Justice requires Reparations to Black Americans. Table of Contents



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Justice requires Reparations to Black Americans.

Table of Contents


Justice requires Reparations to Black Americans. 1

Topic Analysis 4

Justice requires Reparations to Black Americans. 5

Affirmative 9

First Affirmative Constructive 10

Top of Case 11

Contention One: The Residuals of Racism 14

Contention Two: Justice Demands Reparations 16

Contention Three: Discourse about reparations solves. Supporting reparations is a vital way to oppose a whitewashed history that continues to drive racial discrimination. 18

Affirmative Extensions 20

Tied to American History 21

Injustice Continues 23

Key to Justice 24

Discourse 26

Politics of Innocence 27

Leads to Activism 29

Genocide Basis for Reparations 30

Key to Racial Reconciliation 33

A2: Alternative Methods 34

A2: Divisive 36

Negative 38

First Negative 39

Top of Case 40

Case 42

Negative Extensions 45

Continues Problems 46

Causes Trauma 48

Economic Justification Bad 50

Race Focus Bad 53

Ideology First 56



Author & Editor: Kyle Cheesewright


Topic Analysis

Justice requires Reparations to Black Americans.

A Thumbnail Sketch of the History of Reparations (through 2003):


Coates, 2004 (Rodney D. [Professor of Sociology@ Miami University, OH] “If a Tree Falls in the Wilderness: Reparations, Academic Silences, and Social Justice” Social Forces 83(2); p. 855)

1865: Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman declares that a strip of land along the Southeast coast be set aside for freed slaves; families can receive up to 40 acres. The federal government also establishes the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide assistance. But, within the year, President Andrew Johnson undermines Sherman and weakens the bureau.

1890: William R. Vaughan, a white man from Alabama, persuades members of Congress to introduce the first of nine bills mandating federal pensions for former slaves, but none of the bills passes.

1890s: African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Henry M. Turner campaigns to secure reparations for black Americans. He estimated blacks were owed $40 billion dollars for 200 years of unpaid labor.

1897: The Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association is founded. Under the leadership of Callie House, it eventually enlists hundreds of thousands of members, but the government later indicts House for mail fraud. After serving time in prison, she helps file a lawsuit demanding African Americans receive $69 million acquired through cotton taxes.

1962: New York activist Queen Mother Audley Moore submits a petition to the United Nations asking the U.S. government to pay slavery reparations.

1968: Radicals in Detroit form the Republic of New Africa, demanding five Southern states and $400 billion.

1969: Civil rights activist James Forman marches into a service at the mostly white Riverside Church in New York City and begins reading his “Black Manifesto.” Forman charges white churches and synagogues with complicity in slavery and racial oppression and asks them to pay restitution.

1971: The U.S. government agrees to grant $1 billion and 44 million acres to Native American tribes in Alaska.

1988: Congress allocates $20,000 for each Japanese American survivor of internment camps. Meanwhile, activists form the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America.

1989: A reparations bill introduced in Massachusetts by state Senator William Owens languishes. And U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Detroit Democrat, calls for a federal study of slavery, racial discrimination, and “appropriate remedies.” The bill does not leave the House Judiciary Committee. Conyers reintroduces it every subsequent year, with similar results.

1995: A federal appeals court in California dismisses Cato v. United States, which asked for $100 million in slavery reparations. Judges can find no law allowing the government to be sued for slavery, declaring it an issue for Congress.

1997: U.S. Representative Tony Hall, a white Ohio Democrat, introduces a resolution asking Congress to formally apologize for slavery. Despite provoking intense debate, it is buried in committee.

1999: Acknowledging a pattern of discrimination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agrees to pay restitution to thousands of black farmers.

2000: Randall Robinson’s The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, an argument for reparations, is published, becoming a bestseller and dramatically raising the movement’s profile.

2001: Writer and activist David Horowitz places an advertisement in college newspapers around the country, arguing that blacks have benefited from being brought to America. And, after intense lobbying, the final document of the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, declares that slavery was a crime against humanity.

2002: Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a New York advocate, files a class-action lawsuit against several major corporations for profiting from slavery and violating human rights laws. By the end of the year, the case is consolidated with eight others and moved to federal court in Chicago. Over the summer, activist Conrad Worrill co-organizes a rally in Washington, D.C., that draws thousands of reparations supporters. And in October, the Chicago City Council passes the Slavery Era Disclosure Ordinance, requiring firms that want contracts with the city to investigate and reveal ties to slavery.

