Joseph Sobran's syndicated columns appear in
newspapers across the country and are published on his website, Sobran's.
The column below is currently at this
URL. Please read this column but don't stop there. If you want a
true understanding of slavery and specifically, African slavery, you must
dig deeper. Try Hugh Thomas' THE SLAVE TRADE which is listed on the
described in more detail below.
central point is: reparations are a preposterous idea...but then
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Reparations Now! [April 24,
The idea of
reparations for slavery is in the air these days, and I must say
that as a white American my first reaction was negative. My ancestors had
nothing to do with the slave trade, as far as I know.
On my father’s side they were Ruthenians, on
the western verge of Ukraine, pretty far from both Africa and Mississippi.
Even on the venerable principle of hereditary guilt, I’m pretty clear of
participation in American slavery.
Some of my forebears on my mother’s side were
Massachusetts yankees. It’s barely possible, I suppose, that they
participated in the importing of slaves, but I’d like to see proof. In any
case, I didn’t inherit any of the profits, so how can I make reparations
at this late date?
course the case for reparations isn’t a matter of personal responsibility.
That’s an outmoded idea. It’s larger and subtler. The new idea is that all
white Americans, even recent arrivals, are the beneficiaries of black
slavery. So all of them should pony up.
Put that way, as I say, the proposition doesn’t hold
much appeal for me. But there is a larger principle here that does have
possibilities, when you think about it.
When the 13 American colonies broke free of Great
Britain, they were content to gain their political independence. That was
all they asked, and that was what they settled for when they signed the
peace treaty in Paris in 1783. It was a simpler age.
But now, with the aid of modern psychology, we
can understand the deeper issue which has never been properly addressed. I
refer of course to the profound trauma, the lasting wounds, of nearly two
centuries of British colonialism.
Do you think these things just go away overnight? The
pain of subjugation, the economic exploitation, the stigma of inferiority,
and of course the Stamp Act — nobody can put a price tag on these things.
We can only demand all the money we (and our finest legal talent) can get,
recognizing that it’s still bound to be inadequate.
To this day, the British are felt to be
culturally “superior.” Americans have internalized the values of their
oppressors so deeply that they still admire the English just for having
British accents, which are regarded as tony even if they’re only cockney.
Academy Awards are given to English actors merely for speaking elegantly,
even if they’re playing cannibals. Working-class Brits like Richard Burton
and Michael Caine come here and suddenly they’re aristocrats.
Every time the queen knights
one of these birds — “Sir” Michael Caine, “Sir” Anthony Hopkins, and my
own favorite, “Sir” Sean Connery — it raises their market value by
millions of dollars, because in this land of equality we worship “Sirs.”
In this country any fool can become a tycoon, but you can’t become a
“Sir.” (Or a “Dame.” An American woman will slap you for calling her a
dame, but in England it’s the female version of a “Sir.”)
When he first came to Hollywood, Laurence
Olivier used to make fun of “professional Englishmen” in the movies. That
was before he became “Sir” Laurence Olivier, the most successful
professional Englishman of them all.
And let’s not forget Princess Di. This country took her
death harder than England did. She probably spent more time (and made more
money) here than at home. But ask yourself one question: did she number
any Americans among her many lovers? Of course not. How do you think that
made American men feel? But it was only one in a long history of snubs.
So we’ve made the Brits feel
they’re bestowing an honor on us every time they come over here and take
our money. They never think of making amends for the scars they’ve left on
us, because we gratefully pay them for inflicting and exploiting those
We say all men are
created equal and titles of nobility are banned by the Constitution, but
you’d never know it from the way we grovel when a titled Englishman deigns
to favor us with one of those faint, thin-lipped smiles. It has to stop.
I say let’s soak these Brits
for all they’re worth. Their fortunes were built, and are still being
built, on the backs of white Americans. We are victims! Reparations
End Sobran Column-----
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