Ellen White on Reparations

The debate in the United States over reparations to African Americans, for their enslavement for some 200 years and subsequent civic repression to the present in this country, has been percolating since emancipation in 1865 and the broken promise of “40 acres and a mule” for newly freed people. Indeed, one may say that America has been battling over the idea of reparations in the half-century long struggle over affirmative action, which is embedded in the question of reparations.

Currently, among the 25 candidates vying for the Democratic candidacy for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, reparations has again become a hot issue, as ADOS (African Descendants of Slavery) demand to know the candidates’ agenda for black people, arguing that the candidates have agendas for other constituencies, so they should have one for blacks, as well. The agenda that many from ADOS are calling for is one of reparations. One candidate, Marianne Williamson, has promised a monetary figure for black reparations: $200-$500 billion.

Ellen G. White, cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and one who holds a prophetic capacity for the church’s 22 million members, had a lot to say about reparations to African Americans. This is fitting, for her life (1827-1915) spanned from slavery, to the Civil War, to emancipation, to Reconstruction, to Radical Reconstruction, and then to Jim and Jane Crow. Therefore, anything she wrote about reparations would be much closer to, and during, the time of the injury to blacks for which we are now debating if they should be remunerated.

Below is a sampling of White’s statements on reparations for black Americans. Let it be acknowledged up front that the quotations are at a significant remove from today, 2019. Further, White wrote to fellow Adventists about their personal responsibility to blacks; as a spiritual leader, White was mostly concerned with what would be called missional repayment for the wrongs of slavery. But it would be a narrow reading to surmise that White was only supportive of a missional repayment on a national level. Whatever the case, is it not a good practice to see what Ellen White said about such a vital issue, whatever her immediate context? Can larger principles be gleaned?

This article is meant to start a conversation about what Ellen White meant by her statements on reparations and how we, as Seventh-day Adventists, and as a nation, should respond to the issue today. If these quotations have been selected in bias, I invite the reader to share other selections in the comment section of this article or on social media.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, this article cannot include the full letter, article, manuscript, testimony, or sermon from which the excerpts came. The full context of these passages can be studied here (https://egwwritings.org/). Simply copy and paste a few of the words in the search box and you should be able to select the quote. I have resisted putting headings above the quotes for fear of personal bias.

“The Sins of Babylon” (1858)

“All heaven beholds with indignation, human beings, the workmanship of God, reduced to the lowest depths of degradation, and placed on a level with the brute creation by their fellow men. And professed followers of that dear Saviour whose compassion was ever moved as he witnessed human woe, heartily engage in this enormous and grievous sin, and deal in slaves and souls of men. Angels have recorded it all. It is written in the book. The tears of the pious bond-men and bond-women, of fathers, mothers and children, brothers and sisters, are all bottled up in heaven. Agony, human agony, is carried from place to place, and bought and sold. God will restrain his anger but a little longer. His anger burns against this nation, and especially against the religious bodies who have sanctioned, and have themselves engaged in this terrible merchandise. Such injustice, such oppression, such sufferings, many professed followers of the meek and lowly Jesus can witness with heartless indifference. And many of them can inflict with hateful satisfaction, all this indescribable agony themselves, and yet dare to worship God. It is solemn mockery, and Satan exults over it, and reproaches Jesus and his angels with such inconsistency, saying, with hellish triumph, Such are Christ's followers!

“These professed christians read of the sufferings of the martyrs, and tears course down their cheeks. They wonder that men could ever possess hearts so hardened as to practice such inhuman cruelties towards their fellow-men, while at the same time they hold their fellow-men in slavery. And this is not all. They sever the ties of nature, and cruelly oppress from day to day their fellow-men. They can inflict most inhuman tortures with relentless cruelty, which would well compare with the cruelty papists and heathens exercised towards Christ's followers. Said the angel, It will be more tolerable for the heathen and for papists in the day of the execution of God's judgment than for such men. The cries and sufferings of the oppressed have reached unto heaven, and angels stand amazed at the hard-hearted, untold, agonizing, suffering, man in the image of his Maker, causes his fellow-man. Said the angel, The names of such are written in blood, crossed with stripes, and flooded with agonizing, burning tears of suffering. God's anger will not cease until he has caused the land of light to drink the dregs of the cup of his fury, and until he has rewarded unto Babylon double. Reward her even as she rewarded you, double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled, fill to her double.

“I saw that the slave-master would have to answer for the soul of his slave whom he has kept in ignorance; and all the sins of the slave will be visited upon the master. God cannot take the slave to heaven, who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master's lash, and not holding so elevated a position as his master's brute beasts. But he does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He lets him be as though he had not been; while the master has to suffer the seven last plagues, and then come up in the second resurrection, and suffer the second, most awful death. Then the wrath of God will be appeased.”

-Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, 189-193

“Our Duty to the Colored People” (1891)

“God cares no less for the souls of the African race that might be won to serve Him than He cared for Israel. He requires far more of His people than they have given Him in missionary work among the people of the South of all classes, and especially among the colored race. Are we not under even greater obligation to labor for the colored people than for those who have been more highly favored? Who is it that held these people in servitude? Who kept them in ignorance, and pursued a course to debase and brutalize them, forcing them to disregard the laws of marriage, breaking up the family relation, tearing wife from husband and husband from wife? If the race is degraded, if they are repulsive in habits and manners, who made them so? Is there not much due to them from the white people? After so great a wrong has been done them, should not an earnest effort be made to lift them up. The truth must be carried to them. They have souls to save as well as we.”

-Manuscript 6, 1891

“An Example in History” (1895)

“The neglect of the colored race by the American nation is charged against them. Those who claim to be Christians have a work to do in teaching them to read, and to follow various trades and engage in different business enterprises. Many among this race have noble traits of character and keen perception of mind. If they had an opportunity to develop, they would stand upon an equality with the whites.”

-Adventist Review, December 17, 1895

“An Example in History” (1895)

“The land of Egypt was nearly desolated to bring freedom to the children of Israel; the Southern States were nearly ruined to bring freedom to the colored race. For three years war was carried on, and many lives were sacrificed, and there is mourning today because of broken family circles. Unspeakable outrages have been committed against the colored race. They had lived on through years of bondage with no hope of deliverance, and there stretched out before them a dark and dismal future. They thought that it was their lot to live on under cruel oppression, to yield their bodies and souls to the dominance of man. After their deliverance from captivity, how earnestly should every Christian have co-operated with heavenly intelligences who were working for the deliverance of the downtrodden race. We should have sent missionaries into this field to teach the ignorant. We should have issued books in so simple a style that a child might have understood them, for many of them are only children in understanding. Pictures and object lessons should have been used to present to the mind valuable ideas. Children and youth should have been educated in such a way that they could have been instructors and missionaries to their parents.”

-Adventist Review, December 17, 1895

“Spirit and Life for the Colored People” (1896)

“Those who love Christ will do the works of Christ. They will go forth to seek and to save that which was lost. They will not shun those who are despised, and turn aside from the colored race. They will teach them how to read and how to perform manual labor, educating them to till the soil and to follow trades of various kinds. They will put forth painstaking efforts to develop the capabilities of the people. The cotton field will not be the only resource for a livelihood to the colored people. There will be awakened in them the thought that they are of value with God, and that they are esteemed as his property. The work pointed out is a most needful missionary enterprise. It is the best restitution that can be made to those who have been robbed of their time and deprived of their education.”

-Adventist Review, January 14, 1896

“Am I My Brother’s Keeper” (1896)

“The law of God contained in the ten commandments reveals to man his duty to love God supremely and his neighbor as himself. The American nation owes a debt of love to the colored race, and God has ordained that they should make restitution for the wrong they have done them in the past. Those who have taken no active part in enforcing slavery upon the colored people are not relieved from the responsibility of making special efforts to remove, as far as possible, the sure result of their enslavement.”

-Adventist Review, January 21, 1896

“Am I My Brother’s Keeper” (1896)

“When the duty of bringing the gospel to the colored race is presented, many make the plea that association with the colored people will contaminate society. But this very plea is evidence that means should be instituted to remove from this race the degradation that has been brought upon them. As a people, we should no longer say by our attitude, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We should arouse ourselves to do justly, to love mercy. We should make manifest by our actions that we have the faith for which the saints are to contend. We should go forth to seek the oppressed, to lift up the fallen, and to bring help to those who need our assistance. We should remember that many among the colored people who have been entrusted with God-given ability, who had intellectual capabilities far superior to those of the masters who claimed them as their property, were forced to endure every indignity, and their souls groaned under the most cruel and unjust oppression. They were ambitious to obtain their freedom, and sought in every possible way to obtain it. At times their deferred hope caused them to flash out with indignation, and they were forced to suffer such fearful punishments that their courage was broken, and to all outward appearances their spirits were subdued. But others planned for years, and finally were successful in gaining their freedom. Many of these have filled positions of trust, and have demonstrated the fact that the colored race is capable of cultivation and improvement. As a people claiming to be proclaiming the last message of mercy to the world, we cannot consistently neglect the Southern field; for it is a portion of God’s moral vineyard. It is not our place to study consequences; but we are to go to the field and labor for the colored people as earnestly as for the white people, and leave results with God. It is our part to work with all our God-given capabilities to redeem the time that we have wasted in planning how to avoid unhappy results in working the Southern fields.”

-Adventist Review, January 21, 1896

“Volunteers Wanted for the Southern Field” (1896)

“There are thousands who are capable of instruction, cultivation, and elevation. With proper, persevering labor, many who have been considered hopeless cases will become educators of their race. The colored people deserve much more from the hands of the white people than they have received. The colored people may be compared to a mine that is to be worked, in which is valuable ore of most precious material. Christ has given these people souls capable of winning and enjoying immortal life in the kingdom of God. One tenth of the advantages that their more favored brethren have received and failed to improve, would cause them to become mediums of light through which the brightness of the righteousness of Christ might shine forth. Who will enlist in this work, and willingly teach the ignorant what saith the word of God? Who will engage in the work of quickening the mental faculties into sensibility, of uplifting those who are downtrodden? Can we not show that we are willing to try to repair, as far as possible, the injury that has been done to them in the past? Shall not missionaries be multiplied? Shall we hear of volunteers, who are willing to go into the field to bring souls out of darkness and ignorance into the marvelous light in which we rejoiced, that they also may see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?”

