by Xion Abiodun, Oakland Bureau
If you have been following the news lately then you know that California is talking about finally giving reparations to African Americans to try and somewhat make up for slavery. Last month, a meeting was held by the task force to start developing reparation proposals here in Oakland, Calif.
Now, we don’t know the answers to the most important questions about this yet, such as: “When will we get reparations?” or “How much will we get for reparations?” But we do know a few things.
The only people that will be eligible for reparations in California are African Americans who are citizens, direct descendants of other enslaved African Americans and can trace their heritage from before 1865 to prove that they are a descendant of formerly enslaved people.
Now, this is already unfair because most enslaved people did not have records of their birth, which is why it is extremely hard for most African Americans to trace back their family lineage. For most Black people to trace back their family that far they would have to pay for a membership on a genealogy website. Even then, the information on those sites may not be accurate because most enslaved people could not read or write, which means their relative(s) could have spelled their names in a completely different way.
I have been seeing many people on social media ask the question of why should Black people get reparations now even though we weren’t the ones enslaved? There are many reasons why we should get reparations, for the simple fact that we still face discrimination today. Even now, Black people are paid less than our non-Black co-workers for the simple fact that we happen to be Black, which causes a financial gap between us and other non-Black people that we live among.
Not only do we face discrimination now, but our ancestors were also left unpaid and abused for the 246 years they were enslaved (1619-1865). The United States provided compensation for the Jewish community for the holocaust. The United States also provided compensation for the Japanese community for the crimes committed against them during World War II, so why shouldn’t African Americans receive compensation as well?
Imagine playing monopoly 246 times, but those 246 times you play, you’re not allowed to own any property or have any money. Essentially this is what happened to African Americans, and we have been set back economically because of this.
I have also been seeing multiple people on social media ask why California is getting reparations when we did not have slavery. California was not always a free state, there was slavery here too once upon a time. Not only that – during the great migration, many formerly enslaved Black people migrated to California, which means a lot of Black people (including myself) are direct descendants of those who were enslaved.
So what are your opinions on this? Do you think African Americans deserve compensation for slavery, or do you think we should just excuse it because it was before our lifetime?
Xion Abiodun is a journalist with the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau. Reach her and other Bay View writers at email@example.com.