Ladies and gentlemen; I don’t believe that anyone in this
chamber would move to disagree with the idea that slavery was an
atrocity, committed from the depths of the darkest parts of the human
sole. Africans were seized from their native land, and sold into
lives of servitude into a foreign land. Indeed, it was a tragedy on
such a scale that cannot be measured nor quantified. And it is this
very notion of unquantifiable tragedy which speaks to the matter of
reparations for slavery. To be quite blunt, reparations, even if they
may be deserved, are not feasible under any system or economic tangent
– indeed such an undertaking would only not remedy the situation, but
it would sink Africa and her people deeper into the cycle of poverty
and oppression that they have so struggled to free themselves. While
the arguments against reparations may seem shallow or self-serving to
advocates of such a system, upon examination, the logistics of what to
give, and whom to distribute it to, preclude any potential benefits of
such a system of indemnity and requite. The point of the follow
critique is not to say that Africans were not mistreated, nor that
they are not worthy of reparations, but that perhaps reparations are
not an adequate solution to this situation, and indeed will only serve
to worsen.

Africa is a continent in dire straits. European colonization
and colonialism damaged the native structure and society – some might
say that this simply proves that European man caused, and ought to pay
for, the damages done to Africa and her people. However, I would
argue that simply placing a ‘band-aid’ blanket over Africa, would
serve only to mask their problems, and relieve us of our guilt. It
was this same attitude that the early European missionaries took with
Africa – that they are not capable of dealing with their own problems
and situations. Authors suggest that reparations should take the form
of capital transfers and African status in the International Monetary
Fund (Mazuri, 22). Does this sound like mending the deep running
wounds and damage done to Africa, or like a transfer of monetary funds
in order to “fix” Africa? Indeed, this idea of presenting money to
Africa in order to “apologize” for what we have done is nothing more
than a quick fix solution – it is not a long-term remedy for the
underlying structural damage. The very center of Africa has been
changed, for better or for worse. Surface solutions, while some may
claim they are “a good beginning” or perhaps just a token of our
apologetic state, will only further social damage and entrench abusive
African regimes. A cognate situation with African Americans is with
that of Afrocentric history (Asante, 174); many suggest that perhaps
we ought to provide black student with their own curriculum, such as
to instill in them a sense of pride that will improve their education.
The U.S. News and World Report comments:
“The Afrocentric curriculum is usually presented as an
attempt to develop pride in black children by giving them a racial
history But what kind of pride and self-esteem is likely to grow
from false history? And how much more cynical will black children
be if they discover that they have been conned once again, only
this time by Afrocentrists? It is a sure-fire formula for
separatism and endless racial animosity (Leo, 26)”
This author suggests that indeed, conferring upon youths of African
descent their own “different” history will not only further the racial
segregation, but also provide them with a false sense of history,
fueling the animosity. If the rest of the world were to suddenly step
down and bestow upon Africa special privileges and grants, it would
only create a sense among the global village that Africans are
‘different’ and require some sort of special assistance in order to
succeed. This type of compensatory system would not only be
insufficient to ever repay blacks for the injustice to them, but also
further the rigid separatism that plagues African Americans today –
what they need is equality, not special programs catered to what
guilty-feeling Europeans feel they “owe” them.

