Reparations: Unjust, Indefensible, and Racist

I find the enslavement of other human beings to be reprehensibly evil for which forgiveness can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 1:29). My reflections on the reality that white Americans enslaved black Americans who are created equal to whites by the one true God is so dreadful that I find it painful to contemplate. Added to this is my conscious awareness that the same range of wickedness dwells within me as a sinful human being as it does us all, regardless of our skin color. My having not enslaved other humans does not make me feel superior to those who did, but rather warned of my own sinful ability to commit and seek to justify equally blasphemous evils or even the same in a different era if I do not continually apply the grace and truth of God. Nevertheless, I find reparations, in and of themselves, to be revoltingly immoral and promote further evil because they are strongly unjust and racist.

In the name of social justice, reparations lead to the absurdity of people who disapprove of slavery and have never owned slaves giving money to people who have never been slaves because some people in the past owned slaves or were slaves. But that is just the beginning of the indefensibility of reparations.

Daina Ramey Berry, Associate Professor of History and African and African Diaspora Studies, the University of Texas at Austin, says, “Roughly 25 percent of all Southerners owned slaves.”[1] In contrast to the popular narrative that claims the first blacks on American soil were slaves, Berry also notes, “Africans first arrived in America in the late 16th century not as slaves but as explorers together with Spanish and Portuguese explorers.”[2] In anticipation of potential fallacious white privilege charges, I think it is worth noting that Professor Berry is a black person (as is Thomas Sowell, whom I later quote).

This percentage of slave owners is in stark contrast to the popular description or inference that promotes the idea that the vast majority of whites or even all whites owned slaves. Are we to seek reparations from people whose ancestors did not own slaves? Is that justice? And what about blacks who owned slaves? What shall we do with them? Thomas Sowell tells us, “There were thousands of other blacks in the antebellum South who were commercial slaveowners, just like their white counterparts.”[3]

Additionally, “An estimated one-third of the ‘free persons of color’ in New Orleans were slaveowners, and thousands of these slaveowners volunteered to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War.”[4] Sowell further states, “Black slaveowners were even more common in the Caribbean.”[5] As you might well imagine, these blacks supported the institution of slavery.[6] Should we seek reparations from these black slaveowners for the descendants of their slaves? Add to this that many whites fought to free slaves utilizing the underground railroad and other measures before the Civil War; many whites supported the emancipation of slaves and died to end slavery. Furthermore, what shall we do about other mistreated groups in America’s past, such as the Jews, Japanese, and even many whites by the Britons?

Then there was the enslavement of white Europeans by the Barbary pirates. Jeff Grabmeier notes that Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, “has calculated that between 1 million and 1.25 million European Christians were captured and forced to work in North Africa from the 16th to 18th centuries.”[7] Regarding white enslavement, Sowell remarks, “European slaves were still being sold on the auction block in Egypt, years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed blacks in the United States.”[8] Thus, whites were fighting to end slavery in America and England, while Egypt was still enslaving white Europeans. That does not sound like the work of irredeemable white supremacists and racists.

In comparison, between the number of slaves in the United States and even the entire Western Hemisphere and elsewhere, Sowell notes, “Even larger number[s] of Africans [were] enslaved in the Islamic countries . . . and North Africa.”[9] Yet, we hear little or nothing from those blacks who seek reparations from whites seeking the same from Muslims. Instead, since Muslims are a minority in America, social justice makes them an oppressed group at the hands of Christians. The truth is that slavery has existed all over the world for thousands of years. This is not to minimize the barbarism of slavery in the United States or elsewhere. Instead, it is to give context to slavery discussions in America so that people do not think slavery is the racist product of America. Such thinking is not only erroneous, but it transforms slavery into a weaponized utility for excessive divisiveness and racial aggression against whites by social justice warriors.

