits?

by expatbrit 47 Replies latest jw friends

  • larc


    I posed some questions to you. Any comments on these? One other question. Do you have a list of companies and/or descendents of plantation owners that should pay a fine?

  • Utopian Reformist
    Utopian Reformist

    Hi Larc:

    You asked:


    A couple of questions,

    1. Ancestors on my dad's side of the family, both through my grandmother and grandfather came to this country from Ireland in the 1700's. None of then had slaves. I know because I checked the tax records. Should I be exempt from a reparations tax?

    NO. Your taxes already contribute to numerous lawsuits and damages awarded by the US government in a variety of cases.

    2. My great grandfather on my mother's side was assinated in 1910 in Pitt County, North Carolina because he hired black people to work on his farm. His untimely death put a great financial burden on my grandfather, his oldest son. Should I get money from the government for the actions of my great grandfather?


    3. A distant ancestor of my grandmother on my father's side of the family, threatened two bounty hunters who were after a run away slave who was on my ancestor's farm. This bold stance by a fiesty, large framed Scotch-Irishmen prevented the run away slave from being captured. Should I get some money for this?

    NO. No, just gratitude and clean conscience.

    4. Should the Egyptians pay the Jews for their time in slavery?


    5. How is share cropping on someone else's land any different than coal mining, living in a company house, using company money to buy at the company store? This is what the Robber Barons did to the whites in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and all through Appelachian Mountains.

    Excellent example. See answer 1.

  • larc


    You gave some answers and I think you know where I am going with this. I represent just one person out of millions that would have to be analyzed on a case by case basis. It would be an overwhelming task.

    The same would apply to companies and the ancestors of plantation owners. Many companies existing before the Civil War no longer exist. Others are in trouble such as those in the steel industry. Likewise, much of the wealth of the plantation owners has disippated over time so that many ancesters are just average folks today, with nothing to show from their heritage.

    In my family, they started with nothing in the 1750's. By 1820, they had accumulated 200 acres and ran three businesses. By the 1870's they had accumulated 1,700 acres and were very properous. Today, all those resources are gone, except for one very small branch of the now, very extended family. I would say that this is a fairly typical pattern.

    Question for Hylandyr,

    As I understand it, my family on my dad's side, both through my grandmother and grandfather were Scotch-Irish. They lived in the U.S. as far back as 1750. I can't trace them back any farther. On my grandfather's side, they married German woman for five generations and were Protestant. Based on this limited information, is there anything that you can tell me about their most likely origins in Ireland and Scotland?

    If you would email me, I can give you their lasts names, as I hesitate to do this on a public board.

  • Hyghlandyr

    wPlum Crazy, my wife is black. My introduction to racism was when I met her relatives and the brotha brothers and sista sisters from her hall. Prior to that I had only known a couple of blacks in my mostly white schools, other than a brief time (a couple months) at a school in Alabama. The things that happened in that school were pretty much the same as happened in any other school. But I have come to conclude that the single most racist people are blacks. My reasons can go to another post sometime.

    Utopian said:

    My main point is irish people are WHITE like most europeans, and therefore did not suffer the SAME level and degree of hate and prejudice and violence as african-americans, hispanics, native american indians.
    One word bull. My main point was that racism, hate, prejudice and violence is not skin color based. You are right that the Irish didnt face the same as the africans or hispanics, they faced worse. And you are right that they didnt face the same as the Native Americans, they faced nearly the same. The irish were over a period of several hundred years continually exterminated by famine, ever since Queen Elizabeth.

    Also if you read my post you saw that I said they are white, yes and no, it depends on what you are talking about. Tell the greeks they are white. That was one point. The other was that the rest of europe did not consider them white and treated them thusly.

    Further, if you knew I was going to split hairs, why call us anglo-saxons, why not just say we are white skinned. Yet agian I will state the hate, racism, prejudice, and violence the Irish have faced was not to do because they were 'physically' darker, but were considered spiritually, mentally, and morally darker.

    you will NOT find mobs of americans lynching irish immigrants, or hangings, or burining irish homes.
    Wrong again, especially at the turn of the century. No one is claiming that these things are going on now. Nor are we claiming that they went on for as sustained a time or as long a time as they have against blacks.

