The Big Payback

by William A. Darity, Jr. and Kirsten Mullen |

Thanks for all the slavery apologies, but where the hell is my mule?

July 1, 2008--Legislatures in two more states—Missouri and Nebraska—are contemplating apologies for slavery. Slavery was introduced in what would become Missouri at least as early as 1720 when Philippe Francois Renault brought 500 enslaved Africans to excavate the mines in present-day St. Louis and Jefferson counties. Missouri outlawed the practice with the ratification of its state constitution in 1865. Nebraska's legislators have expressed "profound regret" for their state's role in slavery and "condemn racial discrimination in any form toward African Americans." We believe that these actions are a critical first step toward reparations.

Why institute a program of reparations for events like slavery and legal segregation that happened so long in the past? The reality is: Neither set of events is distant in time.

There are literally scores of living victims of legal segregation in the United States. Our own parents endured Jim Crow into mid-life; a quarter of our own lives were spent in a world of racially segregated and unequal schooling. While the Brown v. Board decision technically ended school segregation in 1954, massive resistance by white Southerners stalled the process for another 20 years. (read more)