According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times, "Reparations movement makes quiet headway," both the Moravian Church and the Episcopal Church have apologized for owning slaves. A commission in North Carolina urged the state to pay money to the descendants of victims of a violent campaign by white supremacists in 1898. In Chicago and elsewhere local ordinances have forced businesses to dusclose their historical ties to slavery.
Obviously, there are many good, solid arguments against the reparations concept: who should get the money 140 years after slavery ended; if it is going to groups, how are they to be controlled and monitored; why should people whose ancestors were not even here in 1865 have to pay; if reparations are for discrimination as well as slavery, why should they go just to blacks; how much do biracial people get; etc.
Also, when people try to calculate the amount of reparations, do they subtract from that total the millions of dollars of property and tens of thousand of lives were spent to save the Union – and free the slaves.
But beyond that, is there not a response to the claim for reparations in these words from Lincoln's Second Inaugural:
"Fondly do we hope – fervently do pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’"
It is unlikely all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s 250 years was sunk or every drop of blood drawn with the lash was repaid, but any amounts still due are more appropriately paid not on earth but to that most honest judge when our time comes.
Until then what we owe to the descendants of slaves today is what is owed to every American: Not a pot of money to be paid to some leader to use for his or her own purposes, but the right to live one’s own life, with all of the freedoms and opportunities of an American, and the dedication of all Americans to make sure every one of us has those freedoms and opportunities.