    By the time italians starting arriving, most of the police and fire departments had already been subjugated and controlled by the irish, a legacy surviving to this day.
    No disagreement there. Btw I am not a particular fan of the police. I used to be antagonistic to them, until a black woman pointed out that cops, good or bad, if you call, they will usually show up to help you. I still think there are incredible abuses however.

    What legacy is there for post-civil war african americans? Is there anything like a piper's band and shamrocks to lead a procession or holiday parade of proud african americans in some particular field, job or service?
    Do you expect a white man to make that legacy for you? The Irish are proud perhaps because of the things they have gone through and survived. I will also state that there is no questioning the marring that slavery has done on a people. Two things I see as most vile about the way slavery in america was practiced. First is the removing of the man's and the woman's ancestral name, and thus identity. Second is the forced expulsion of any remains of their language with the same intent. We Irish have a distinct look, like africans. We are a loud and obnoxious, no denying it. But the thing that really seperates us, is we held on to our names and parts of our language. I think if africans had done the same or had not been stripped of those, these conversations we would be having would be different.

    You mentioned Carnegie a while ago. True he pilfered his Irish brethren. And there are Irish that steal, kill, and hurt other Irish no doubt about it. But as a group, Irish in America did two things. We stuck together, usually in our own communities. Just as other groups did, Italians, Germans, and Chinese for example. But we also assimilated. These are two additional problems that prevent blacks from having a legacy. They refuse to assimilate. Frankly good for them. Why is anglo culture superior to others anyhow? The other reason is the amount of trouble they cause each other. All the complaints about violence against blacks? Well the reality is, that most of it is in fact black on black. As a group, a community, there are enough dissenters not sticking together, to prevent you, if you allow it, from having a legacy.

    On the other hand, despite black on black crime, the reality also is that most blacks are not committing crimes. Many blacks have deep family roots. And more than a few blacks are not slaves, but are kings. And that is yet another difference between the Irish. Most of us are descended form royalty. Of course it is true that they were petting kingships. Really often nothing more than king in name only over anywhere between five and twenty of their others, to tens of thousands. But still, that is a legacy handed down to us in our stories. Dontcha know all Irish have 'a castle back home, all we have to do is go claim it.' A story told by countless Irish families.

    Stop waiting for someone to make your legacy. If blacks are not the predominant in a specific field, job, or service, then decide which one you want to be in and go do it. I assume of course you are not talking about music or sports, which they do predominate in.

    I am a king. I am a god. I am a god, partly because of my Irish ancestry. But mostly I am a god simply because I choose it to be so. If you wish also, or other blacks than simply do it, be it. Living gods. If blacks have no legacy now, they never will until they create it.

    [quotes]Were the irish ever forced to sleep in separate quarters while risking their lives in military service during wartime? Did other whites dress themselves and paint themselves like the irish to entertain crowds like the vaudeville entertainers of the 1920's and 1930's? You know the answer.[/quotes]

    1...Yes, both in the states, though it was very rare. They were called the Irish regiments. But most especially yes in the UK, world war I and other wars. However this is about American reparations not United Kingdom still we have touched on the views of europeans about the Irish so in that sense only it is relevant.

    2...Yes in fact the clown itself comes from the stereotypical view of what an Irishmen looked like and acted like. Red hair, red (drunk) nose, slovenly dressed, clumsy. So while the Amos and Andy of times past is gone, racist symbols against the Irish still exist.

    because we would rather pour moeny down the drain (or into WHITE pockets of corrupt officials) rather than allow the government to make partial reparations. That statement will sting, but its true.
    Doesnt sting at all. Many people are fed up with Government waste. (I suppose this statement applies to black, hispanic, asian and corrupt officials of other races as well, or are you claiming that black officials are never corrupt?- Honest question here)

    Ok now we are getting somewhere. I like your plan, for more than just my statements earlier of pay em off and shut em up. It is entirely reasonable that an entity that participated in something pay the reparations. There is of course the sticky point that slavery was legal at the time. Which gives rise to what happens in the future if certain things are legal, can a person sue. The logistics are what needs contemplated. Although we must also be aware it will hit us all eventually.

    Business loans, tuition and home financing are good things no complaint there. Another honest question, more about logistics. If this succeeds, and ten years from now many blacks have homes... What happens if the native americans sue for land reparations.

