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Should Reparations Be Paid to the Descendants of Slaves? Christopher Hitchens Debate (2001)

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Reparations for slavery is a proposal that some type of compensation should be provided to the descendants of enslaved people in the United States, in consideration of the coerced and uncompensated labor their ancestors performed over centuries. This compensation has been proposed in a variety of forms, from individual monetary payments to land-based compensation schemes related to independence. The idea remains highly controversial and no broad consensus exists as to how it could be implemented. There have been similar calls for reparations from some Caribbean countries and elsewhere in the African diaspora, and some African countries have called for reparations to their states for the loss of their population.Some proposals have called for direct payments from the U.S. government. One such proposal delivered in the McCormick Convention Center conference room for the first National Reparations Convention by Howshua Amariel, a Chicago social activist, would require the federal government to make reparations to proven descendants of slaves. In addition, Amariel stated "For those blacks who wish to remain in America, they should receive reparations in the form of free education, free medical, free legal and free financial aid for 50 years with no taxes levied," and "For those desiring to leave America, every black person would receive a million dollars or more, backed by gold, in reparation." At the convention Amariel's proposal received approval from the 100 or so participants, nevertheless the question of who would receive such payments, who should pay them and in what amount, has remained highly controversial, since the United States Census does not track descent from slaves or slave owners and relies on self-reported racial categories.Various estimates have been given if such payments were to be made. Harper's Magazine has created an estimate that the total of reparations due is over 100 trillion dollars, based on 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, with a compounded interest of 6. Should all or part of this amount be paid to the descendants of slaves in the United States, the current U.S. government would only pay a fraction of that cost, over 40 trillion dollars, since it has been in existence only since 1789.The Rev. M.J. Divine, better known as Father Divine, was one of the earliest leaders to argue clearly for "retroactive compensation" and the message was spread via International Peace Mission publications. On July 28, 1951, Father Divine issued a "peace stamp" bearing the text: "Peace! All nations and peoples who have suppressed and oppressed the under-privileged, they will be obliged to pay the African slaves and their descendants for all uncompensated servitude and for all unjust compensation, whereby they have been unjustly deprived of compensation on the account of previous condition of servitude and the present condition of servitude. This is to be accomplished in the defense of all other under-privileged subjects and must be paid retroactive up-to-date".On July 30, 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws.Some states have also apologized for slavery, including Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Duke University public policy professor William "Sandy" Darity said such apologies are a first step, but compensation is also necessary.In April 2010, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in a New York Times editorial advised reparations activists to consider the African role in the slave trade in regards to who should shoulder the cost of reparations.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reparations_for_slavery_debate_in_the_United_States

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