From the University Wire


Published April 1, 2002

Slave reparations: Suit underscores hypocrisy

The recent filing of a lawsuit in a Brooklyn federal court highlights the hypocritical argument upon which the claim for slave reparations is based. Activist Deadria Farmer -Paellman filed a lawsuit seeking billions of dollars against three corporations that benefited from slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation. Fleet- Boston Financial, railroad

firm CSX and the Aetna insurance company have all been named. Farmer-Paellman has promised to name over 100 other defendants. She filed the suit on behalf of 35 million African-Americans.

Her claim is that the three companies were either built upon the assets acquired through slave labor, or profited directly from it. The lawsuit, according to the Associated Press, alleges that CSX, which was formed in 1980, has roots in slave labor as a result of some rail lines utilized today being built by slaves. It alleges that FleetBoston Financial descended from Rhode Island Bank, founded by John Brown, who financed the bank with profits earned through the slave trade.

These actions, and the claims upon which this suit is built are tantamount to nothing more than a racial witch-hunt. Proponents of slave reparations argue that repaying living African-Americans for the horrible injustices of crimes committed over 140 years ago is a necessary step in correcting the atrocity that slavery was, and the legacy of hate it undoubtedly carries with it. In reality it does nothing more than draw further lines of division between those people advocating reparations, and those opposing it. Farmer-Paellman is basing her claim against people living today, based on the culpability of others who have been dead for one and a quarter centuries. This does not advance the cause of further equality for African-Americans; it serves only to segregate the population further by pushing the blame onto living people that did no wrong. This claim is based on nothing but skin color and a weak historical connection to the ugly institution of slavery. As such it is harmful, not helpful to the plight of the African-American communities that are still suffering today from the racism that undoubtedly continues to have an insidious effect on the quality of their lives.

In order to truly make things equal, erase racism as much as possible, and provide all citizens with the same opportunity for upward mobility, activists like Farmer-Paellman must be proactive, and work toward creating a world in which equality is the standard. What she and her supporters are doing now is attempting to punish people who are not guilty for a crime they had no part in. This is racist in the sense that she is holding people responsible based on their affiliation with a company, and the color of their skin. This creates more racial walls than it breaks down. This makes Farmer-Paellman a hypocrite, as she is an African-American activist. In order to help other African-Americans, she should not use racism against whites as a tool to stamp out racism against minorities. In no way will winning a lawsuit for reparations and punitive damages help underprivileged minorities achieve anything but temporary and minimal financial compensation.

Racism is a terrible, awful reality of our world, as slavery once was. In order to stamp out the effects of each, society needs to embrace policies that are not founded in racism, as Farmer-Paellman's is.