    There is much to be proud in your history. Find it, enjoy it and make examples for yourself.
    I agree the same with frankly all groups. My dad, I have nothing to do with him. However I learned many things from him that have benefited me. THings you could almost say for which I would be proud. All of these things between cultures, are not good and bad, righteous and wicked, they are simply things we like or dislike. How do we get as many things as we like and eliminate as many things as we dislike, though personally I like a lot of the things I dislike. If I dislike a certain aspect of a culture, if it is done in strength then I like it.

    I also apreciate your saying my Gaelic roots. (Gay - lick? ewwww hehe) I do not mind being called white, I merely point out what europeans thought of us. But, I vehemently object to being called anglo.

    However, the final conclusion is immigration and slavery are an apples and oranges comparison. One is deserving of reparation, and the other is questionable.
    I agree, the immigrants deserve reparations and slaves getting them are questionable at best. But they are not apples and oranges. When a man's father dies, and is murdered in a state sponsered attack, the pain he feels is very intense, because it is internal, not skin based.

    Also if reparations were to be paid for slavery, here is a thought. Both from the US govt and others, let monies be paid, so that those in slavery in african can be bought out. Most people are unaware that some twenty seven million people, by conservative estimates, are enslaved today. It costs fifty dollars american to buy a slave, and there are groups that do, to free them. How many african americans that are wailing about slavery, are even blinking an eye at their brethren in other countries. The Irish suffered terrible famines. Now, most famine relief organizations are run by Irish. I suggest the same with african americans for slave relief, and education organizations.

    Puffsrule: Of course we see the pattern, that is why so many whites are against slavery reparations, one reason among many.

    Utopian Your comments larc are reasonable answers. However:

    4. Should the Egyptians pay the Jews for their time in slavery?


    I disagree entirely for this reason. The only 'evidence' that the jews were enslaved to the egyptians is Torah. Of which we do not have complete copies older than about the tenth century A.D. None of the other nations historical records verify this claim of the jews. It is accepted as fact by most of the world now, merely because christianity became the dominant religion. Had another religion done so, say Mithraism, then the stories of the jews would have been relegated to the status of fables, just as most other ancient religions stories are now.

    Larc said:

    Based on this limited information, is there anything that you can tell me about their most likely origins in Ireland and Scotland?
    This was a period huge upheaval in Eire Larc. I have to check my dates but I believe it was around the 1780's that the Irish Parliment was disolved, and the several nations (Alba, Eire, England, Cornwall, Wales, etc etc) became 'The United Kingdom'. Of course that name was all bluster because it was very disunited. I can do some reading to catch myself up on that period and can then tell you the general happenings there. But even with a specific family name, unless it is a famous one, such as Ó Foirtcheirn (my name), Ó Neil, Ó Brian, etc. I will probably be unable to tell you specifics. But I will also look up some sites that might help.

    Again with the upheavals understand that a lot of things had gone into law by that time. An Irishman could not own a horse worth more then five pounds, we could not own property, our marraiges were not recognized by the state (thus giving rise to the claim of Irish fornication and lewdness) and our births were not registered by the state. Fortunatly we had the church for those sorts of things. Unfortunately each church kept its own records, there was no nationally archives. Which means researching lineage often ends for many people with the Sept.

    Sept is probably prounced Shev se and si in Irish having the SH sound as in Sean. A sept was similar but not identical to a clan. We did not have clans, and there is no such thing as an irish Tartan...if someone ever tries to sell you one for your family name, they are swindlers. They may honestly believe the tartan is real for the Irish. But it wasnt. Clan, means children, just as Tuatha does, which also means tribe. Thus Tuatha de Danaan, are children of the Goddess Danu. Goddess merely being an ancestor. A sept is all the people in a specific geographical region with the same name. They may or may not be related, though most likely they are related.

    There are three designiations for descent. Ó which means grandson of. Mac which means son of. And Ní which means daughter of. So for instance Sinead Ó Connor is properly Sinead Ní Connor. The Irish are patrilineal, descent traced through the father, and matrilineal, descent traced through the mother. Jesus is more often called Jesus, son of Mary (Mhuire) than son of god. Mhuire btw while meaning Mary, means specifically THAT Mary, and only that Mary. There are other Irish versions of Mary that are used for other women.