-Adventist Review, February 4, 1896

Letter to Pacific Press employees (1899)

“The terribly neglected condition of the colored people in the South is charged by God upon those in America who have been given light by God regarding the great necessities of that field, and yet have done so little to relieve that situation. No people have suffered such great oppression as the colored people in the South. None have through the treatment received been brought into such degradation. And for no people has so little been done to uplift. They have not been taught to read that they might know the Word of God. This field stands forth to witness against those who have had the light of truth, who have had their duty plainly presented to them, but who have neglected to do what should have been done.”

-Letter 98, 1899

Letter to Frank E. Belden (1899)

“As a nation we have been guilty of a great wrong. In the judgment the charge of neglect will fall with heavy weight upon those who claim to be Christians, but we have left millions of people, men, women, and children, to become more and more depraved. In comparison with the great need there has been very little outlay of means to improve them by teaching them the knowledge of God. After being deprived of their rights, and for generations treated like cattle, they have been deprived of the means of bettering their condition. Virtually they have been left in heathenism, when they might have been helped to educate and elevate themselves. Their color has closed to them almost every possible avenue to improvement. There have been exceptions, but as a people they have received little labor, and have had little inducement to mental or moral improvement. God will soon take this matter in hand. He will judge the nation for their neglect and abuse of His creatures.”

-Letter 165, 1899

Letter to “Brethren in Positions of Responsibility” (1901)

“Let those in responsible positions think of the past chapters in the experience of those who have robbed the Southern field and never, never repeat this experience. Let them rather make restitution, restoring fourfold to the Southern field. Let them do this heartily, as a mistake that must be remedied. Let them not multiply robbery toward a people already robbed and trodden underfoot of men.”

-Letter 6, 1901

Letter to I.H. Evans (1901)

“I am instructed to keep the Southern field before you, that for your own good you may make ample restitution to this field. False representations have been made regarding the work done in the South. Men have not had sufficient interest in the work to go to the field and make a disinterested examination. Think of the prevarication which has been shown, the schemes which have been entered upon to get control of that which the Lord created to help the Southern field. The past course has been crooked. Wrong methods have been followed. But the errors of the past are unconfessed and unrepented of. Men have in their own minds justified the course that was then taken. They have viewed things from beginning to end in an altogether false light; and from the present showing, the same course will be followed in the future.

“The Lord will accept no excuse for the past neglect of the Southern field. Restitution has not yet been made in full to this field. The reproach is not yet wiped out. Christ has been wronged in the person of His saints. God has been robbed of the revenue with which He desired to open the work in the South. And this miserably selfish work will be repeated, as surely as it has been done in the past, unless it is seen in a true light.”

-Letter 74, 1901

“In the Southern Field” (1902)

“The Lord desires the desert places of the South, where the outlook appears so forbidding, to become as the garden of God. Let our people arouse and redeem the past. The obligation to work for the colored people rests heavily upon us. Shall we not try to repair, as far as lies in our power, the injury that in the past has been done to these people? Shall not the number of missionaries to the South be multiplied? Shall we not hear of many volunteers who are ready to enter this field to bring souls out of darkness and ignorance into the marvelous light in which we rejoice? God will pour out His Spirit upon those who respond to His call. In the strength of Christ they may do a work that will fill heaven with rejoicing.”

-Testimonies, vol. 7, 230

Letter to Cassuis Boone and Ella Hughes (1903)

“The Lord would have His people who love Him to know [that] the converted colored men and women who love God and try to do His will are His property, of as much value in His sight as the white who have not endured the same embarrassments that the colored race have, however educated and talented they may be. Let the white people who ignore the color of the skin be sure to show their appreciation of the same by making their own peace [and] gratitude offerings to God, and by teaching those who are not so highly favored that they will help, that they will restore to them as far as they can what has been lost through the years of privation and slavery.”

-Letter 304, 1903

“Nashville as a Center” (1903)

“You say that the colored people are depraved and wicked, that their standard of morality is very low. Who made them wicked? Who spoiled their morals? I want you to think of this and of the burden that rests upon the white people to help the colored people.”

-Manuscript 38, 1903

A Sermon to Adventists at a Church in Los Angeles, California (1905)

“We want you to save your means that you devote to ruining yourselves, and send it where we can labor for the colored people in America, for they are a legacy to every person that is in America. And means are needed to establish schools to educate and train the colored people to work for the colored people.”

-Manuscript 192, 1905

“The Support of God’s Work” (1906)

“What I have said in the past should be repeated. The colored people deserve more from the hands of the white people than they have received. There are thousands who have minds capable of cultivation and uplifting. With proper labor, many who have been looked upon as hopeless will become educators of their race. Let our people arouse, and redeem the past. The obligation to work for the colored people rests heavily upon us. Shall we not try to repair, as far as lies in our power, the injury that in the past has been done these people? Shall not the number of missionaries in the South be multiplied? This field lies at our very doors, and in it there is a great work to be done for the Master. This work must be done now, while the angels continue to hold the four winds. There is no time to lose.”

-Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 25, 1906

Benjamin Baker is the creator of blacksdahistory.org. He can be reached at benjaminj.baker@hotmail.com.

Image courtesy of the author.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9786
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As you have stated at the beginning of this article, many of EGW’s references to our obligation to blacks are couched in a missional context, but she does go quite a way toward recognizing more than just our obligation to evangelize them. She clearly recognizes the great theft of black life and opportunity made by whites, and she does clearly say that we need to use our resources to lift them up so they can live up to their potential, that is equal or greater than that of many whites.

I don’t know that I “need” the words of EGW to convince me that reparations are a good idea. I think it is long past time that reparations should be made to blacks. White privilege remains potently entrenched throughout US society from coast to coast. It baffles me that more Christians aren’t more forthrightly in favor of reparations. I have long been in favor of reparations. As long as white privilege keeps blacks from having equal opportunity to housing, education and good paying jobs, the case for reparations is very clear. As Christians we should be in the forefront in pushing for reparations.

Thank you for sharing this article.

200 yrs of non-stop, systematic and criminal repression is a very long time…if one considers the fact that the tobacco MSA of $206 billion in 1998 involved covering medical costs for people who had willingly smoked over a few decades, and compare that to what must be reasonably owed to the millions of unwilling victims stolen from their african homeland in order to be systematically repressed and even killed for generations as slaves, the williamson reparation figure of even $500 billion seems severely low…

the fact is that colonial america’s economy was possible solely - not primarily, but solely - because of the output of slaves…the primary cash crops of tobacco, sugar cane and cotton, with america’s south supplying 75% of the world’s cotton by the time of the civil war, was possible entirely because of the unpaid labor of slaves…america is arguably what it is today economically because of the stolen and forced contribution of slaves…even the white house, along with its obvious symbolism and symbology, was built in large part by slaves…

so what should be the value of reparations…according to denis rancourt, former professor of the university of ottawa, if 2 million slaves worked 10 hrs a day, 365 days a year, and for 70 yrs at a minimum wage of $7.25/hr, the value of that stolen labor compounded annually at 2% would be a conservative $59.2 trillion…america’s GDP for 2018 was $20.5 trillion…in other words, blacks are arguably owed the entire country, and then some…

Where I come from, colonization drove black people from fertile lands to arid lands where rainfall was poor. Some areas were only fit for wildlife. Each time the subject was raised, there was a lot of dithering, shuffling of feet, and empty promises. Then Mugabe took the bull by the horns and unilaterally drove white people out of Zimbabwe. That was 19 years ago. His methods were crude and violent and many people, even innocent white people died. It is funny that since then, the country has been experience food deficit every year. The country is under American sanctions because of what they call “absence of rule of law”.

What is funny is that before Mugabe did this, he was a darling of the West even when he butchered 20 000 people in an ethnic cleansing exercise in the early 1980s. No one complained of rule of law then. It became a rule of law issue when white people were being killed and robbed of their property.

Personally I think these issues will remain with us till the end. Like here currently, the families of those who were killed by Mugabe’s army are demanding compensation and the authorities are saying let bygones be bygones. That is a sad fact of life: people have no sympathy for others’ suffering. We are selfish and if someone demands compensation, we think they are holding grudges, they are unforgiving, etc.

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No matter the value of this article, The person that chose to use the picture of this beloved lady of GOD in her casket shows great dis-respect and, at least, very poor taste! Great shame on You.

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Really? That’s what you took form this?

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Author David Horrowitz, The Dark Agenda “Every freedom that we hold dear as Americans every principal, equality, alienable rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, inclusion, tolerance, freedom of speech. Every one originated as a Christian idea at that. 98% of the people who created this country were protestant Christians.
Reformers understood that churches and government are institutions created by human beings. Therefore subject to the corruption of human beings. And they came up with the brilliant and revolutionary idea of the priesthood of all believers. Each of us faces one maker one on one without the intermediary of the church or priesthood.
That not only makes everybody equal but it included black slaves.
From the moment of America’s birth there was a new dawn of freedom.
Thomas Jefferson wrote it in the Declaration of Independence and within 25 years there were hundreds of thousands of freed slaves in the north.
The creation of America was probably the greatest gift given to black people in 3000 years because slavery was considered a normal institution for all those years.”
Free, thank God Almighty we are free at last! Reparations, not needed.

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Not sure what you mean by “free” in this sentence. Yes, blacks are no longer slaves as they once were, but they are not as free as white people are. The reason reparations are needed is that we not only have never paid blacks back for the lost time and wages from their time of slavery, we have never given them equal freedom either. Almost every aspect of American society favors white people over blacks. Whites have better educational opportunities, better job prospects, are paid more for the same jobs, have better opportunities for renting and owning a home, etc. Then there are the advantages white people have in just being out in public. As a white person, when people see me they do not automatically think I am potentially dangerous or have criminal intent. When i walk around a store, the clerks do not automatically start worrying that I will shoplift. When I drive my car, as long as I follow basic traffic laws, I do not fear being pulled over by the police, and if I am pulled over, I do not fear for my life, worrying that the police officer might shoot me.This list could go on.

