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Reparations Redux


USA Today has an op-ed today that calls on J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. bank, which the piece says recently disclosed that two of its predecessor entities had ties to Louisiana antebellum plantations, “to seek the descendants of the 13,000 slaves who were accepted as collateral [I guess for the bank’s loans to the plantations] between 1831 and 1865 and make restitution.” (The bank has already apologized and set up a $5 million scholarship program for black Louisianans, but that “doesn’t go far enough.”)

I would be interested in Cornerites’ thoughts on how best to implement this obviously brilliant idea. Some questions: How do you track down the descendants of 13,000 people, most dead for over a hundred years? How do you calculate the check you present them? What if the descendant considers himself or herself to be a white Republican? What if one of the great-great grandsons had been disowned by his parents? What should the bank’s current shareholders think of this project? Since the bank “profited from slavery” but was not itself a slave-owner, shouldn’t we be asking any company (or its successors) that did business with any slave-owner to be making restitution, too? What if the bank also did business with the Union army or abolitionists? And, finally, what of the psychology of people who think it’s really a good idea to divide Americans in 2005 into villains and victims based on events 150 years ago or more?


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