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VINE VOICEon April 23, 2003
I am very interested in the issue of reparations andpurchased this book based on the dust jacket blurbs and looking at the table of contents. While I found it very informative in some respects, I was quite disappointed and had to struggle to rate it three stars. My disappointments concerned three different issues, discussed below following a description of the book.
This is a collection of essays accompanied by thirty eight pages of documents with relevance to the reparations issue. The book is organized thematically, with sections providing historical context, a legal overview, organizational initiatives, opinion pieces, and alternative methodologies. Many of the selections are quite short; at one extreme some are heavily footnoted and scholarly in format, at the other extreme some are conversational in nature. The book is quite easy to read, and while I read it in its entirety (but not in sequence), each selection stands on its own. Its strength is that Raymond Winbush, the editor has provided in one place a meaningful and diverse introduction to the literature on the subject for those who are interested in the arguments supporting reparations. He includes many of early advocates of reparations articulately presenting the case.
My first complaint is that its strength is also its weakness. This is not a book that examines the issue in an unbiased manner, but rather a sermon being preached to the choir. Despite the book jacket proclaiming that the there would be sufficient counterarguments to provide balance, this is definitely not the case. There are only three such articles (Armstrong Williams, Shelby Steele, and John McWhorter) presenting a countervailing point of view, and they are among the briefest in the collection, totaling 27 pages out of 366. In my view, this is indicative of the same sort of tokenism rightly decried by civil rights advocates. Winbush clearly had the right to produce a pro reparations book, but don't sell it under false pretenses and advertise it as representing both sides of the debate. There is no meaningful debate between these covers.
My second criticism is that despite the apperance of scholarship, most of the articles lacked real substance and analysis. They were wonderful at presenting historical context and had substantial descriptive and in many cases emotional content, but this cannot substitute for academic rigor. Advocacy, no matter how forceful and heart felt, cannot effectively replace convincing argumentation. Because of their accurate depiction and understanding of the evils and horrors of slavery, many of the authors in this collection are such true believers in their cause that they have lost all objectivity. For instance, Tim Wise concludes that "innocence ... in the mouths of persons born in the United States is beyond interesting ... it is stunningly infantile ... [it ] is [in fact] beyond the comprehension of the rational mind". This sort of rhetoric may make one feel good and win loud cheers from your allies but is unlikely to help you engage the interest of those undecided in the legitimacy of your claimed remedy for the agreed upon historical injustices.
My third disappointment was very articulately summarized in various ways by Armstrong, McWhorter and Steele. The essence is that the reparations argument is based on three assumptions, all of which are often assailed as racist in other contexts. First, that blacks are basically a homogeneous group rather than individuals. (This is of course necessary for class action lawsuits or political redress to be successful.) Second, and most destructive, that blacks cannot escape their victimhood caused by the continuation of pervasive racism in America today. Third, that blacks are Africans forced to live in America, not Americans.
I will not take time to comment on the historical inaccuracies and popular misconceptions in some of these articles, because while disappointing they are not central to the discussion in any instance. This book is worth reading both for background and revealing the mindset of the advocates. E.g. one of the most interesting articles was originally published in Harper's Magazine, and is a fascinating discussion among four of the top class action lawyers in the country. They unwittingly reveal the weakness of their legal case through the following interchange; they "love big stuff', don't want to lose on a technicality", need to find "elegant solutions to major national social problems", will "need help politically... since we don't have the law squarely on our side" and thus the first question should not be who are the plaintiffs, but "Who are the defendants,i.e. who pays?" That is, if they can find some deep pockets and earn their fees, then they'll try to build a case that appears to solve the major problem of slavery and residual racism. If you want a book that examines the current state of race relations in America in a much more hopeful and helpful light and provides real insights and decries the cult of victimhood, I suggest that you read the essays in AUTHENTICALLY BLACK by John McWhorter (see my Amazon review of 3/20/03) in addition to this book.
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on June 11, 2014
Dr. Raymond Winbush is a brilliant and educated man who does his research. While I don't necessarily agree with his take on this particular issue, I absolutely agree with his view of the problems. This is an excellent viewpoint and reference for information regarding much of the history leading up to the issue. Great book!
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on April 21, 2003
SHOULD AMERICA PAY?:
Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations
Edited by Raymond A. Winbush, Ph.D

I really should not have read this book. The fact that I know and am a fan of the editor, not withstanding.