Given the practice of slavery around the world for millennia, and that most enslavement was of people belonging to the same race that enslaved them, Sowell concludes, “In short, racism was neither necessary nor sufficient for slavery, whose origins antedated racism by centuries. Racism was a result, not a cause, of slavery.”[10] Regarding the European slave trade of Africans, Sowell comments, “Far from being targeted by Europeans for racial reasons . . . Africa was resorted to . . . only after centuries of Europeans enslaving other Europeans had been brought to an end.”[11] The fact is that “slavery was . . . an established institution in the Western Hemisphere before Columbus’ ships ever appeared on the horizon.”[12] And even during the time of the African slave trade, “existing slaves continued to include peoples of many races living in many places around the world.”[13] Therefore, slavery did not result from racism, but rather each group enslaving the weak and vulnerable of their own people. The Africans did the same thing. Their willingness to sell their own enslaved people made western and Islamic racial slave trade possible.

Shall all races or groups seek reparations from those who enslaved or treated them as subhuman? If this form of “justice” prevails, the madness will not and cannot stop. Moreover, before blacks promote reparations against white America, they would do well to probe the history of slavery a little deeper. The African slaves that were brought to the West from Africa were caught and enslaved by black Africans first. At the time of the African slave trade with the West, “Africa was largely ruled by Africans, who established the conditions under which slave sales took place.”[14] By the time Europeans established empires there, the “Atlantic slave trade had already ended.”[15] The Africans sold some of those they enslaved to the West and Islamic countries. But at the height of the slave trade to the West, the Africans kept more slaves for themselves than they traded to the West. The fact is that the Africans practiced slavery before, during, and after they provided slaves to Westerners. [16]

The bestselling book and mini-series, Roots, by Alex Haley, portrayed white men invading and conquering Africa to capture Africans for western slavery, but that is a myth, a very damaging myth. When author Alex Haley was challenged about Roots’ historical inaccuracy, he said, “I tried to give my people a myth to live by.”[17] The truth is, “The region of West Africa from which Kunte Kinte supposedly came was one of the great slave-trading regions of the continent—before, during, and after the white man arrived.”[18] Essential to keep in mind is that when I refer to black people, I do not mean all black people are proponents of socialistic justice and reparations because many are not.[19]

Although Great Britain and America are guilty of the sin of slavery, and I would say particularly those who claim the name of Christ, the end of slavery around the world came about by Christians, America, and Great Britain. Without the naval supremacy of Great Britain and its costly willingness to end slavery worldwide, slavery would indeed have continued for centuries. It does still exist in some places, but not to the ubiquitous degree it would have without Great Britain’s resolve. And do not forget that America joined Britain and other western countries in this quest, all in the face of strong resistance from Africa, Islamic, and other countries. America also fought a dreadfully costly war rather than turning a blind eye to the continuance of slavery on our shores. The truth is that “Europeans . . . became . . . the destroyers of slavery around the world.”[20]

Only the West developed a moral conscience against slavery. “Within Western civilization, the principal impetus for the abolition of slavery came first from very conservative religious activists—people who would today be called ‘the religious right.’ And of course, the ‘religious right’ of that era were Bible-believing Christians. Clearly, this story is not ‘politically correct’ in today’s terms. Hence it is ignored as if it never happened.”[21] Regrettably, the West developed this consciousness against slavery quite late in the history of slavery, which existed since man’s fall. Even the Britons had enslaved Britons for six-hundred years before the African slave trade. Nevertheless, it was the West who turned against slavery and, with Great Britain leading the way, initially stood alone in its pursuit to eliminate slavery from the globe.

Therefore, we cannot consider reparations to be just because they fail to include black American slave owners, and penalize whites and other immigrants whose ancestors did not actually own slaves. They do not exempt white people whose ancestors fought in the underground railroad and other ways and, ultimately, a Civil War to end slavery. They do not hold accountable the African ancestors of slaves who caught and sold their fellow black Africans into American slavery (who are the very ones that made possible the entirety of Western/African slave trade). They also fail to include all other groups enslaved by people groups in America, and they do not compensate other previously abused groups such as the Jews, Japanese, and Caucasians.[22] Reparations will prove to be nothing more than another example of social justice warriors fighting for social justice with racist injustice. Moreover, shall America, and every other nation for that matter, seek reparations from every country and people group who have done us wrong?

