Reimbursements?

Generational wealth is the key to familial long-term success. Currently, the three richest families in America are the Waltons of Walmart, the Mars Candy family, and the Koch Brothers. Those three families according to a Guardian article have ‘4 million times the median wealth’ of American families. That combined accumulation of wealth grew by 6000% in 36 years, from 1982 until 2018.

Regina Goodwin and John W. Franklin are two black living survivors of the most successful men in 1921. Tulsa, Oklahoma’s thriving black business district known as “Black Wall Street”  was burned to the ground and 300 prosperous businesses had their personal and professional properties looted, and the lucky escaped death. This brings me to that taboo word for a lot of white Americans, reparations; maybe reimbursement would be easier to swallow. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky made a point of saying that reparations are impractical. In his words, “no one currently alive was responsible for slavery.”  

In rebuttal to that bit of verbal-political-avoidance of due compensation, author and scholar Ta-Nehisi Coates responded, that reparations should be designed to address not just slavery, but the long legacy of Jim Crow segregation, state-sponsored racialized terror, and white supremacy — of which many victims are alive today. I am in agreement that the method of reparations can be debated but to dismiss out of hand the injustice of four hundred years, is insulting.  

Here is an idea Senator McConnell, we know who state senator Regina Goodwin is, we know who John W. Franklin is, the Cultural Historian Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, start there. Speculating on the combined wealth of what those businesses would be worth now had they survived is impossible. There are estimates that in today’s market 39 million dollars was burned to the ground. We do know that like the Waltons, Mars and the Koch(s) it would have meant generational wealth for hundreds if not thousands of black men and women.

I am a big believer in education and since it seems an appalling idea to financially compensate black Americans for the genuine hard work it literally took to build the United States, how about an investment in the future that benefits us all. I propose a beginning; funding for every ancestral black American at age 19 with the caveat that it is payable only if the recipient enrolls in college or a trade school and completes a minimum of two years.

I expect incoming fire for this idea from both sides those who see this as selling out and those who will say, ‘not fair to my white kid.’ For those who would call me a sellout education is a permanent change, money can be squandered quickly without the knowledge to count, manage, and nurture it. For white parents, whose hairs raised on the back of their necks thinking this is ‘another giveaway to those blacks;’ what is the price of just over a four-hundred forty-year head start? From 1619 until 1865 blacks were legally prohibited, in some jurisdiction in the United States from learning to read and/or write. A very dear friend of mine who just turned 80 was born in South Carolina, neither of her parents could read nor write and this was a direct effect of slavery.



So the next time the talk of reparations comes up,  think reimbursement when you walk the aisle of a Walmart, think a moment, it could have been a Goodwin’s or a Franklin’s.

Happy Juneteenth and Vote in 2020 for Change.