It's Time For That Promised Forty Acres And A Mule

It's Time For That Promised Forty Acres And A Mule

It has long been obvious that in order to achieve true racial equality, radical steps must be taken.
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With headlines like “The Average Black Family Would Need 228 Years to Build the Wealth of a White Family Today” and “White People Are More Likely to Deal Drugs, But Black People Are More Likely to Be Arrested for It” and “Wage Gap Between White and Black Americans Is Worse Today Than In 1979," it is clear that, at the very least, it is questionable whether black Americans are yet truly equal with their white counterparts.

These vast inequalities today are perpetuated by instruments like de facto segregation, poor inner city education, and the mass incarceration state, all three of which place burdens disproportionately on black communities. Because of this long history of oppressing and stealing from black Americans and the sheer magnitude of the racial inequalities felt in nearly every facet of life, it has become a moral and practical necessity that the United States rectify its wrongs and work to ameliorate the situation, to provide some form of “reparations.”

When people hear the word “reparations,” they often get scared away with visions of the government coming and eliciting fines for “being white” to then distribute to black Americans to right past wrongs. This is a gross misrepresentation of what reparations would actually be; very rarely will you see any intellectual argue for a flat disbursement made to all black Americans. Not only would that not serve at all to fix the underlying problems causing the inequality, it would also fail to treat the situation with the nuance and complexity it deserves. Instead, what these reparations must be are structural reorganizations and legislative ventures to work to rectify the institutionalized inequalities undermining the possibility of achieving full equality for black Americans. They must be, as Atlantic essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant payout. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.”

Though the history books make it abundantly clear, one need not look further than the current day to see that reparations are due. Recent statistical analysis conducted by the New York Times suggests the statistical inequalities between black and white Americans are far larger--and they are not decreasing--than could be explained away by mere coincidence. Black Americans are over twice as likely as their white counterparts to be unemployed--a gap that has remained stagnant since the 70’s--and are more likely to be jobless even if they have higher education levels than white peers. The median pay for black Americans is over 20% lower than for white Americans, something which has worsened in the past 30 years. Before the recession, the average white family held wealth equaling 4.3 times the wealth of the average black or Hispanic family; after the recession, this grew to 6.1 times. Similar discrepancies can be found in areas of education, housing, and criminal justice issues. These population-wide inequalities are too large to be explained away by personal responsibility, lacking families, and coincidence. Especially given that many of these inequalities have been improving either extremely slowly or not at all since the Civil Rights Era, it is clear that some sort of structural response is necessary.

There are, to be sure, reasonable objections to this course of action. In his essay for the National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes that it would be unfair to levy the burden of past American transgressions on people of today and that reparations possibly would do very little to alleviate the socioeconomic disparities currently facing black Americans. He writes, “But the remedy Mr. Coates proposes would not satisfy the criterion of justice, nor is it likely that it would reduce or even substantially eliminate the very large socioeconomic differences that distinguish the black experience of American life from the white experience of it.” He adds, “There are still, after all, an awful lot of white people, and though many of them might be inclined to make amends under some sort of racial truce following the process Mr. Coates imagines, many of them might simply be inclined to prevail.” While well reasoned and nicely written, his argument falls flat in that he misunderstands what calling for reparations actually means. If done properly, there would be no unfair burden levied on white Americans, and there really could be substantial steps forward in alleviating some of the inequality. In fact, because of how closely linked class and race are in these United States, many of the structural changes would need to come in the form of poverty alleviation and increased access to upward mobility; this could serve to help the most disadvantaged white Americans, as well.

In September of last year, a United Nations Panel determined that the US government does owe black people reparations for a history of “racial terrorism." The United States government and citizens have undoubtedly waged a war against black people residing in the States from the moment they were torn away from their home and forced to work in fields under the threat of the whip to today when the lingering effects are not so much lingering as they are momentous. It is high time that the United States extend a formal apology to black Americans, though this is only one largely symbolic step that must be part of larger social change. In order to begin to fix the absurd inequalities between white and black in this country, there must be vast changes in public policy, and not through the more traditional means. We need an overhaul of the welfare, education, housing, policing, and criminal justice systems and it needs to be done in such a way that recognizes the unique struggles--both historic and current--of black Americans. For just one example, we can finally make good on our decades old promise to end segregation. Oftentimes the poorer, majority black neighborhoods in cities have increased levels of crime, lower property values, and significantly worse education. If we eliminated the de facto segregation that has reigned supreme in many US urban hubs--both northern and southern--more equality could be achieved. The longer we push this back, the longer we deny the promise of “40 acres and a mule,” the more entrenched the inequality becomes and the less likely it becomes that reparations are ever truly made.