In short, I have white privilege that extends into all aspects of daily life. Until a black person can do all the things I can so easily do, and not fear being sworn at, arrested or shot just because she/he is black, we have a problem. This is why reparations are needed, and the best reparation would be to truly level the playing field and dispense entirely with white privilege. We owe the same to Native Americans, who suffer in essentially all the same ways blacks do, and in some cases suffer worse.

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I think it’s this type of math that gets people dismiss this as an absurd, since it takes aggregates that are not viable (like all people working 10hrs a day all their lives up to 70 years old), and then compounds that using the present day economic rules that are only viable given certain economic monetary continuum that didn’t exist until past century.

I’m not owed the compounded value of the cattle that Communist government took from my uncestors, because both parties are not here anymore. Justice can only work in context of the injured party and some contractual agreement that structures viable restitution. Taking money from a Chinese immigrant who saved a 100k to immigrate and open a store here… and then pipe it to “slave ancestors” is not justice or restitution. But that’s what reparations would do in part. This is not a “black and white” country anymore. There were plenty of people who immigrated and contributed to economic functional growth.

I don’t think a professor would ignorantly follow that logic without some ideological narrative that he or she would attempt to paint. But I hear plenty of people lately pick up that narrative as through it’s incontrovertible truth.

The strength of the US economy today has a lot to do with it being able to print (“borrow”) the money at will and then spend it abroad. It has much to do with Bretton Woods global economic system that gives US the position of economic oversight and dominance.

Likewise, US has been paying reparations since 60s and 70s. The total cost of American welfare system is over a trillion since it’s institution. So, there’s very little evidence that handing out checks directly to poor people makes much difference absent of the environment and inswntives in which their efforts to progress out of poverty moves forward and not degrades overtime.

Likewise, the poverty divide is an unfortunate byproduct of the present system. But, we also have to be realistic about what constitutes modern poverty in the US. Poor people in the US is a middle class across the globe. Most of our perception of what where we should be is merely a structure of artificial hierarchy that we don’t have to follow and which younger generation began to reject beginning with “lazy millennials” who don’t want to spend their lives building bridges to nowhere. Most of the economic systems on the US function as Ponzi Scheme, and these will not last. So, a $50,000 of monopoly money is a whole lot of nothing , especially if it would bring the system down.

Hence, none of these things are simple, and should not be viewed through oversimiplified lens.

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You are generalizing, and I think we need to stop doing that. There are plenty of people who doing quite well in this system, and I would personally find “black people can’t do it without white people’s help” type of rhethoric to be both racist and deragatory.

For any of this to work, the narrative will have to change. None of the people who live in present day are responsible for their father’s sins. Hence, there is no uniform “white privilege” that is enjoyed by only and all “white people”. Unarmed white people get shot by cops. It’s not amplified as a thing in the media, since it’s not statistically significant. And there are a lot more menacing circumstances in poor communities of all races than cops could ever be. Hence, let’s not make police to be out to be the bad guys.

There are reasonable and rational ways to deal with these issues, and that would be undoing the “black/white” ideological narratives that structured the past. Instead what we get is the agitation of the Charles Manson kind of race war, and for any person to agitate that is absurd. It perpetuates and reenforces racism. It doesn’t do away with it.

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That is very true, though I would not use the term “middle class.” Here in the US, if a person has a job they still have access to good food, good public schools, pretty decent housing, etc. Not so in other countries.

Not even sure where to start in responding to this. So, righting wrongs long perpetuated is “helping” blacks, when in actuality they are just doing fine helping themselves? Are you saying that that attempts to dismantle structural racism are inappropriate?

One could argue, yes, that the slavery suffered by blacks in the 19th century and before is not my responsibility. One could also argue that today’s society still benefits from the slavery, so we are responsible to some degree. Whatever, I will leave that argument aside. I am more concerned with current white privilege sustained by the white supremacist nature of our society today. Systemic racism permeates our social and political systems at all levels.

And sure, white people are shot by the police too, but a black man is 2.5X as likely to be shot as a white man. That is white privilege. And white privilege is not something a white person can decide to possess or not. It is conferred at birth by the mere fact of being white. I have white privilege. I have not even been pulled over by a policeman for more than 20 years, and when I was last pulled over i was not asked to step out of my car, I was not frisked and the policeman did not ask if he could search my car for drugs or if he could test bird droppings on my car for cocaine. I did not have to suffer these indignities, because I am white. That is white privilege.

I do not know whether you are white or not, but if you are white, you also have white privilege. I do not want to be condescending (so if you are well educated on this topic, my apologies), but I do want to suggest that if you are not well acquainted with the concept of white privilege that you take the time to educate yourself about it. An excellent introduction to the topic is “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin J. DiAngelo. An excellent book showing the continued injustice our society perpetrates against blacks is “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.

