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Subject:  Re: Factor an additional 5% to RE - Reparations Date:  3/28/2002  7:53 AM
Author:  SirTas Number:  64294 of 872293

According to the hypothesis, I am to take some African-American and imagine him (or her) under two different sets of assumptions: one assumption is that this person's ancestors were slaves, and the other assumption is that they were not slaves. (Presumably, on the second assumption, there was no slavery, and my imagined African-American is the descendant of immigrants--those same ancestors--who came here to America in some other way.)

Why would you assume that these ancestors would have come to America? Voluntary migration from sub-Saharan Africa to America and Europe was not common during the time period in question. The more likely case is that these ancestors came to America ONLY because they were captured by another black-African tribe and sold by that tribe to commercial slavers (also black-African) who transported them to the coast and sold them to white slavers; that otherwise they would have remained in Africa.

Under the hypothesis, we are supposed to imagine ancestors of African-Americans. And these are people who must have come to America. (Hence, the African-Americans of today.) The main problem is that if those ancestors (the people you refer to as "they" above) had remained in Africa, they wouldn't have become the ancestors of African-Americans. Consider my own ancestors, for example, who came from Europe. Had they never come, I wouldn't be writing these words today. If someone asks me to imagine my ancestors, I imagine these people, people who left their villages in Ireland and Greece. Now I can imagine that they could have come on different boats; I can imagine that they met in Boston and not New York; but (consistent with the hypothesis that they are my ancestors), I can't imagine that they never met.

The logical comparison, then, is between descendants of American slaves living in America, and black Africans living in Africa.

I guess I don't get the comparison part. I think the reparations issue has to do with justice and injustice. I think it's abundantly clear to everyone that most blacks in Africa today have a much lower standard of living than most African-Americans. (One danger in the comparison idea, I think, is that it is like saying that it's OK for rich people to kidnap poor people, because, after all, the "victims" end up with a higher standard of living. But if an injustice is committed, it's not erased by the fact that the victims may end up with a higher standard of living.) I think the idea of a comparison between descendants of Americans slaves living in America and black Africans living in various countries in Africa today is a red herring.

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