The book " SHOULD AMERICA PAY?: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations" is challenging, informative and insightful. The contributors were thoughtful and experienced. The documents of important legal ramifications are well worth the cost of the book itself to enhance a home library. What makes the book outstanding, however, is the clarity in which Winbush crafted his recognition of previously understood factors. One is that that the issue of reparations is complex for both Black and white Americans and for people on both sides of the issue and that reparations for American slaves of Africa has international contemporary relevance and world implications. If the issues presented in this book were to be successfully mediated, worlds Black and white, African and non-African, Western and European will be turned upside down. Until I finished reading this book I never understood how scary the notion reparations really should be. Nor did I understand how logical it should be. The book offers carefully balanced views, but extremely diverse voices within each of those groups.

Winbush and this focused collection place the issue of reparation in a cogent legal, cultural, global, political and human landscape. It is not too intellectual that it forgets that the slavers lashes still sting yet, not too soft that the complex legal and economic logistics are lost.

It provides the stuffing for both personal and collective challenges to the notion of oppression and white supremacy and how it works in this country, as well in other oppressive, inhumane commercial and cultural ventures. While you may not know what are the compromises that you might want to make on your personal feelings about reparations, once you have read the book, there is no more room for decisive internal arguing and personal political denial.

Shelby Steele, one of the contributors to the anthology reveals an intellectual sharpness to which we have become accustomed, while at the same time, a Black uncertainty that we already suspected. His commentary is as if we were listening to the morning shave dialogue between a man and a stranger who involuntarily appears in the mirror. On the other hand, if you want an iron shut case with the IRS, the man to crunch your numbers is Kevin Outterson, a tax law specialist, who gives hard numbers on the cost of slavery. His presence in this compilation gives Winbush thumbs up for having the insight to understand that most people need the cost/benefit analysis as the infrastructure to even consider the concept. A relatively new comer to the larger public eye, Christopher Hitchens seems to have perfected the cogency of the reparation opposition argument

This book should be read by every person on the planet who says that they have an interest in human or civil rights, American history or justice. It should be required reading for ninth graders and should be in the home library of any family that wishes to be enlightened about the role of history in current events.

Once an individual understands the history of human rights in the landscape of the history of American slave trade, the "no-question" of reparation becomes more manageable and less bulky. This book is a tremendous start in configuring such a context. Does it go far enough, does it compromise the brutality of slavery and its continuing legacy? Does it promise to be the political key to the greater global dialogue? No and yes. What this book does do is to whet the appetite more than enough to entice the reader to think that there is more here than an overwhelming outrageousness or the quick and easy dismissal of the "new Black Mau-Mau".

I walked away, validating most of what I already had decided about my position on reparations. Reading the book made my position less cluttered and less tainted by commercial media accounts, outmoded and ill-informed political and romanticized notions of the challenge and meaning of the reparation issue. It also helped me to unveil and shrug off the shackles and remaining remnants created by years of segregated Southern school racist history texts and "Negrotized" cultural education. Such a background easily affords to loose the uneasiness of embracing and facing the shame and injury. Reading this book, I feel more the ready to defend my position and to articulate the real case for reparation and stand confidently on the question and argument of whether America should pay.

Finally, tears ran down my face as I read the contribution made by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. I wept in gratitude and in awe for his unwavering compassion and love for Black people. He believed in us, when we sometimes forgot to believe in ourselves. We sometimes forget what activist like him forfeit to speak our pain. And for my Father who would have marveled that real people, in real places have given real and serious thought to the question of the slaves.