Monetary reparations would be nearly impossible to pay, but we can make reparations by recognizing the systemic racism that remains, educating ourselves about it and working toward dismantling the system. We could do this in myriad ways, such as equitably funding inner city schools, reforming police practices (including educating police about implicit racism in policing) and using some form of affirmative action to allow blacks to have equal access to jobs and higher education.

I cannot discard my white privilege, but I can recognize it and then work on ways to give blacks equal access in any way possible. It will not be easy to do, as so much white supremacy is deeply embedded in our culture, but we must chip away at it relentlessly. That would constitute meaningful reparations.

Seems to me that what Andrews University has been doing this summer rings true with what Sister White recommended: a bus goes to Benton Harbor in the morning, picks up high school students who have not done well with math and science classes, brings them to the campus, feeds them breakfast, puts them in ideal learning environments, feeds them lunch, puts them back in the classroom, then takes them home in the afternoon. They catch up and do well. It costs about $2100/student for the summer.

i think this is a narrow way of looking at this situation…the fact is that the descendants of slaves, living today, are behind economically, and therefore socially, to where they would have been had their ancestors not been forced into slavery…meanwhile, their white counterparts are ahead because their ancestors benefitted from slavery…this is the reality of the situation that needs to be addressed, and not whether calculations arrived at today extrapolate backwards validly…

the correct yardstick to look at is that a landmark settlement today, the tobacco MSA, that involved individuals who had been systematically duped for a few short decades, unconnected from their ancestors, has been settled for almost a quarter trillion dollars…meanwhile the dynamics of slavery, even confined to today’s free born descendants, are significantly steeper than anything informing the tobacco MSA…therefore a settlement in the trillions isn’t unreasonable, given these considerations…

We’ll, truth is narrow, and I do care whether someone’s argument is closer to reality than to fiction.

I don’t discount that the long history of slavery and subsequent segregation and redlining got set people behind. I also don’t want to discount the demoralizing effect on subsequent generations that grow up at the level of the lower economic strata. But, I don’t ascribe to the same view of socio-economic determinism you do, especially on the era of information abundance that we have today.

Likewise, this argument ignores sub-cultural factors of poverty. There are mechanisms in the subculture itself that keep people poor. For example, poor people want to seem rich, and instead of saving money and accumulating wealth, they spend it on cars, jewelry, and entertainment. There’s statistical data to show that to be the case. Hence you can’t fault the “white privilege” for these tendencies. It’s a choice driven by cultural pressure.

We can’t look at these things as some simple correlation between slavery descendants and poverty… since that’s not the determining factor that keeps people poor. And your argument seems to ignore that. What needs to be repaired is a culture of systematic poverty, and that’s not something that can be undone by simply throwing the money at the problem. It takes honest research. It takes education and willingness for people to accept that education and act accordingly. And that’s not always going to happen.

It’s not a simple issue to resolve.

It’s not a viable comparison at multiple levels of both cases. One is a product that was initially sold and promoted as safe, the other one is forced exploitation of people. One is a deal with stipulations to keep the harmful product on the shelves to this day and the cost companies have to pay to do so, and the other is the opposite - tracing the assumed effects on broader population for a system no longer in existence.

Hence, you can’t invoke tobacco MSA as the “correct yardstick” in this case. There are virtually no point of relevance one could reference to bring the reparation lawsuit against any entity in existence today with any viable arguments that could land proper decisions. Hence, reparations is promoted as a political move brought via government policy as opposed to a legal action that carried through courts that follow a very strict contractual protocol when judging cases.

If we are talking about programs to alleviate poverty and promote more opportunity for marginalized population, then we do have these programs. Could these be better and more funded? Of course. Would more funding solve these issues? I don’t think so. These issues are rooted in mentality more than these are rooted in lack of opportunity. People who adopt certain mentality in these communities tend to do quite well. Yes, it takes bold initiatives to push for spreading that mentality, and it takes willingness and discipline to act on it. But, most people in that situation (independent of the color of their skin) don’t want to be told what to do, and that’s how they stay in that situation.

So, for the sake of keeping the discussion going, what responsibility and part do you think “poor black communities” have in going through the suggested “cultural rehab”, and what kinds of things and ideology would need to change for that to happen? Or, do you think that responsibility solely rests with everyone else?

We have no structural racism and didn’t have it for a while now. What constitutes racism today is a communal bias and not institutional structure. We have anti-discrimination laws, we have affirmative action in some shape or form that relate to diversity quotas, we have welfare programs which specifically target racial minorities. We have a wide array of government oversight, and a culture of “racism hunters” that run around with hammers looking to nail any potential racists they could find, and a media culture that will publicize any significant “racism soundbites”. We have widely publicized political figured who are racial minorities or allies of racial minorities.

All of the above is a far cry from structural racism you think exist in this country.

What we do have is a culture of poverty that cyclically exist as a result of the structural racism of the past. And the poverty culture tends to be disproportionately black because of that. But, the common factor is not the color of the skin, but rather socioeconomic status. And that problem can be cyclical largely due to the competitive mentality that can ruin people as they attempt to get out of the cyclical poverty by means that don’t work.

