Slavery reparations are compensations paid to enslaved people and/or their descendants. This term is most often used in direct movement to the slavery reparations movement in the United States, which promotes reparations for black Americans descended from former slaves. The concept of reparations for slavery is extremely socially and politically complex, and working out the precise logistics of slavery reparations, such as what form the reparations should take and who is entitled to them, is a difficult task.
There are some precedents for slavery reparations. For example, victims of American internment camps for Japanese citizens established during the Second World War received reparations after the fact from the government to acknowledge their suffering. Many Native Americans also receive cash compensation for forfeited and stolen lands, with this compensation also coming from the government. Reparations for slavery, however, are much more difficult to work out.
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The first issue when considering slavery reparations is what form these reparations should take; cash bonuses are one option, as are grants of land, but some people also promote the idea of community-based schemes to improve quality of life for black Americans. Promoters of reparations for slavery also have to think about who is entitled to reparations, and how to determine this, because no formal system for tracking the descendants of slaves exists.
Reparations also have to come from somewhere. While one obvious source for reparations is the United States Government, ex-colonial governments also share part of the burden for slavery in the United States; Britain and France, for example, imported huge numbers of slaves to their American colonies. Private enterprises such as financial institutions also profited from slavery, and some people feel that they should share part of the burden for reparations.
Slavery in the United States undoubtedly contributed to the rapid rise of the United States as a global power. Free labor from slaves built much of the American South, along with the fortunes of some leading families in the United States. Even after the end of slavery, blacks suffered from a variety of discriminatory laws, and they continue to struggle with discrimination and racism. Slavery reparations might help to compensate for this in some small way, advocates argue, and reparations would also enforce the idea that America values and honors its black community while recognizing that this community arrived by force. Critics believe that reparations are too little, too late, and that the focus should be on confronting modern-day issues in the black community, such as pervasive social and economic inequality.