Reparations and African complicity in the slave trade

Posted April 23rd, 2010 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , ,

James DeWolf Perry is a regular contributor. He appears in the film Traces of the Trade and is the Tracing Center’s director of research. This entry is cross-posted from James’ own blog, The Living Consequences, and the opinions expressed are his own.

Professor Henry Louis (“Skip”) Gates, Jr. has an op-ed in this morning’s New York Times in which he takes on the issue of reparations for slavery.

Gates will, no doubt, attract enough controversy for his general approach to the issue. He is convinced that our society must address the issue of reparations, and that we must reach a “just and lasting agreement,” which he believes will have to be “a judicious (if symbolic) gesture to match such a sustained, heinous crime.”

Remarks like these will land any public intellectual in the U.S. in hot water these days. Just consider the case of Goodwin Liu, whose mild remarks related to reparations at one of our events in 2008 became a central issue in his nomination by President Obama for a seat on the Ninth Circuit.

However, this essay is most notable for telling difficult truths about the central role of Africans in the transatlantic slave trade, and thus about the shared culpability of people of different races in the resulting history of slavery.

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