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- Justification for Reparation to African Americans for Slavery
- The Success of the Mau Mau Reparation Program
- The Case of West African Countries
- Types of Reparation Programs that Should Be Pursued by Victims of Historical Injustices
- Problems African Americans May Face While Seeking Reparation from the United States
- Why History Should Never Be Forgotten
- Why America Should Not Make Emphasis on the Future without Looking at Its History
- Related Justice essays
Victims who have gone through historical injustices and harbor no positive law claim against those who did wrong to them may opt to seek reparation from governments, and in most cases, they obtain them. Among the popular successful reparation programs are those of the Japanese Americans who were severely interned by the U.S. government during World War II. There are also victims of the Nazi Holocaust who sought reparation from the German government. A more recent case is the Kenyan Mau Mau, which sought reparation from Britain, its former colonizer, for the injustices committed to them during the course of colonization.
There are also other less popular programs in the Western countries and other parts of the world. In addition, there are also several other proposals for new programs of reparations among those who encountered injustices in several parts of the world. Currently, there is a proposal for slave reparation in the U.S. The political and moral arguments for or against reparations in different contexts have received mixed reactions and attention. This paper analyzes different contexts for reparation alongside the moral and political justification of it. The moral and political framework presents arguments why African Americans need to seek reparation for slavery and Jim Crowism.
The word ‘reparation’ is commonly used in law in references to schemes which typically provide payments to a large number of victims of atrocities in kind or cash. This victimization is based on the wrongs that were substantially permitted under the prevailing laws when these injustices were taking place. The word is also used in the context where current laws prevent compulsory remedy for the wrongs committed in the past. This may happen owing to statute of limitations or by virtue of sovereign immunity. It also occurs when payment has justification on the backward looking framework for corrective justice (Achebe, 1969).
Justification for Reparation to African Americans for Slavery
The Success of the Mau Mau Reparation Program
In essence, the decisions made by the British government concerning the case of the Mau Mau strengthen the right to reparation not only to the African Americans but also all victims of the torture. The decision by the UK High Court was highly welcomed by the International Center for Transitional Justice. This is a clear indication that reparating victims irrespective of the time taken is a noble action that all governments should undertake (Douglass, 1988). It should be considered that the Mau Mau actors had encountered a number of damages when they were tortured and imprisoned by their colonial authorities during the 1950s.
The Mau Mau case gave the UK an opportunity to correct the old injustice. Similarly, the reparation to African Americans who were tortured in slavery and Jim Crowism will give America an opportunity to correct historical injustices for these groups of people. Moreover, this reparation presents a potential of strengthening the right to reparations and remedy, which continues to be significant in the present-day perspective.
Lawyers of the British government contented that it was clear that the Plaintiffs had severely suffered torture under their colonial powers. Prisoners had gone through a kind of brutality that could only be termed as inhuman. These include castrations, beatings, and sexual assaults among others (Johnson, 2003).
The lawyers who represented the victims and government attorneys spearheaded the claims for reparation to the Mau Mau. Lawyers on the Mau Mau side presented a vast range of evidence and documents of the colonial era, which had been hidden for many decades. In particular, these documents shed light on the last days of British rule around its various parts of the empire (Garvey & Blaisdell, 2004). For the Mau Mau case, the secret papers indicated that senior officers in the colonial government authorized dreadful abuses of inmates, who were held at various prison camps that had been established in the course of the bloody conflict. Further, it was also found that officials and ministers in London were fully aware of the brutal detention regime where both men and women were severely tortured.
Considering the emergence of secret details of the discussion between the British and the Mau Mau veterans, the British Foreign Office saw the need of refocusing on the history of the United Kingdom. The office claimed that the agreement to settle the Mau Mau case could characterize the UK as a country embracing democracy (X & Haley, 1973). Additionally, the agreement also typified that the nation was willing to learn from its past. This is also what needs to be done by the government of the U.S. in its reconsiderations concerning the African Americans who went through injustices in the course of slavery and Jim Crowism.
In light of this, the grievance and the pain felt by those involved in various divisive events, including those of the African Americans who worked as slaves, should be understandable. It is only right for those who feel that their rights were infringed in one way or another to move to court for their cases to be heard and determined (Douglass, 1988).
The Case of West African Countries
West African states should immediately commence negotiations for reparations. In this respect, the former colonies should demand an apology from European nations for slave trade and repatriation program. This will enable more than ten million Africans who were taken away from their homes and transported to the Caribbean as slaves and property of the Europeans not only to return to Africa but also to be duly compensated for the injustices that they went through.
It is evident that the Europeans are not willing to discuss this topic. However, similar to the Mau Mau issues, the West African states should consider taking legal actions to achieve this course. Europe should seek to address today’s problems which were created 200 years ago. It is also evident that at the time when these events were taking place, there was little development in these places, particularly in education. Consequently, countries in these regions remain far behind in terms of development. In light of this, Europe harbors a legal, political, and moral liability in redressing the history which they created (X & Haley, 1973).