    One of the easiest ways to tell your roots, besides family name, is religion. If they were catholic they were most likely Irish Irish. If however they were anglican, then they were most likely of anglo descent, or anglo interbreeding. The Scots are most likely presbyterian. So for instance with my mother's family name 'fortune', If I was thinking I was irish but our religion was Anglican, then I would know I am anglo, if it were presbyterian I would know I was scot. As it is, it was Catholic.

    First I will do some general history as part of my searchs for Utopian, and then I can direct you to some places about Irish lineage if you wish to research back farther, and to Eire. But, it is a very complicated process to do so.

  • elbobbo

    How full of crap are you? You seem to be saying since the government wastes money on other things it should waste it on this too. Do your research (or just watch the evening news) and you'll see this isn't something like a gold plated toilet handle. The amount that this lady who is actually suing some companies for reparations will be asking for isn't a small amount. I can't remember the exact number but I do remember that its considerably larger than the total amount of money made each year in the US by ALL companies. Yeah, let's give all of the money made by many hard working people to one group who didn't get paid for their work over 100 years ago.

    I know what you mean about the various forms of comedy. A white guy making jokes about black people is horribly racist. A black guy making jokes about white people is funny. Somehow that's ok. On shows with primarily white actors blacks get upset because they think there's only a token black person or two. On shows with primarily black actors there may be a token white person on there that is most often portrayed as an idiot and that's funny. If a group set up a scholarship available only to white people there would be outcry. We see ads on TV trying to get people to donate money to the Unite Negro College Fund and that's commendable. There's the Black Entertainment Television (BET) on cable and that's just great but can you imagine what would happen if there was a White Television Company? Since we have Ebony magazine why don't we have Ivory? The NAACP is considered a good thing because it works to advance blacks and is highly regarded by many. The KKK works to advance whites and is considered one of the most evil groups in the US. Here in Indiana you can buy Black Expo license plates to support that group. Where are the white good ol boys license plates? I know in St. Louis at least there are minority job fairs in addition to the normal job fairs for ALL groups. Why is that? Are minorities so out of it they need their own special job fairs where competition is reduced so that they have a better chance of getting a job?
    Do I support any of the groups that are so die hard pro-whites? No, of course not. I also refuse to support any of the black groups. Actually, I refuse to support any group that works to promote one race over another because I just can't see how something like that can be good for a community as a whole. When I look at my friends I don't look at them as Shelante my black friend, Ken my gay friend, Theresa my Catholic friend, Shawn my white friend, Greg my rich friend, Juan my Mexican friend, Jamie and Amie (twin sisters) my redneck friends, and Karen my poor friend. I look at each of them as someone I like to spend time with because of the positive traits of their personality that I like. All the petty things like race and social standing are stupid things. I usually don't hang out with all of them at once because their personalities don't mix that well which is fine (hey, I can think of plenty of white people in the same socio-economic standing as me that I can't stand) but that doesn't mean they're bad people.
    If all of this idiotic slavery reparations thing does end up going through I can't see how it could possibly turn out well for the country because while black people will be getting some free money for absolutely nothing what so ever, any and all racial tensions will go through the roof. While blacks (I would call blacks african-americans but unless you yourself came from another country you're an american regardless of where your ancestors are from) may think racism is bad now if they EVER do get all the money they're wanting right now for what happened to thier ancestors I can promise that it will 100 times worse than it is now. The greedy people who start these types of lawsuits will only cause more harm than any hope they could ever hope to get.

  • AGuest

    Putting MY final statement out there and then moving on...

    1. Ummm, I didn't COME from Africa (some of my ancestors did), and so I can't very well go BACK there... anymore than I can go back to Portugal or Israel (where others of my ancestors come from). I can, however, 'go back' to my Native American 'roots' in Virginia... but I don't WANT to.

    2. My experiences are only mine... stated to show what I have personally gone through... I 'love' America, because even with all of its flaws, it is the only place I know of where a black, female can have a chance at a fairly free and independent life, as opposed to being someone's 'property'. I do NOT 'knock' America; in fact, it is the "American Way"... including the right to SUE... that prompts me to speak.

    3. This is NOT a black vs. white issue to me; it is a LEGAL issue regarding a set of plaintiffs (descendants of slaves) and defendants (corporations now quite lucrative because of their slavery foundation, and the US Government). It does NOT include the descendants of former slave owners, for such descendants may have decried the institution on their own. most don't have any money themselves, and if they formed corporations, are not personally liable anyway.