Hence, if you want to alleviate the effects of the structural racism of the past, then you are barking up the wrong tree.

I think your concern is misplaced, largely because you are following a narrative instead of looking at reality of the issue, which is far more complex.

We don’t have a “white supremacy”. We have “white majority”. And we have a “black minority” that was born into communities that were structured during the era when these minorities were oppressed and marginalized. As a result, it created certain psychological barriers and mentality that perpetuates cycles of poverty and violence in those communities. And certain past attempts to throw money at these communities to alleviate these problems merely enabled certain detrimental mentality to flourish further.

Hence, these communities are victims, but they are not victims of the present “racist system”. They are victims of the cyclical poverty due to past injustice.

US has moved on. It has anti-racist media. It has anti-racist government. It has anti-racist political ideology that would label mere use of the N word in any context as a form of racism. So, you can’t make a case that we have have some “institutional racism”, because racism isn’t American institution in the present.

Again, you are regurgitating a political narrative that you seem to have accepted as viable, but “white privilege” is not a thing in reality. It’s a concept that exists as a part of a political narrative that has no other tricks to pull. So, it resorts to these absurd concepts that paint with the broadest brush possible, and has to consolidate a wide range of ethnic and ideological diversity into some conceptual “whiteness”, and then label it “privileged”, when in reality of the numbers the poor “whites” are nearly triple in number.

So, think about it. There’s three times as much “privileged whites” that live in the same conditions of poverty as “underprivileged blacks”.

I lived under communism, and the concept of “white privilege” is strangely familiar to me… but in our case it was called …

It’s exactly the same concept. Bourgeoiseie was a class of privileged people who stood opposite of the proletariat class and who was oppressing them.

That narrative didn’t work out very well, as you may know, but it went into a some gestation in American and European academia of Marxists ideology, and it took a new form of the intersectional identity politics today. That’s why Bourgeoisie was swapped for “Straight white male”, since statistics play well with it in Europe and US. And we have culture wars that lead to new kinds of political Marxism that revolves around same ideals, but tweaked narrative. It’s not a narrative that existed in 90s America, except in the marginal academia circles that few people paid attention to. It’s something that you repeating now, largely because it’s a popular thing to repeat.

Hence, as a form of its ideological narrative and the political methods it promotes, it’s a Marxism wearing the modern clothes of “social justice ideology”. And having born into and lived through Marxism ideology… I can see it rather well.

I actually disagree. I don’t think education should be public, since public education can’t formulate viable curriculum that’s important to regional needs. It’s a rather broad education via filling people’s heads with information that they will not use and that trivial game of Cultural Jeopardy is passed on as “education”, when students are not told and taught the actual dynamic of the culture around them. So, when they graduate, they have to learn all of that to be competitive in the actual workplace. Different areas have different needs, and approaching it via consolidated curriculum is absurd. The teachers should decide on the curriculum material just like college professors formulate their own. I doesn’t mean that we can’t have public funding for education, but what’s generally meant by “public education” doesn’t really work with dismantling poverty today. Poor communities don’t need more “education resources”. They need adequate methodology to reach and communicate conceptual reality to children in their community.

Hence, I really don’t think that academia lives or understands everyday economic reality, because they are not living in that reality. They live in academia bubble that operates by the rules different from general economic reality. Hence, they can’t viably fix these issues without understanding that reality. Top-down approach will not get us far. There has to be advisory board of local leaders who should contribute to policies with understanding of local complexity and societal dynamics.

Merely throwing money to do “more of the same” does not and will not resolve these issues. Of course, that fact doesn’t matter to politicians who don’t have far-reaching policy conversations. Most of their conversations revolve around “How can I stay in power today”, and that’s largely why few of the things get accomplished and most efforts are spend on pandering to “powers that be”.

When it comes to policing practices, you really have very little understanding of what’s going on until you are in a situation when you can be shot and would not be coming back home to your family… all for a salary of SDA pastor. Your outlook on life in general would be very different if you have to operate in high-crime neighborhoods in which people shoot each other because someone looked at them in “disrespecting manner”. You can’t project civility into pockets of uncivilized world that we have. And that’s the problem with judging the policing in our culture.

I think the most disturbing aspect of the above is the idea that if one’s skin is black then one must be underprivileged and thus marginalized and helped. It’s a condescending way of treating people in general. There are people who need help and who will not want it, because they don’t want to be told how to live… and they suffer consequences of that denial much like smokers who keep on smoking. Throwing more money their way will not solve the issues that they experience.

Look at it this way. If someone ran over you by accident, money is secondary to your willingness to spend time in rehab. Someone else can’t do the rehab efforts for you. They may pay for that rehab, but it’s your responsibility to follow the directions to get better… and it takes effort. It sucks that you have to do that. But YOU have to do that. People can help you, but only you can get yourself better.

