In the USA, an event that was insignificant at first glance, but involving serious consequences, occurred. One of the American towns has officially announced its intention to pay reparations to its black residents – for the years of slavery. How much money will the descendants of American slaves receive if a similar decision is made for the entire United States of America?
Asheville is a small city located in the eastern United States (North Carolina), known for its cultural heritage and living largely on tourism. Of the 93,000 residents of the city, which is considered one of the most liberal in the state, 83% are white and 12% are African American. It is known only for the fact that on April 6, 1865, a five-hour battle between the forces of the Confederation and the Union took place here, which became one of the last battles of the Civil War in the United States. Later, civil activist Floyd McKissick, the confidant of Martin Luther King Jr., was born and lived in Asheville.
And now the city council of Asheville has unanimously approved a resolution in which it officially apologized for the years of slavery and announced the payment of reparations for its black residents. It is already known that the resolution of the city council on compensation will not be implemented in the form of direct payments, but by promoting public initiatives, budgetary and social programs to support the black community of Asheville. The authors of the resolution hope that it will help the local African-American population solve housing problems, employment issues, and fill in the gaps in their access to health care, education, and personal security.
City Council member Kate Young talked about a plan to implement the resolution, within which every six months there should be another step towards “achieving social justice.” Supporters of the resolution hope that the Board of Commissioners of the Bank’s County, which includes Asheville, will also support the measure. Although according to the latest information, despite the majority of Democrats on the council, the district by the Bank is not eager to compensate blacks.
The adoption of the resolution caused a great stir in the city council. Over the past few days, members of the council have received letters and calls from both supporters and opponents of the resolution, sincerely perplexed why today they should pay for what took place on American soil more than 150 years ago. Some speakers equated the city council plan with the actions of the Venezuelan government, accused the Black Lives Matter movement of Marxist ideology and warned of a possible rift among the population of Asheville.
One of the meeting participants, who identified himself as “Eddie from the West of the City,” said that from childhood he grew up on a farm, herding cows and making hay, this is his whole “white privilege”. The supporters of the resolution mainly focused on the moral aspect of the problem, and as one of them put it, the souls of white people are in danger, so they must help blacks.
In general, the theme of compensation to black US residents over the years of slavery and discrimination has a long history. For example, back in 1783, a personally free black woman named Belinda Royal asked the state of Massachusetts to pay her for the 50 years she spent in slavery with her master Isaac Royal, who fled the colonies and died in England. Belinda received an annual payment of just over £ 15 from relatives of her former owner, which is roughly $ 2,300 in 2020.
In 1865, the commander and politician of the North, William Sherman, issued Field Order No. 15, which provided 40 acres of land and a mule to the freed slaves. But President Abraham Lincoln was killed before the order went into effect. When Vice President Andrew Johnson, a former slave owner, became president, he overturned the Sherman directive. After recalculating the historic change in the value of the original promise of 40 acres and a mule, Duke University economist William Durty Jr. said that reparations to blacks in the United States could cost the federal budget $ 10 trillion to $ 12 trillion.
In a recent sensational statement by the first black billionaire in the history of the country, Robert Johnson announced the figure of $ 14 trillion, which white America must pay in compensation for years of slavery. According to Johnson, only compensation and sincere repentance by white Americans for “their own fault” can keep the country from further division into unequal and racially alienated communities.
According to the most recent US census, conducted in 2010, blacks make up 12.3% of the country’s population, or nearly 39 million people. The $ 14 trillion demanded by Johnson translates into about $ 360,000 in compensation for every African American. However, Johnson himself did not talk about direct payments, mentioning only that the “transfer of wealth” from whites to African Americans should go to the development of “black business” and stimulate the economy.