    4. In this country, contrary to what some may think, believe, or want... folks have a RIGHT to bring suit when they feel they have suffered damages. Now, if the GOVERNMENT (and particularly the JUDICIAL branch of it) sees fit to grant such a suit... or DENY it... I have NO problem with either. I meant, that's pretty much how things work here, isn't it?

    5. People were kidnapped and forced to do labor against their will... in THIS country. They were brought here... AGAINST their will... and bought and sold for profit. In THIS country, that was and is illegal, and in THIS country, there are legal steps that allow a person to go BACK and seek damages for crimes committed in the past. Things like the Japanese internment and the US's endorsement of the Nuremburg trials, etc., corroborate that...

    HOWEVER... the situation and laws in Egypt were/are/maybe different:

    (1) UNLIKE the Jews and others piled on trains AGAINST THEIR WILL and taken to the crematories of Auschwitz, etc., and LIKE the slaves who were kidnapped from Africa (no, NOT the ones sold by their own tribes, but those captured in raids on villages, etc.), the Israelites were neither forced nor kidnapped to go to Egypt: they went of their own free will, seeking food during a famine. AND... they could have left at ANY time, prior to BECOMING slaves... four hundred years after first arriving there;

    (2) IF Egyptian law now allowed for the POSSIBILITY of legal action being brought for what took place, then the matter would be similar. HOWEVER, the issue here differs in that HERE IN THE U.S., the government itself acknowledges what took place... in CONTRAST to the fact that the account of Jewish slavery in Egypt is a JEWISH history... and not necessarily an EGYPTIAN one. Heck, most folks can't even agree on whether there was a Moses or an Imotep or a Ptolemy or a Ramses II or a Moses or an Aaron... or what have you. Some believe the record; others deny it. In THIS case, however, there is no denying the record.

    6. Black people ARE some of THE most bigoted and prejudiced people I know. Sorry, bruthas', but it's true... and you know it. Now, WHY... how they learned to BE so... is another story entirely.

    7. To say that one injured party should not bring suit because another injured party didn't, couldn't or wouldn't... is ludicrous. If one lost a loved one in an accident and felt 'too bad', that does NOT preclude another from saying, "I want justice from my enemy at law." Thus, if ONE injured group, culture or nationality of people refused to bring suit for their injury, that does NOT preclude another group from doing so... when they have the LAWFUL RIGHT... to do so. Will letting one group bring suit open the way for many, MANY others groups do so so? Ummmmm, did paying one group reparations open the way to pay other groups?

    Things that make you go 'hmmmmm'...

    Bottom line (mine, anyway)? The issue of whether reparations should be paid or not has not even been DECIDED! However, IF the government decides that they should, I reserve my LAWFUL RIGHT to file my claim... IF I so choose to do so! And if the government decides that they should not, I will carry on with MY life as I have been: not relying on anyone but myself... and JAH, through Christ. And I do okay. But I reserve my RIGHT... to FILE for a claim, IF the government says I HAVE one.

    JUST like the Jews, Japanese, and others... some of whom filed their claims and took their money, some of who didn't, as no amount of money would have compensated anyway... and some who didn't because they held no grudge.

    Whether you agree with reparations or not, you have NO right to deny ME whatever rights the government of THIS country may deem lawful... or to try and make me feel guilty for exercising such right. JUST like I would have no right to tell YOU that $5 million is way too much to compensate YOU for whatever loss YOU may have suffered as a result of something. What is 'enough' to YOU... may not be 'enough'... to me. And I don't wish to tell YOU... anymore than I wish you to tell me.

    I leave it, then, to God... and the 'superior authorities'...

    and bid you one and all... peace!

    A slave of Christ,


  • expatbrit

    A couple of articles on this subject from this week's Economist, highlighting the Statute of Limitations aspect of this subject.

    First the leader:

    Slavery was evil, but that does not justify compensating the descendants of its victims.

    CAN a terrible historical injustice ever be recompensed? The answer should be yes. But any attempt to redress past wrongs has to pass certain commonsense tests to do with the length of time that has passed since the outrage and the ease with which victims and victimisers can be identified. Those criteria can never be objective: atonement is not statistically measurable. But the struggle being taken up on behalf of the victims of slavery surely fails any such test.

