Jews Cautious on Reparations

Steve Lipman of The New York Jewish Week explains why Jews are cautious on the subject of reparations for Blacks. Lipman notes that a groundswell of support hasn’t not been forthcoming from the Jewish community despite a seemingly natural affinity between Jews and Black people.

Steve Cohen, a democratic from Tennessee's 9th congressional district and the state’s first Jewish congressman co-sponsored a bill that would establish “a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery.” He also presided over a hearing on reparations, June 19th, 2019.

Ta-Nehisi Coates at the congressional hearing on reparations held Juneteenth.

Ta-Nehisi Coates at the congressional hearing on reparations held Juneteenth.

Despite support in one corner of the Jewish community, throughout the remaining body the silence remains or is if filled with doubt about integrity and eligibility.

How do you prove eligibility? How do you calculate what should be paid? How do you establish lineage to a long dead slave? What about cost?

Some of these questions are fair but to view them as insurmountable as some do in the Jewish community is a failure of imagination and lack of awareness.

Being able to identify who should receive reparations is no harder than tracing our lineage to the 1880 census or before. Many Adosa families have already. I can tell you the plantation my father’s ancestor’s toiled on and the port where they arrived. What would be necessary is a government apparatus willing to validate these claims.

The financial burden to the United States is not something that anyone has to bear. Simply setting aside a percentage of the nation's GDP placed in an interest yielding trust fund should address most of that concern. The percentage placed in the trust should be equal to the amount generated by slave labor as averaged from 1860 to 1865.

As the entire nation benefitted from slavery, the entire nation should be involved in putting to right one its original sin. The stain of slavery doesn't sit on the South alone.

New York City attained it status as the commercial and financial center of America in part due to slave labor. There are estimates "that New York received forty percent of all cotton revenues since the city supplied insurance, shipping, and financing services and New York merchants sold goods to Southern planters.” By 1860 the amount of revenue generated from that trade was $200,000,000 annually.

Today that $200 million represents over 6 billion dollars.

And it's just a portion of the trade and revenue brought about from just one aspect of slave labor.

These conversations can be difficult to gave but are necessary. And we need not shy from them. I look forward to the conversation on reparations within the Jewish community and will be reading with great interest.

Geordi EdwardsComment