And that’s something that’s missing from the conversation of “white privilege”. There’s no “white people” who are standing in the way of “black people” getting education and navigating the competitive landscape of US market economy. No one is holding a gun to their head and forcing them into poor economic decisions. It’s a cultural mindset that perpetuates poverty… and one can’t be helped out of that mindset with “public education”, because that education is “gen ed”. It doesn’t teach you being frugal to accumulate wealth, for example. It doesn’t teach you the problems with certain cultural presets like irresponsible sexual behavior and responsibility of parenthood. It doesn’t teach you ins and outs of successful cultural habits. Plus, there is no motivation to “be rehabbed and walk on your own” if it’s more painful than getting a check every month that covers some basics. And again, it’s something that’s missing from the conversations about “white privilege”.

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Thank you Arkdrey for your input actually having lived under Marxist Ideology. That ideology of “Marxiphilia” is rampant in much of college academia today. Your input in your area of actual experience “and pain” should be most appreciated by such as Phil who feels that is a qualification for those allowed an opinion…but I think not.
Thank you for paralleling much of the political think talk being used in the US…and world today. It is most certainly is used In liberation theology in the guise of the social gospel.
Communism/marxism thought made an intentional reach out to “progressive religion” to Incorporate their concepts within their message.
As I suggested on another strand Jim Wallis is an example.
Regards,
Pat
@phil

i think you may be conflating reparation with remedy…no-one is proposing remedies for the harm slavery has caused because there are none…the concept of reparations implies restitution for the sake of justice even though ongoing harm is contemplated…

the recent tobacco MSA is a functional yardstick because it is recent, it attaches a monetary value to widespread injustice, and it mirrors the distinction between reparation and remedy that slavery implies…none of the recipients of the tobacco MSA could expect to recover their health as a result, but there would have been satisfaction in knowing that the injustice suffered had been dealt with…this would have been the purpose of the tobacco MSA…

to say the injustice of slavery shouldn’t be dealt with from a reparations standpoint because remedial action is uncertain is to perpetuate that injustice…the tobacco MSA provides us a monetary settlement precedent that i think would go a long way towards the perception that the injustice of slavery has not been swept under the carpet…with that application of justice, various remedial measures can still be continued, and reassessed as needed…

I am not even going to begin to attempt to address your long rebuttal to my arguments. I find it odd that someone who apparently did not grow up in the US and who, as far as I can tell from your response, is unaware of the large amount of data that shows that structural racism exists, would presume to know as much as you do about it. Perhaps you should read the two books I mentioned and then get back to me on the topic, which would provide a minimal, but adequate, introduction.

I will mention just a few data points. First, how is it that even though blacks have been shown to be no more prone to violence than whites (and are also less likely to be carrying a gun), are 2.5 times as likely to be shot by police? The only reasonable explanation, and one that is also backed up by psychological and sociological research, is that police inherently assume that blacks are more likely to be violent and to carry a gun. Not sure how you define racism, but oppressing a minority population because of incorrect ideas about them is the core principle of racism. It is the very reason that 100 years ago in this country numerous blacks were lynched, not for crimes they actually committed, but because it was assumed they had committed those crimes or would do so given the opportunity. Blacks were viewed as oversexed, violent predators. Although they may not be seen this way to this degree, the average white person still sees black people as more violence prone and more likely to engage in criminal behavior.

This is also why, based on police data, blacks are several times more likely to be stopped by the police while driving, on pretense. Police assume that black people, black men especially, are much more likely to be engaged in criminal activity, especially drug dealing. This, in spite of independent data showing that there are more white male drug dealers than black drug dealers. Blacks are even less likely to be drug addicted, this also from numerous studies. Because of this racist form of policing blacks represent a much higher percentage of those incarcerated for drug offences. Even when they are charged in court they get discriminated against there as well, being much more likely to be convicted, and when convicted getting longer sentences on average than white men charged with the same crimes.

And, as you say, we now have laws to prevent racist practices in all aspects of society. Unfortunately, such laws are rarely enforced, so the racist systems keep functioning much as they always have. It is well documented that blacks continue to be discriminated against in college applications, housing rental, home loans and job applications. Predominantly black schools are chronically underfunded. I could go on and on, but you seem to think none of this is real.

It is easy to believe that structural racism doesn’t exist if you don’t bother to actually study the data. On top of that, in spite of whatever avances have been made, and there have been advances, the current administration in Washington is dismantling as many of the few protections already exist. The voting rights act of 1965 was also defanged a few years ago, disenfranchising many black and other minority voters. And let’s not forget the current resurgence in white supremacy groups on the far right/alt right. Racism is by no means dead, all the more reason to be talking once again about reparations.

The problem is that both offenders and the offended are not longer here, and the complex make up of this nation is that of a large number of immigrants who injected resources and labor into this nation’s success over the past 100 years, something that you enjoy. The software you use to type this on is written in large part by immigrants from Eastern Europe and Asia. So you can’t merely attribute broader national success the singular issue of slavery.

So, it’s not as simple as waving the “justice wand” and making things happen.

It’s nothing like tobacco MSA, because it’s a class action suit that has a clear defendant and a body of plaintiffs. Who is the defendant and plaintiffs in the reparation process?

Again, in tobacco case there’s a clear case of judicial proceeding which has a defendant and a plaintiff. Unless you are suggesting that we should trace generational lineages and turn the descendants of slaves into a plaintiff… this case would be nothing of the sort.