Reparations should be viewed as a Black issue first and foremost, before being viewed as a universal American issue. With that being said, it is important to note that not all Black Americans --- despite benefitting from reparations---are in support of issuing them. For example, Burgess Owens, the U.S. Congress Representative for Utah voiced his thoughts in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal titled I Didn’t Earn Slavery Reparations, and I Don’t Want Them. As explicitly demonstrated by the title, Black people do not necessarily all have a consensus on reparations and Owens lays out several reasons against the idea of receiving reparations.
Owens finds the need for reparations to be an antiquated ideology. He is not a slave. White people today are not slave owners. Why would we bother to correct something that happened more than a century ago? To provide context, Owens admits that he is indeed a descendant of a person who was enslaved. Therefore, why is he against reparations? It’s because despite this fact he has still been successful. His enslaved ancestor, Silas Burgess, was eventually freed and became a business owner and large influence in his community. Owens finds the fact that his ancestor, a person who actually experienced slavery, was able to make something out of himself as a source of inspiration for all Black Americans that they can do so too. Thus, he thinks that members of his race do not need a hand-out from White people to achieve equality. His main argument is fundamentally based on the idea that reparations are an insult to Black people; to accept would merely represent Black people admitting they are inferior. By accepting reparations, Black people would be saying that they cannot overcome whiteness and that they are helpless in the fight for equality.
Subsequently, Owens expounds on his argument using the historical perspective of how those who advocate for reparations are proponents of revisionist history. First, he notes how other minorities have been able to get ahead without reparations. Then, Owens shows how the idea of reparations stems from a socialist ideology and how with the middle-class today having Black and White people alike, Black Americans do not need the support reparations would give. Overall, Owens is saying that reparations are not only unnecessary, but a slap in the face to all those who have worked hard to get to where they are without reparations.
Many Black people agree with this sentiment. This feeling of not wanting a hand-out shows how Black pride manifests itself in many different ways. Owens lays out a way that shows how Black people want to achieve equality on their own. Rather than questioning whether Black people can achieve equality without any help, the more important question is: how much faster can equality be achieved with the help of those who were able to get ahead at Black people’s expense?
Owens, Burgess. “Opinion | I Didn't Earn Slavery Reparations, and I Don't Want Them.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 24 May 2019, www.wsj.com/articles/i-didnt-earn-slavery-reparations-and-i-dont-want-them-11558732429.
Last Fact Checked on August 19th, 2021.