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Reparations for Former Slaves

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Reparations for Former Slaves
Shaylee McCammon
January 17, 2010
Julia L.G. Kressig

Throughout history there have been a number of instances in which people of a different race, religion, or cultural background were discriminated against, and it is time that the government repays those who have suffered. When someone makes public the belief that his or her race or beliefs are of more importance, he or she makes those who are of another race or have other beliefs think they are not important themselves. Those of the mistreated cultures, including former slaves and the aboriginal children of the stolen generation, are entitled to reparations for their mistreatment. These people were not only forced to believe they were not important but also that they could not believe in what their culture suggests they should. These people were forced to leave their homes and brought to strange environments, treated as if they were similar to the dirt on the ground, and forced to serve others for the extent of their lives. The treatment these cultures suffered entitles them to reparations for their mistreatment and removal from their homes and cultural beliefs. African Americans were taking from their homes around the world and brought to America to serve the white population as slaves. Slave traders often brought ships full of hundreds of slaves to this country by keeping them in such close quarters, they could hardly move around. They would put 150 to 200 slaves into one ship. A total of about 10 million slaves had been brought to America and of those 10 million slaves brought here in the 18th century, 6,100,000 managed to survive the voyage and land safely on these shores (ASALH, 2007). The issue of disease did not occur to the slave traders and often ended in the spreading of illnesses or even death aboard the ships. Among these diseases there were scurvy, the flux, small pox, and other venereal diseases (Sowandi’ Mustakeem, 2006). Once they were here in one piece, they would soon discover the horrifying treatment that awaited them on land was just as bad as their treatment on the ships. They were brought to the harbor and sold to the highest bidder and depending on whom bought them, were held captive for life. Some situations arose in the north in which they were sold as indentured servants, in which case they were free as soon as they turned 21. It was in these towns that taking slaves south to be sold into slavery was illegal because they would never be free. Anyone who was caught taking slaves back to the south were tried and put in prison for a very long-time. It did not matter who each slave was sold to regardless of whether or not they were married or had a family. If that were the case, the families were separated and in some cases moved hundreds of miles away. Separation from their families was a horrendous enough deed by itself but there was more to come as these African Americans soon came to discover. Not only were slaves taking separated from their families, but during their time in slavery, slaves were living in one room cottages and with a floor that was made of dirt (ASALH, 2007). They were put to work from two in the morning until 10 at night during the summer and from four in the morning until 10 at night during the winter (John Jea, 1811). During these long hours of hard labor, slaves had been given one shirt, one pair of pants and no socks during the summer and two shirts, one pair of woolen pants and one jacket in the winter to work in (ASALH, 2007). Not only were they poorly supplied with clothing but they were also given very small allowances of food each week consisting of a peck of corn and three to four pounds of bacon or salt port. There were some instances in which a slave was able to catch a few fish to add to this allowance, but those occasions vary rarely occurred. Even though the treatment of the slaves was inhumane, this country would not turn out to be the only country responsible for tearing families apart.

In Australia during World War II, children from the aboriginal culture were stolen from their homes and sent away to work in unsafe environments, to missionary schools, and taught only enough to serve their master’s. Thousands were removed from their homes by the police, inspectors, or mixed motives of the mission and institutionalized in this manner. After years of being forced to work by the European society, most of these aborigines ended their lives with no life-savings, no family, and no place to go. The government denied there was a stolen generation in the year 2000, claiming there was only about 10% of the population taken and not an entire generation (Herron, 2000). The reason all this started is because of the unfaithful men who went to Australia and had affairs with women of the aboriginal variety. The children born from these encounters began to grow to numbers so high that the Europeans became afraid of their growing population. In response to this fear they began looking for the “half-caste” children and began sending them away to “bread the black out of them.” Full blooded aborigine children were left with their families because they were considered to be a dying culture with no future. The effect this treatment had on African Americans and Aborigines was dreadful and in some aspects, still affect these cultures today. The effects this treatment had on both of these populations still affect them today. As many know, the way to continue the spread of a cultures language is by passing it on from generation to generation. This generation of children did not have the opportunity to have their language passed on to them causing the beginning of a faded language. Not only was the language prevented from being passed on but also the cultural beliefs of the aboriginal culture. These children lost their ability to develop their own aboriginal identities and the language learning cycles were broken (Margaret Zucker, 2008). Former slaves are still being treated different then others in society today. The number of people who still treat them as lower beings has definitely decreased; however, acts of racism still occur. Businesses exist today that still discriminate against African Americans when hiring new employees’. Even though this is illegal, there are a large number of men and women who do not know that and are turned away by those who believe that the white population is more important then them. Not only do reparations need to be made, there has already been a process started to give reparations to the mistreated cultures on another continent. There have been actions taking place for several years in Australia to begin giving reparations to those of the Stolen Generation. A day was dedicated to the memory of the time when children were forcibly taken from their homes. National Sorry Day has been in effect since 1998 and those still alive who were removed from their homes were found and returned to the land of their cultural background (Stephen de Tarczynski, 2009). There was also an opening of a foundation of innovative ways to heal those of the aboriginal persuasion. Not only were these actions taken to try to make amends but there was also a fund raised for those of the stolen generation whom were mistreated while under the care of the state. Given the fact that most of these children were, in fact; in the care of the state, this fund was raised to very high numbers. In 2006 Tasmania developed the Australian dollar (AUD) of around five million dollars, which is about 3.1 million dollars in the United States (Stephen de Tarczynski, 2009). Western Australia developed their AUD in 2007 of 117 million dollars, which is around 72 million dollars in the United States (Stephen de Tarczynski, 2009). Reparations have already been started by these countries, and we need to follow their example and begin our own reparation process as well. Even though these events occurred in the past, and are no longer in practice today, we as a respectable population owe it to these people to try to make the treatment of our ancestors better. Former slaves not only helped to raise the economic value of this country but also helped to raise the children who are our ancestors. If we think about all the pain we caused, we should regret everything we did to them. Instead we deny them the rights to the reparations they genuinely deserve. As stated before, other counties are beginning to try to make amends with the cultures they tried to destroy, we need to follow their guide and try to make further amends to the races we have hindered in our past. As the golden rule states, do onto others as you would have them do onto you. If each individual person would not want to be treated in that manner, then we as a population need to give reparations to those who went through this treatment themselves.

Reference Page

Anna Haebich "Stolen Generations" The Oxford Companion to Australian Politics. Ed Brian Galligan and Winsome Roberts. Oxford University Press 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Apollo Group. 11 December 2009

Australia: Government Denies Stolen Generation. 4/6/2000. Retrieved 10/11/09.'Stolen+Generation'

John Jea. New York Amsterdam News; 10/6/2005, Vol. 96 Issue 41, special section p8-8. Retrieved 12/11/09.

Margaret Zucker. ND. Open hearts: the Catholic church and the stolen generation in the Kimberley. Retrieved10/11/09


Slavery in the Americas. February,2007. received 10/11/09.

Stephen de Tarczynski. (2009, February 23). Government followed up the apology to indigenous Australians :[Source: NoticiasFinancieras]. NoticiasFinancieras. Retrieved December 11, 2009, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1649831811).

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