Between the 16th and 18th century, Western authorities introduced the Industrial Revolution where a greater part of resources was derived from the slave trade. While spearheading the Industrial Revolution, the European treated the West Africans in ways that could only be depicted as most terrible. The consequences and sufferings of these people in that era are still evident in the present-day perspective. For instance, there are no resources to establish cultural programs or build museums. Nonetheless, the Caribbean people have a strong believe that an understanding of their cultural heritage is critical for understanding of their history (Achebe, 1969).
Evidence is also rife with the negative ramifications in terms of health, which has become a consistent issue. Comparing it to other communities, there is the high rate of hypertension and stroke-related cases among the Caribbean communities than any other group. These communities strongly believe that this prevalence is related to the events that occurred during the slave trade era. The other reason is that the Western authorities never considered the aspect of education during the colonial and slavery period; therefore, the Caribbean nations had to commence from scratch. Until today, the education system in the West African countries has remained to be poor (Johnson, 2003). There is also the question of whether the countries of the West are ready to assist the Caribbean nations in developing areas that have been neglected.
Types of Reparation Programs that Should Be Pursued by Victims of Historical Injustices
There are different forms of reparation programs that could be considered for victims of historical injustices. These may include the provision of guarantee of non-repetition of the mistakes committed, issuance of an apology, institution of rehabilitation programs, and satisfaction. Essentially, reparation programs could be categorized into two main levels: the material and symbolic reparations. Other groupings are also based on collective and individual distribution. Furthermore, the material and symbolic reparations could be manifested in different forms. The material reparation primarily includes such aspects as compensation or cash handout, service packages, and other negotiation instruments. These may consequently incorporate such aid as the provision of housing, education or health services and facilities (Achebe, 1969).
Symbolic reparations, on the other hand, may comprise official apologies from the authorities that instituted specific injustices, creation of commemoration days, changing the names of public institutions and places, and establishment of museums and parks. In addition, there could also be used some rehabilitation measures, including restoration of the victims’ good name, which falls into the category of satisfaction.
Some nations may decide to combine the reparation programs for various reasons, one of which is the maximization of resources. Programs which combine different benefits range from symbolic to material and may be distributed either individually or collectively. Moreover, these programs could cover a wider portion of the victims when compared to the programs that only focus on distributing the material benefits. This owes to the fact that they are more complete. Apparently, different categories of victims may not necessarily need the same kind of benefits.
Problems African Americans May Face While Seeking Reparation from the United States
Among the difficulties that may be faced by the African Americans while seeking reparation is the deficit of financial resources of the American government. Because of the shortage of resources, it is unclear where the money for the reparation programs will come from. Most probably, the American taxpayers may be required to foot the bill. Considering that the citizens, especially the white taxpayers, would not support such a move, the hopes of succeeding become elusive (Douglass, 1988).
There is also no willingness on the part of the U.S. politicians to conduct negotiations on reparation programs. This partly owes to the issue of racism, which has still a strong root in the country. In particular, many U.S. politicians have negative attitudes toward African Americans whom they see as “lesser beings” in the society. Consequently, achieving the racial harmony is an uphill task that is not yet achieved. What is more, many aspects of slavery had been legally institutionalized in British America during the era of slavery; therefore, the American government may employ such legal grounds in their defense against reparation for African Americans (Douglass, 1988).
Why History Should Never Be Forgotten
I strongly agree with Mr. Hague’s statement regarding the essentiality of the history of any particular nation. Without a clear understanding of history, it becomes easy to repeat the same mistakes that were committed in the past. People are easily influenced by the rhetoric against African Americans or immigrants. We have probably seen people jumping into wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, having forgotten the problems that were caused during the slavery or Jim Crowism era as well as the quagmire in Vietnam (Garvey & Blaisdell, 2004). History influences the social justices, political and other discourses in the society. In this respect, it is not prudent that the education system places too much emphasis on English and Math at the expense of History and other arts. It is important to keep in mind that everyone should make a contribution and the past should not be discarded since it sets the future of the nation. In other words, we can always use past events to correct or set the pace for the future. No one can go forward without looking back: this is the path which seems to have been shunned in the United States.
The problem with the U.S. today is that it requires people to look forward and has no concern for the past. Furthermore, the less emphasis on history and other arts in the education system has disconnected students from their history, literature, and culture, thus impacting the decisions and lives of the new generation.
Why America Should Not Make Emphasis on the Future without Looking at Its History
History is critical since humans and their nations consist of the past. We are the sum of all events, either bad or good, which have occurred to us. This sum product provides guidance for the present and future actions. This is true for all individuals. Just consider what could have happened if your parents had not met or if you were raised with different values. Moreover, it is important for the society, either small or large. For instance, what would have happened to the United States if there was no American Revolution or if the Spanish had not found the North America that later transformed into the United States? In these cases, the United States would not be the way it is today. Therefore, history is important as it sets the future of a nation.
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The government of the United States should endeavor to make consequential reparations not only to African Americans but also to many other victims who are also likely to seek justice in the courts. Redressing the suffering encountered by the African Americans in the course of slavery and Jim Crowism, the U.S. has an opportunity to set an example for other countries in dealing with legacies of massive human rights abuses that emanate from conflicts related to occupation of territories and colonization.