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Aside from any philosophical or idea-based arguments against
reparations, there exist a number of logistical barriers to repaying
blacks for their suffering. Immediate questions arise in the realm of
distribution – it is intuitive that such reparations would be
difficult to distribute, much less to decide how much, or where to
place the funds or assistance. The questions are impossible to
answer: who was the most oppressed? Which family or group of people
received the cruelest treatment – should they get the most money or
assistance? Such questions cannot be decided, nor is it fair to
quantify or compare the suffering of different people – if we started
to hand out assistance, some would invariably demand more than others.
Some of African descent were never taken into slavery, nor were
oppressed by whites – even if one believed they are deserved of
reparations, it would be impossible for an international body to
distinguish or properly disburse the requite among Africans of diverse
backgrounds. Some Africans have indeed become wealthy within then
white world and do not require assistance – yet it would be unfair to
slight them their share – did they not also once suffer? It is
equally impossible to prove whether or not someone actually was a
slave, or how long they had been slaves; no records of such history
were ever kept. Also worth of addressing is African involvement in
slavery – it ought be decided whether those Africans deserve
reparations. Some historians agree that many early slave traders
justified their actions because of African involvement in the trade
itself – these African kings were bought by guns and technology from
the Europeans (M’Bokolo ??). By this logic, even if they were forced
to sell these slaves, they did indeed contribute to the effort – are
the nations which contain these former kingdoms today deserved of
repayment? Indeed, it is unfeasible to say who did and who did not,
as any logical observer would note. It is equally unworkable to
decide whether or not they too were victims of the slave trade, the
arguments either way would be morally irreparable – for are they
responsible for the actions of their ancestors? In total, no
governing body can be sure of who these reparations ought to be
distributed to, nor what form they ought to take. One might argue
that just general monetary grants should be given to African nations –
but that leaves African Americans out of the process, who formerly
suffered as Africans. While perhaps the ideas that Mazuri presents
are perhaps worthy of noting or discussion, we find that there are
many unanswered questions in the issue – the risks of the distribution
process outweigh potential benefits.

The final case against the organized business of reparations
for slaves is that the indemnifiers the question of who ought to bear
responsibility for repaying the slaves for their oppression and abuse.
Is there a certain group of people that ought to be most responsible
for the reparations – should the average citizen pay for slavery?
Both are questions which cannot be sufficiently responded to. No
single person ought to be paying more for slavery than another; in
fact few people alive today has ever committed slavery or owned
slaves; they ought not to be held responsible for the actions of their
ancestors who perhaps once did have slaves. Also worth noting is the
idea that those nations most responsible for slavery are unable to pay
for it, such as Belgium and Portugal, while relatively benign
countries like Great Britain are economic powers in Europe (Mazuri,
22). This makes the interesting point of such, and I feel that Britain
does not have to pick up the slack and pay for what other nations did
– it is equally unfair as giving reparations to Africans who were not
slaves. One of the suggestions that is also raised (Mazuri, 22) is
that of establishing an IMF fund for African nations. However, it is
the tax money of average citizens paying for these reparations – no
one say that these people were actually the ones who contributed to
slavery. The hard earned taxes of the middle class should not go to
foreign funds to deal with guilt for African tragedies, but to
education for all people, without regard to race or discrimination.
The point is, that all in all, those who did not contribute to slavery
ought not pay for it – neighbors of criminals do no go to prison for
being near the criminal, nor the children or grandchildren of
criminals serve time to society.

I would, once again, like to make clear that I do not disagree
that slavery was an act of near genocide, and ought never be forgotten
nor trivialized – we owe the African of our day a great apology. Nor
do I disagree that perhaps Africans contributed to global markets in
the early days of European expansion (Miller, 71). However, I do not
think it right that we bandage Africa in requital of our own guilt,
thusly entrenching the very notion of segregation and discrimination
that we are discussing here today. African peoples and nations may be
deserved of recompense, but it will never truly be possible to requite
the losses in any form of goods or services by a foreign power. If
Africans need money, it need not be asked for under guise of slave
reparations. We ought not bestow these requites of shallow money and
assistance on Africa – it would distinguish them as something
different, and entrench the mindset of racism, and the paradigm of
separate treatment. Indeed, the point of this address was to display
to the chamber the impracticality of providing such “quick-fix”
solutions, and of ever hoping to properly distribute these funds
within a reasonable timeframe of effectiveness. Indeed, I believe
deeply that Africans have been abused and oppressed – yet we ought not
buy the forgiveness of Africa, nor should Africa have to accept our
payments. I urge you, to please have the foresight to not entrench
the very notions of which it is so paramount that we battle, but to
find an alternative solution to Africa’s dilemma.