    Lawyers claiming to represent some 30m descendants of American slaves have launched a series of lawsuits against companies that profited from slavery before it was abolished in 1863. The legal side of their case is complicated, not to say tendentious (see article). But the plaintiffs seem to hope that political pressure will make up the deficit. There is talk of consumer boycotts; the Rev Jesse Jackson, obviously, is on board. The plan is to force companies such as Aetna (which 150 years ago insured the lives of slaves for their owners) together with the federal government (which, after all, sanctioned the practice) to set up a compensation fund for the victims and their lawyers. Given the companies' keenness to avoid embarrassment, the guilt most Americans feel about slavery and the relative poverty of many black Americans, the chances are that the plaintiffs will get something.

    Many people will wonder what is wrong with that. One recent precedent is the settlement made between German companies and the 10m slave-labourers whom they “employed” during the Nazi era. The German government had paid reparations after the second world war to the new state of Israel. But after a campaign in the 1990s, the German companies and their government set up a new $5.2 billion fund to pay the 1.5m living victims and the descendants of the rest.

    Yet there are reasons to argue both that the German and the slavery cases are profoundly different, and that the slavery case is not really in the interests of black Americans. Begin with the commonsense tests about identifying the victims and the perpetrators. Even with the Holocaust, this grisly process was difficult: many of the victims had died, and it was hard to identify how much money German firms had made from uncompensated slave labour—or whether today's shareholders had benefited from it (that is one reason why the German companies concerned tended to win the court battles). The problems with slavery are far, far greater.

    On the corporate side, many of the companies concerned have changed beyond recognition. As for taxpayers, many white Americans have forebears who, far from condoning or profiting from slavery, fought to end it in the civil war. The ancestors of many more arrived in America after slavery had been abolished. As for the victims, should an American with just one slave ancestor be paid the same as somebody with ten such forebears? What about the descendants of black slave-dealers? Then comes the question of whether a modern African-American is really worse off than the descendants of those left behind in Africa; or whether his ancestors suffered more than, say, the indentured Chinese coolies who built the railways. (Lawyers had better ignore this last point.)

    These are the sort of fights that racist whites, who care not one jot about black rights, are spoiling to have. They also illustrate why most countries, including the United States, have statutes of limitations on crimes, no matter how monstrous. Pursuing children for the crimes of their parents is a profoundly illiberal idea. “Inheritance of the guilt of the dead” the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, “is not compatible with the standards of criminal justice in a society governed by the rule of law”. This newspaper once proposed that there should be a moratorium on state apologies issued for crimes committed beyond living memory (roughly a century). The same, broadly speaking, should apply to reparations.

    As for treating slavery reparations as a way to help black Americans, this seems even further out of date. In the 1960s, the American government rightly promoted programmes such as “affirmative action”; but that was largely to make up for the country's despicable treatment of blacks after slavery was abolished. These days, black Americans are doing much better (albeit less well than whites). And racially-based programmes seem odd in a melting pot like America. Government help should be based on income and family circumstances, not colour—let alone on injustices, however terrible, that were committed 150 years ago.

    Next the article:

    Are reparations a new way to atone for the legacy of slavery? Or a new way to fleece companies and taxpayers?

    WHAT would Abraham Lincoln have made of Edward Fagan? In the past few weeks, the New York lawyer has launched a war against firms that he claims profited from slavery, filing legal complaints against FleetBoston, a bank, Aetna, and CSX, a transport company. New York Life, Lehman Brothers, Norfolk Southern, Liggett and Lloyd's of London will follow next week. In all, some 60 companies are in his sights.

    The suits are being filed on behalf of all descendants of slaves in America, a 30m-strong group. The defendants are the legal successors of entities that existed when slavery was still legal: FleetBoston, for example, is the present-day incarnation of the Providence Bank of Rhode Island. Economists put the current value of the companies' ill-gotten gains in the trillions (see article). Mr Fagan reckons a settlement would fall somewhere “in the tens of billions”. The lawyers will collect a percentage of that.

    Calls for reparations date back to the 1960s. In 2000 Mr Fagan was approached by Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a black activist who has provided much of the research (and is one of the plaintiffs). The current plan seems to rely on two things: a few companies tiring of the lawsuits and agreeing to pay up, and others lobbying the government to shoulder its share.