Kudos offered to Raymond Winbush. He shows insight and vision; the gift of listening and hearing and the touch of a maestros well-loved baton in bringing together the diverse voices important to this issue. It is not altogether easy to be the mediator in an argument in the family when the family consists of millions of members.
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on May 14, 2003
If you beleive in reparations, then this is for you. If you are one of those who dismiss it as a crackpot scheme to serve as an outlet for bitter people, it will at least enlighten you to their points of view.
The pro-reparations arguments vary. Some are rather scholarly indeed, especially the one that talks about the Ex-slave pension movement of the 19th century. That was very enlightening. The inevitable comparisons to the repaprations for German Jews and Japansese Americans appear. Others are from those who are from the extreme Black nationalist camp and filled with rhetoric (sadly, the completely ahistorical "Willie Lynch" letter is once again cited as fact when it has been proven to be an urban legend) and another wishes to dismiss all Black Americans who do not consider themselves solely as "Africans."
The sad part of it is that some of this rhetoric confirms this issue (at least to those who remain unconvinced) to be a product of the extremist camp of fanatics and unreconstructed sixties radicals, as was the case with the failed reparations march in 2002 which alienated people with crackpot speeches and a low turnout. In fact, little has been heard form the Reparations movement on a wide level since that fiasco.
The editors do a good service by printing a collection of relevant doccuments, such as General Howard's 1865 Field Order and Thaddues Stevens "40 Acres and a Mule" proposal (both of which were turned down by the reconstruction government, I might add, and NEITHER mentioned anything about money to former slaves). Section 4 of the 14th Amendment also ruled out any financial compensation for slavery, yet nowhere in this book does anyone comment on this fact.
The editor has explained why so few of those who consider all of this a waste of time are featured (glad that he made this clear). But this does add some balance and counterarguments for discussion.
However, while this is an enlightening collection and good for debate, but I don't think it'll change anyone's mind on the issue.
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on January 25, 2003
In 'Should America Pay?' Dr. Winbush has succeeded in compiling a full spectrum of the arguments for and against reparations in such a manner that the average reader can gain a full understanding of the reparations movement. The most fascinating aspect of 'Should America Pay' is that Dr. Winbush has included not only historical reparations information but current happenings in the reparations movement including interviews of those living today who have been directly affected by slavery and the details of current reparations lawsuits filed against major American corporations.
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One of the tragedies of a society established on various human atrocities is that belief systems and myths are invented to avoid ugly truths which bring about faulty reasoning, simple minded ideas and a stream of miscalculated behaviors. All of this has resulted in disasters leaving this society befuddled as to why certain problems won't go away, or, get worse. Winbush's book, *Should America Pay* nothwithstanding, the comments and debates on reparations remain subject to this society's disastrous thinking, ideas and behaviors. ONE example is the notion that welfare makes up for reparations, therefore, reparations has been paid.
While this and several other miscalculated ideas continue to be debated, Winbush's *Should America Pay* serves as a tool through which historical realities, facts and documentation can deliver information, clarity and understanding to those who seek to learn and discuss with sincerity. Because there is an opposite and equal reaction for every action, this topic demands the same level of truth and justice as the intense suffering from the atrocities existed and exists. This collection of presentations by scholars, researchers, historians, and activists bound in *Should America Pay* paves the way for the truth and justice required for intelligent resolve.
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on May 18, 2003
Dr. Winbush should be applauded for compiling and editing this wealth of information for AMERICA. This text should be incorporated into the American History classes across our nation.
We talk about the "holocaust" in all classrooms, an event that didn't happen in "our country". Yet, we don't want to ADDRESS and REPAIR the effects of slavery, something that took place in our own backyard.
This book dispels the misconceptions associated with reparations in that it cites ways that reparations could be paid such as, educational grants, providing health care and land or property grants, not just lump sums to individuals as most people think.
This is a must read for anyone seeking to learn more about the reparations movement.
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on March 15, 2003
Dr. Raymond Winbush has done a superlative job assembling the thoughts and opinions of scholars who have something to say about reparations. Long a topic relegated to "fringe" groups and "radicals," reparations has moved to the forefront among the many issues of concern to African Americans.
The views in this timely treatise are insightful as well as educational and informational. It is an excellent learning tool for those who remain either unable or unwilling to look squarely at a issue whose time has come.
A Luta Continua,
Ahmad Daniels
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on April 21, 2003
SHOULD AMERICA PAY?:
Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations
Edited by Raymond A. Winbush, Ph.D
I really should have read this book. The fact that I know and am a fan of the editor, not withstanding.
The book " SHOULD AMERICA PAY?: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations" is challenging, informative and insightful. The contributors were thoughtful and experienced. The documents of important legal ramifications are well worth the cost of the book itself to enhance a home library. What makes the book outstanding, however, is the clarity in which Winbush crafted his recognition of previously understood factors. One is that that the issue of reparations is complex for both Black and white Americans and for people on both sides of the issue and that reparations for American slaves of Africa has international contemporary relevance and world implications. If the issues presented in this book were to be successfully mediated, worlds Black and white, African and non-African, Western and European will be turned upside down. Until I finished reading this book I never understood how scary the notion reparations really should be. Nor did I understand how logical it should be. The book offers carefully balanced views, but extremely diverse voices within each of those groups.