As are all nations, American history is heavily littered with sinful acts (including slavery) because, like all other nations, she is populated with sinful human beings. Isolating and highlighting America’s sins without contextualizing them with her unmatched history of extraordinary achievements (like ending slavery and seeking to end it elsewhere) and protections of people worldwide is a horrendously manipulative racial injustice from which we may never recover.

Rather than focus on America’s past failures, we should focus on present failures like abortion, something we can actually change. It cannot go without notice that many, if not most of those who seek reparations are contradictorily proabortion. We should disabuse ourselves of perpetual victimology and seize the opportunities available. Regretting our past must be in light of the gargantuan and costly strides in providing equal opportunity for all. We fought a war against the British Empire to free ourselves from a genuine political and economic class system. The Civil War followed that in our quest to live out the founder’s declaration to the world, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and we joined Briton in fighting slavery around the world. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the final removal of all laws that segregated or diminished blacks personhood followed these events. However, the guarantee of equality does not and cannot guarantee everyone’s (white or black) success—social justice’s impossible equal outcome delusion.

The success of millions of blacks in America, often surpassing their white counterparts, severely undermines social justice’s claim of systemic racism against blacks and people of color. The claim of systemic racism and victimhood is weakened further in light of the countless immigrants from all over the world (including blacks from places like Nigeria) who come here with nothing (not even knowing the language) and, within one to three generations, become successful. Finally, many blacks seek to come to America because they say it is the best place in the world for a black person to live. Immigrant Ayaan Hirsi Ali provides a stellar example of a black perspective of how great America is for black people to live.[23]

If we focus on past wrongs, we shall surely regress into an inhumane postmodern Marxian oblivion.


[1] Of course, the percentage nationally would be significantly less. Daina Ramey Berry, “American slavery: Separating fact from fiction,” The Conversation, 6/19/17, https://theconversation.com/american-slavery-separating-fact-from-myth-79620, accessed 8/15/20.
[2] Berry, “American slavery.”
[3] Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals (New York: Encounter Books, 2005), 127. See also Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860, vol 1 (Glouster, MS: Peter Smith, 1958), 528; Larry Koger, Black Slaveowners: Free Black Masters in South Carolina, 1790–1860 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1995), 380, 385; Willard B. Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880–1920 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 83; Ira Berlin, Slaves without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974), 124, 386; Eugene D. Genovese, “The Slave States of North America,” in Neither Slave nor Free: The Freedman of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World, edited by David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972), 270; Philip D. Morgan, “Black Life in Eighteenth-Century Charleston,” Perspectives in American History, new series, vol 1, 1984, 212; and Bernard E. Powers, Jr., Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822–1885 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994), 48–50, 72.
[4] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 127. See also Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color, 83; Berlin, Slaves without Masters, 124, 386; and David C. Rankin, “The Impact of the Civil War on the Free Color Community of New Orleans,” Perspectives in American History, vol XI (1977–78), 380, 385.
[5] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 127. See Jerome S. Handler and Arnold A. Sio, “Barbados.” in Neither Slave nor Free: The Freedman of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World, edited by David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972), 245–46 and Léo Elisabeth, “The French Antilles” in Neither Slave nor Free: The Freedman of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World edited by David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972), 165–66.
[6] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 127.
[7] Jeff Grabmeier, “When Europeans Were Slaves: Research Suggests White Slavery Was Much More Common Than Previously Believed,” Ohio State News, 3/7/04, https://news.osu.edu/when-europeans-were-slaves–research-suggests-white-slavery-was-much-more-common-than-previously-believed/, accessed 8/15/20. See also Sowell, Black Rednecks, 112.
[8] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 112.
[9] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 112.
[10] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 128.
[11] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 115.
[12] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 112.
[13] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 115.
[14] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 121.
[15] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 121.
[16] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 120.
[17] Philip Nobile, “Uncovering Roots,” Village Voice, 2/23/93, 34.
[18] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 120.
[19] Some black scholars who argue against such things: Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Shelby Steele, and Robert L. Woodson Sr.
[20] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 116.
[21] Sowell, Black Rednecks, 116.
[22] North African Muslims enslaved white Europeans, and Britons enslaved the ancestors of white Americans from Briton.
[23] https://www.hoover.org/research/case-against-revolution-ayaan-hirsi-ali accessed 8/1/20.