    In 1988 Congress authorised payments to 80,000 Japanese-Americans who had been interned during the second world war. Some $1.6 billion was paid out. But the precedent for the present lawsuits is Nazi slave labour. After the war the German government made big reparations, particularly to Israel, for its role in the Holocaust. In the 1990s Mr Fagan and other lawyers sued German firms on behalf of former slave-labourers. Legally, the case was fiddly: much revolved around whether slave labour was legal under the Nazi regime and whether too much time had passed to prosecute the firms. Two suits, against Degussa and Siemens, were dismissed by a judge who decided that reparations were a matter of foreign policy and politics, not of the law.

    But public opinion proved decisive. With New York regulators deeming Deutsche Bank's recalcitrance over the issue to be a barrier to its purchase of Bankers Trust, and with hundreds of local authorities threatening regulatory sanctions, the Germans worried about their ability to do business in America. Bill Clinton assured them that a settlement would protect them against future suits. A fund of $5.2 billion, created by the firms and the German government, is now being disbursed.

    The legal merits of slavery lawsuits are even more contentious. Last year a United Nations conference on racism in Durban (from which America walked out) branded slavery “a crime against humanity” which “should have always been so”. Mr Fagan argues that there should be no statute of limitations for such a crime. But the legal idea of a crime against humanity was invented decades after slavery was banned in America, so a court will have to define that crime retroactively. The UN conference steered clear of doing that.

    The plaintiffs' case may be undermined by the money involved. They say that every dollar a firm should have paid to a slave 150 years ago should be subject to compound interest at a rate tied to the firms' growth. Each dollar could be worth anything from $6,250 to over $400,000. “This is exactly the kind of ridiculous lawsuit that a statute of limitations is designed to prevent,” says Richard Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

    Assessing the profits banks and insurers made from slavery is also hard. FleetBoston's ancestor, for instance, profited from financing the slave trade when it was already illegal under American law. Its contracts were thus all technically unenforceable, frauds for which the statute of limitations has long since expired. And although slavery itself was certainly profitable, it is less clear whether Aetna made money from insuring it.

    When quizzed about such obstacles, Mr Fagan and his clients reply that public opinion will sway the courts again. Mr Fagan predicts boycotts, shareholder lawsuits, even race riots. Local politicians are being urged to hold hearings and create commissions to study the impact of slavery in their jurisdictions. A “Millions for Reparations” march is planned for August in Washington, DC.

    Will it work? Cleverly, Mr Fagan will multiply his chances of success not just by suing more companies but by launching complaints in more jurisdictions across the country. In recent years, American juries have often found against big companies in such celebrity cases. John McWhorter, a black conservative at the Manhattan Institute, bets that all three companies sued so far would rather settle out of court.

    If they do, they will surely lobby Congress to contribute its share. Until the civil war, the American government was as complicit in slavery as its German equivalent. Mr Fagan reckons a fund like the September 11th victims' compensation fund, where the airlines and the federal government paid in to a government-administered pot, would be a good resolution.

    A nation decides

    But it is not clear that public opinion will rally to Mr Fagan's cause as readily as he hopes. The Germans—foreigners who had committed crimes against Americans, many of whom were still alive—were easier targets. Polls have shown 70% of whites objecting even to a public apology for slavery. Despite a longstanding campaign for reparations by Charles Ogletree, a Harvard professor, black leaders also seem divided on the issue. Jesse Jackson supports the suits. Others think that the government alone should pay up. Some want the money to support a fund devoted to black education; others would prefer a cash payment and a national apology. A few worry that the lawsuits could distract Americans from re-examining the role of slavery. “If a lawsuit does not lead to a general discussion in society about slavery,” argues Elazar Barkan, the author of “The Guilt of Nations” (Norton, 2000), “then the lawsuits are not very helpful.”

    One lawyer who advised the German firms to settle says that their American counterparts should “go to court and fight like hell.” Such tough talk may not last long: companies that come under pressure from Mr Jackson's boycotts tend to settle quickly. But it is hard to see how all this will help America understand its past.

  • LDH

    Although purposely staying out of this argument I'd still like to ask y'all one question.

    Hygh says:

    Irish belong to what we call the Celtic family of peoples. Specifically the Gaelic. This is based upon language and customs. Prior to the Roman invasions there were hundreds of Gallic races existing in europe. Each had a distinct identity, but shared common bonds of language, religion, and culture.
    As well as others who state that they are Italian, Jewish,German, etc etc. blah blah blah so on and so forth.