Winbush and this focused collection place the issue of reparation in a cogent legal, cultural, global, political and human landscape. It is not too intellectual that it forgets that the lashes of the slavers still sting yet, not too soft that the complex legal and economic logistics are lost.
It provides the stuffing for both personal and collective challenges to the notion of oppression and white supremacy and how it works in American as compared to other world oppressive, inhumane commercial and cultural ventures throughout the world. While you may not know what compromises that you might want to make on your personal feelings about reparations, once you have read this book, there is no more room for internal indecisive arguing and personal political denial.
Shelby Steele, one of the contributors to the anthology reveals an intellectual sharpness to which we have become accustomed, while at the same time, a Black uncertainty that we already suspected. His commentary is as if we were listening to the morning shave dialogue between a man and the stranger who appears in the mirror. On the other hand, if I ever need to defend my case with the IRS, the man to crunch my numbers is Kevin Outterson. He is the tax law specialist, who gives hard numbers on the cost of slavery. For his presence in this compilation I give Winbush thumbs up for having the insight to understand that some people need the cost/benefit analysis as an infrastructure to even consider the concept of reparation. A relatively new comer to the larger American public eye, Christopher Hitchens seems to have perfected the quick points for the pro-reparation argument when facing the opposition.
This book should be read by every person on the planet who portends that they have an interest in human or civil rights, American history or justice. It should be required reading for ninth graders to high school seniors and should be in the home and school library of any family or community that wishes to be enlightened about the role of history in current events.
Once an individual understands the history of human rights in the landscape of the history of American slave trade, the "no-question" of reparation becomes more manageable and less bulky. This book is a tremendous start in configuring such a context. Does it go far enough, does it compromise the brutality of slavery and its continuing legacy? Does it promise to be the political key to the greater global dialogue? No and yes. What this book does do is it whets the appetite more than enough to entice the reader to think that there is more here than some overwhelming outrageousness or a quick and easy dismissal of the what must be the "new Black Mau-Mau".
I walked away, validating most of what I already had decided about my position on reparations. Reading the book made my position less cluttered and less tainted by commercial media accounts, outmoded and ill-informed political and romanticized notions of the challenge and meaning of the reparation issue. It also helped me to unveil and shrug off the shackles and remaining remnants created by years of segregated Southern school racist history texts and "Negrotized" cultural education. Such a background easily affords to loose the uneasiness of embracing and facing the shame and injury. Reading this book, I feel more the ready to defend my position and to articulate the real case for reparation and stand confidently on the question and argument of whether America should pay.
Finally, tears ran down my face as I read the contribution made by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. I wept in gratitude and in awe for his unwavering compassion and love for Black people. He believed in us, when we sometimes forgot to believe in ourselves. We sometimes forget what activist like him forfeit to speak our pain. And for my Father who would have marveled that real people, in real places have given real and serious thought to the question of the slaves.
Kudos offered to Raymond Winbush. He shows insight and vision; the gift of listening and hearing and the touch of a maestros well-loved baton in bringing together the diverse voices important to this issue. It is not altogether easy to be the mediator in an argument in the family when the family consists of millions of members.
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on April 30, 2003
As editor of "Should America Pay?: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations", I thought it might be helpful to answer one criticism that has been consistent about the book, but is better understood after a little background information is provided.
I would classify the essays in the book under three broad categories: 1) those who favor reparations, 2) those who oppose them and 3) those who simply present the facts about the issue.
Several people have commented about why there are so few articles from those who oppose them. While compiling the book, we asked several persons who were opposed to reparations for Africans in America to write and they simply said there was little legal, empirical or otherwise substantive research about why reparations *shouldn't* be made for Africans in America! Simply put, the arguments *against* reparations for Africans in America simply are weak. and are more emotional than logical. The oppositional essays included in the book are from three writers (and a fourth from an "embedded" David Horowitz in Christopher Hitchens' essay) who are simply the best voices out there.
I approached a major conservative "think tank" (which I will leave nameless) about having one of their senior researchers write an essay for the book and was told that the "issue had been studied" but that "they" (the institution's researchers) could not mount a legal argument *against* reparations that was empirically based.
I think if one follows the "logic" of reparations for Africans in America s/he they will come to the conclusion (as both supporters and opposers to reparations have) that it is based in solid legal theory, international law as well as historical precedent, e.g., Nuremburg.
Finally, "Should America Pay?" was recently submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court as a "friends of the court" document involving the University of Michigan affirmative action case because of its comprehensive inclusion of views concerning compensatory measures for Africans in America. It is a book that if one reads it, will provide strong historical and legal evidence for the unpunished crime against humanity in the United States --- slavery. Read it with an open mind and you will see that not only are reparations due Africans in America, they will happen because it is the logical step in moving toward an honest discussion about racism (white supremacy) in the United States.
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