MR. HOROWITZ, you really should not go so easy on Mr. Hutchinson and the other grievance-mongers of slavery. Of course, one can only go so far in this argument without appearing pro-slavery, but you really ought to consider pushing the argument a little further along.
1. In their monumental study of slavery, ``Time on the Cross," Fogel and Engerman estimated that roughly 85 percent of the economic output of American slave labor was consumed by the slaves themselves in the form of food, clothing, et cetera. Excepting, of course, the political or moral dimensions of bondage, then, what is economically in dispute is that 15 percent of the value of slave labor that accrued to slave owners. However, much of the value of goods produced by slaves went to pay such expenses as the hire of overseers, shipping fees, interest on loans, et cetera. So the notion of Hutchinson and others, that slaveowners expropriated ALL the value of slave labor, is utterly false.
2. As Fogel and Engerman further demonstrate, the conditions of African slavery in the American South were the mildest of any place in the New World. Cuba, Brazil and other Caribbean slave economies were forced to continually import slaves because the death rate was so high on the tropical plantations. The death rate was higher than the birth rate for slaves in those regions. By contrast, it is estimated that a total of only 500,000 black slaves were imported to the U.S. between 1630 and 1810 -- most of those in the century 1710-1810. By 1860, those 500,000 had multiplied eightfold, to 4,000,000 blacks; half a million of those blacks were free in 1860 -- there were slightly more free blacks in the South than in the North at the outbreak of the Civil War. If blacks were going to be exported as chattel slaves to the New World, then, their best chance of survival was to be landed in the United States.
3. The idea that, because their ancestors were held as chattels in the United States over the course of a century or two, that modern blacks are entitled to some compensation for that experience, is absurd. Had their ancestors been held as chattel in Jamaica or Brazil or Cuba, they would have been worse off than they were here. And, had they not been brought here as slaves, blacks might never have been allowed to immigrate here as free men. (Let Earl Ofari Hutchinson apply for residency in Japan or Australia and see how far he gets.) One need not defend the institution of slavery to understand that it was the sine qua non of the establishment of a substantial black population in the United States -- no slavery, no blacks. The demand for reparations then, can be boiled down to: ``Pay us for being here.'' But when ``here'' is the richest, most free nation on earth, when poor foreigners pay large sums to smugglers hoping just to GET here, one can hardly imagine that residency in the U.S. qualifies as an intolerable burden.
4. All of Hutchinson's argument along the line of ``blacks are bad off in the United States'' begs the question: Compared to what? Are blacks worse off in the United States compared to blacks in Cuba, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Eritrea? Are they worse off than Asians in Indonesia, Chinese in Communist China, Mexicans in Chiapas, Afghanis under the Taliban? Of course not, nobody would argue that. The average black person in America enjoys a standard of living superior to more than 90 percent of the world's population. What Hutchinson is claiming is that blacks in the United States are, on average, worse off than WHITES in the United States. He and the other guilt-mongers are playing a game of racial envy, inciting blacks to imagine that white Americans enjoy an unfair ``privilege'' which -- preposterously -- he attributes to the wrongs of an institution that perished 140 years ago in a war that claimed the lives of more than half a million white Americans. I am ``poor'' and ``underprivileged'' compared to Bill Gates and Ted Turner; does this mean that I am a victim of discrimination or the ``hideous legacy'' of some great wrong of the distant past? To whom, among all those who oppressed my ancestors, do I apply for reparations -- the Normans? The Saxons? the Romans? The Damn Yankees? Quite nearly ALL of the wealth derived from slave labor was destroyed in the Civil War. Southerners put their money in Confederate bonds and currency, which became worthless in 1865. Homes, barns, fences, cattle, crops – the thieving Yankees stole everything they could take with them, and burned what they couldn't take. They stole from slaveowner and yeoman alike, and committed other crimes, too, without regard for the sex or race of their victims.
Mr. Horowitz, go to Sweetwater Creek State Park west of Atlanta, Ga., and study the history of what happened there. The four-story factory was burned by Sherman's troops, and the poor white mill hands were transported north by train under armed guard, never to see their homes again. Bridges, dams, mills, factories, libraries, schools -- the senseless and brutal destruction unleashed upon the Confederacy impoverished the South, black and white, for two generations. Do you realize, Mr. Horowitz, that since the burning of the Sweetwater mill, there has not been another four-story building in my native Douglas County TO THIS VERY DAY? The greatest architectural achievement in county history was destroyed by Sherman. How can blacks claim they are owed something for slavery, when the wealth they produced as slaves was destroyed in the course of the war that emancipated them?
Easy for Daley and those fools in Chicago to suppose blacks are owed something, without thinking who owes it to them. Probably the damn Yankee fools plan some way to extract even more out of the long-suffering hides of the South, now that we have finally struggled to economic parity with the North. Well, they can KISS MY ASS. The South has been kicked around long enough, battered and abused in the name of ``racial justice'' until we are damn near sick of it.
If Earl Ofari Hutchinson somehow manages to persuade an effective majority of Americans that he's got something coming to him, he'll damned sure not get a dime from me. I'd move to Argentina or New Zealand before I'd pay blood money for something I didn't do. My family were all red-dirt yeoman farmers in Alabama, poor but proud. My great-grandfather marched in Lee's army, was captured at Gettysburg, and spent two years as a cold and hungry prisoner of war at Fort Delaware, and I'd sooner rot in hell than to dishonor the good name of my ancestors by paying extortion to a craven idiot like Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
Robert A. George, David Fights the Racial Goliath: Salon's House Provocateur, (National Review/June 2, 2000)
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Debt Wrong: David Horowitz is Incorrect. It's Time for the United States to Pay Up for Slavery (Salon.com/June 5, 2000)
David Horowitz, Reparations Are Still a Bad Idea: Reply to Earl Ofari Hutchinson, (FrontPageMag.com/June 5, 2000)
David Horowitz, Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks are a Bad Idea for Blacks, and Racist Too (FrontPageMag.com/June 5, 2000)