    Here you have the basis for your argument and you can't even see it right in front of your freakin noses!

    What do you call Black people?


    Because *YOU* nor *I* know where they came from except to say a vague "...er, Africa or Brazil or maybe Haiti...."


    Because the government of this country sanctioned the tragedy that we know as slavery. And profited from the slave trade. The government is nothing more than the people it represents; and at that time in American history it represented SLAVERY.

    How many blacks know from *where* in Africa their ancestors came? Your little insults about "Go back to Africa" are a damn outrage! Black Americans have no way of tracing their heritage because families were torn apart, children ripped from the arms of their parents, and every custom and language was ripped out and replaced through FORCE.

    So you think it's cute to say, "Why are you bitching--you have it better off here?" Well, guess what? I could come and rip your children from your arms, and I'd dare say--they *would* have it better off with me as their mother. In 50 years, I could tell them to get over it, I made their life better and they're in a better place.

    *So what* if they don't know where they came from?

    *So what* if they have no traditions of their own to pass to their children?

    *So what* if they can't even acknowledge their past life without someone telling them to get over it.

    Every ethnic group you've mentioned has : a language, customs, religion, etc to call their own. So you might bitch about being Irish but hey--you can always kiss the Blarney Stone for good luck.

    You all crack me up--and the funniest part is that I'm NOT for reparations. But your arguments are the biggest red herrings and ad Hominems I've seen to date on this subject.


  • larc

    Lisa, et al.,

    It seems to me that the history of the human race has one theme. The strong dominate and oppress the weak. It has always been this way. Hopefully, with modern technology and checks and balances this kind of oppresion will end. It certainly has been reduced in recent times, but is by no means over.

  • crownboy

    Hey puffsrule, I largely agree with you on the reparations issue. I'm black, and I don't think black people should get reparations. While I think the government should seriously invest in minority empowerment programs, e.g. putting competent schools in minority neighborhoods, I don't think a one time handout to people several generations removed from the evil issue at hand, as well as a couple generations into a time where legalized discrimination is gone, hence demonstrating the U.S.' willingness to better the situation (no matter how cinical you are, you must admit that). However, I do take issue to a couple of your points, Puffsrule.

    Granted it was of their own free will, however, how many African Americans can honestly say that they would be better off today in Africa, if their decendant had not been sold
    This statement by some white persons never ceases to amaze me (I don't think you're racist or anything). White people would have been a lot worse off without the exploited labor of blacks than blacks would have been if they were never been enslaved to begin with. Contrary to Eurocentric racism (but not in concurrance with exterme Afrocentrism), Africa had several thriving civilizations going before the Europeans came. If Africa had remained unbothered by Europeans, do you really think it would be in the terrible state it's in today? Who do you think benefits from the rich natural resources available in the land? Not the natives. White people should be thankng blacks for such a boon. Do you really think America would be exactly as it is today without the work of blacks? Blacks did their fair share of "America building" and got nothing for it. For many years blacks worked, payed taxes, fought for their country, and they got nothing in return. The attitude should not be "blacks owe America a debt of gratitute for allowing them to be in this great country", but rather whites should finally acknowledge that blacks have done much for America, but untill recently did not get much back. So the presence of rancor by blacks toward America is understandable (though not always justified, admittedly). So basically, IMO, that argument of blacks being better of in America than in Africa, while technically true (there's no way in hell I'd move to most places in Africa), is pretty misleading because it portrays blacks as almost being "free loaders", when in reality if anyone is "free loading", it would be whites. If whites had never gone to Africa, then they would have been worse off for it, while blacks better off. Of course, if that had never happened, then the events leading up to my birth most probably would not have happened. So maybe I should be happy .

    Oh, and BTW, though blacks did sell other blacks into slavery, a very large number of those selling the blacks into slavery were: 1) Enemies of the one they were selling, hence not selling"their own". 2) Selling the people into a slavery they thought was more humane than it actually was. Eventually, many people stopped selling people when they found out what really happened, but then some fool or very unscrupulous person would take their place in the "chain of selling". However, demanding reparations from those people is pointless, since they reaped few benefits from the system as compared to the white slave owners (but I'm against reparations as stated earlier). Otherwise, very good posts.

Share this