2003: Virginia residents Robert L. Foster and his daughter Crystal are sentenced to prison after filing an income tax return claiming she was owed $500,000 for reparations.

A history of calls for reparations.


Bacon, 2003 (Jacqueline [Scholar in San Diego, CA; Peer Reviewed]; “Reading the Reparations Debate.” Quarterly Journal of Speech V. 89 N. 3 (August 2003): p. 173)

Before I begin my analysis, a brief history of the concept of reparations and the movements supporting it is in order. Although they have received renewed attention in recent years, calls for reparations are not new, and there is precedent for current efforts both to bring lawsuits and to seek legislation. In 1782, Belinda, a former slave to Englishman Isaac Royall in Massachusetts, successfully petitioned the legislature for a pension from the Royall estate, arguing that she was “denied the enjoyment of one morsel of that immense wealth, a part whereof hath been accumulated by her own industry” and that an allowance to her would be “the just returns of honest industry.” Anthropology Professor Rosalind Shaw calls Belinda’s petition “perhaps the earliest example of reparations for the slave trade and slavery.” And 80 years later, African American leader John Rock argued, “It is the slave who ought to be compensated. The property of the South is by right the property of the slave.” Various governmental proposals for restitution that followed the Civil War were unsuccessful: General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15 (“40 acres and a mule”), issued in January 1865, to provide land to newly freed slaves was reversed by President Andrew Johnson, and Republican Representative Thaddeus Stevens’s 1867 bill to provide land and financial assistance for building homes failed. Yet the issue was not forgotten, and various leaders continued to advocate for reparations, including Bishop Henry McNeal Turner during the late nineteenth century, Queen Mother Audley Moore in the 1950s, and black civil rights activist James Forman, whose 1969 “Black Manifesto” elaborated specific proposals for compensation. Recently, the issue has received widespread public attention, particularly as a result of the activism of various individuals and groups. Every year since 1989, Congressman John Conyers has introduced H. R. 40, a bill to create a commission to study slavery and its legacy and to “recommend appropriate remedies.” Others have explored various ways reparations could be achieved, including: the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA); the Reparations Coordinating Committee, a group of lawyers and scholars; and Randall Robinson, whose popular book The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks appeared in 2000. Three other developments also publicized the issue. During Black History Month 2001, conservative polemicist David Horowitz attempted to place an advertisement “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea—and Racist Too” in college newspapers. The controversy that ensued when it was published in some and rejected by others led to numerous public appearances by Horowitz and some of his critics. In September 2001, the U.S. delegation walked out of the United Nations Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, in part because of U.S. opposition to discussion of reparations. Since March 2002, lawsuits have been filed throughout the country on behalf of slave descendants against various companies who profited from slavery.

This topic asks debaters to question how we can account for, and possibly repair the past. Slavery, and the systems of oppression and genocide that followed, are still very much with the American people as a whole. Despite the election of Barack Obama, and the much lauded “end of racism” many critics are still incredibly skeptical that we can declare any end to racial discrimination as a whole. Debating reparations is one method through which debaters can become more closely responsible for engaging in these discussions.

As debaters approach this topic, it is important to be cognizant that this topic asks us to look at our history and find ways to move productively forward. The cases contained below are both attempts to provide one possible route to account for these differences. In the Affirmative, through a lens of social justice, reparations are offered as one method that can be used in order to force us to have difficult discussions about racial politics. While the Affirmative does not take an explicit stance on why America should pay reparations, the most easily defensible answer relates to genocidal practices committed by the United States during the Jim Crow era. Debaters should be aware that the motivation that is used to describe WHY reparations should be paid could easily become a point of contestation in a debate.

The Negative strategy is one example of how such a contestation can occur. Taking the obvious route to affirm reparations, the negative case disagrees with a logic that Black Americans should be repaid for their suffering based on a capitalist logic of lost profits. In this manner, the negative has the ability to propose that we should consider racial reconciliation as a productive goal, while simultaneously vigorously disagreeing with the affirmative’s characterization of the problem.

I would strongly suggest that debaters do some reading about this topic on their own, before embarking out to discuss the resolution. This topic in particular forges its way through a heavily contested territory, and it should be remembered that engaging in these discussions before doing the work required for a comprehensive understanding of the topic could set you up to step on some toes.


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