Cover Image Credit: history.com

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If You're In College And Your Parents Pay Your Bills, You're Privileged, Full Stop

It’s support, not a gift.
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Car, phone, insurance, rent, groceries, gas, school, textbooks, utilities – these are all things we will find ourselves paying at some point in our lives.

For some, they may never have to pay a dime for any – or most – of these until they graduate college.

Some until they start a career or get married.

If you throw a rock on a college campus, almost anyone it hits still has at least one or two of these bills paid for by their parents. Being college aged, it’s not uncommon to receive financial assistance from parents. There are so many things to pay for and sometimes a college student budget can only cover so much.

What many of these kids fail to realize though is the assistance they receive makes them privileged. The more your parents pay for, the more privileged you are.

Money is the key to everything: it’s gets you an education, a place to live, ways to communicate, food, and any other necessity or luxury in life.

The less you have to pay for, the less you worry. It means the less you have to budget, stretch a dollar, or worry about having the most basic things.

Being supported by parents means not having to worry so much. It’s easy to walk into an apartment fully stocked with food, using an expensive phone with a large data plan and not think twice about where it came from.

Kids who pay for certain bills like rent or groceries are always aware of the hundreds of dollars they have to take out of their account every month.

They are aware of the fact if they eat too many breakfast meals for late night snacks, they might have to skip eating in the mornings until they can afford more cereal on the next paycheck. They are aware of the fact if their phone drops, they’ll have to live with a horribly shattered or malfunctioning screen.

Even if you are aware of what you are given by your parents, it’s so easy to live a life without certain bills. It’s easy to forget that other people don’t get that break.

I am grateful for the support of my family. I am grateful to have a phone with a plan, and to know that if things get really tight, they’re there to help me. I am aware that I am privileged to have their support.

Next time a parent pays a bill or covers a fee remember that you are privileged to be a part of a family that can financially support you. Be thankful for their assistance and never take it for granted.

You should never feel bad for being supported, but always remember that everyone’s situation is different.

Remember the privilege you have.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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I Couldn't Wait To Get Out Of My Hometown, And Now I Can't Wait To Go Back

I was just a small town girl who couldn't wait to see the world.

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For the majority of my life, I have lived in a small town in northern Arizona. As I got older it seemed as if my town got smaller.

All that I could see in the town were negatives. It looked ugly, felt small and filled with terrible people. Yes, I was bullied throughout elementary, middle school and high school, but that is not the story I am here to tell.

Needless to say, I was ready to get the heck out of that town and move on to bigger and better things. I wanted to meet new people to be in new places with bigger opportunities. That is exactly what I did, and I would not change it for the world. I moved to the city of Phoenix to go to college and pursue what I am most passionate about.

For the first year that I was away from home, I wanted to stay away and never go back. I hated going back for Christmas break or visiting at any point. When people would say they were taking a trip to my hometown I would always question "Why would you want to do that? It's so ugly and there's nothing to do there" All I had towards my hometown was negative emotions and maybe even a bit of anger.

After being away for about three years now, my perspective has completely changed. I have nothing but love for my hometown, its beauty, and the sentimental value that it holds. Every time I visit, I stare at the beautiful mountains and stare at the sunsets and visit the local shops as much as humanly possible. Adventuring around my hometown whenever possible has become my new favorite thing to do.

At the end of the day, it is where I am from, where I grew up. Yes, there are bad memories, but there are also so many good ones, like dad racing the train on the way to school, or mom letting us stop for ice cream every Friday after school to celebrate the end of the week or walking around downtown with friends in high school thinking we were cool.

It is the little things that you learn to appreciate. It might take being away from something for you to truly appreciate it. It is true when people say that distance makes the heart grow fonder.

I hated my hometown for the longest time, but now I visit every chance I get. Even if I am no longer living there, it will always hold a piece of my heart.

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