Chicago City Council and Reparations

Ald. Dorothy Tillman has sponsored a resolution in the Chicago City Council calling for reparations to African-Americans for slavery. If it passes, which Ald. Ed Burke indicated it probably will tomorrow, it will be forwarded to Congress in support of US Rep John Conyers resolution to call hearings on the same subject.

Question, what is the City Council thinking? However noble a cause it might be, it’s completely beyond their scope. It reminds me of the silliness that sometimes erupts and some city or school district declares itself a “Nuclear Free Zone.” Guess what, since we have nukes pointed at Russia, China, et al, and they have nukes pointed at us, your city is NOT a “Nuclear Free Zone.”

Anyway, shouldn’t the good Alderpeople :slight_smile: and Da Mayor be focusing on the very real problems that Chicagoans face, such as crime, drugs, police brutality, homelessness, and crappy schools?


Hey! Don’t tell this to Santa Cruz, California! Not only is it a Nuclear-Free Zone, but was almost a Hate-Free Zone as well! (Only a technicality kept the measure from being on the ballot last November.) And I really know that the government of China cares that SC has passed a resolution decrying its takeover of Tibet. Oh, and the governor of Pennsylvania is just quaking now that the Santa Cruz City Council has called for a retrial of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

God, I am so glad I don’t live there anymore.

It’s not exactly the same situation, but I tend to agree with the OP, that however well-meaning, a city (whether a large one like Chicago or a small one like Santa Cruz), is probably overreaching a little in such a situation. One town cannot cure the world’s ills.

Gotta chime in on the NUKE free stuff. Sorry if this becomes a thread hijacking. Berkely has that. Guess what, UC berkely is in the middle of Berkeley. They carry Nuclear material in there all the Freaking time. It doesn’t do shit. Private citizens aren’t carting around nuclear material. And the government doesn’t care what Berkeley thinks.

I think this is far more important than “nuclear-free zone” idiocy. The Chicago City Council is petitioning the U.S. government to make reparations.

Seems to me that it will be extremely costly to everyone. In the case of the Swiss banks confiscating gold stolen from Jews, the money is still THERE. The banks have been using it. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to seek reparation. And, of course, we’re talking 60 years ago, not two hundred years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I think slavery was a hideous evil. But it wasn’t illegal at the time, and there’s no pot of money sitting around to make reparation from. It’s not like all the slave-owning families put their money in a huge bank account that could now be distributed among the descendents of slaves. If there are any “reparations,” presumably they are made by the Federal Government … which means the taxpayers pay for them. Which means me, even though my ancestors came to this country in the early 1900s and never owned slaves, nor profited in any way from slavery.

Also, of course, if reparations are made to descendents of slaves for what (by today’s standards) was inhumane treatment… what of the claims of Native Americans to reclaim their lands?

Or someone whose ancestor was hanged as a witch in Salem, making a claim for reparations against the Massachusetts government, with compound interest for the last four hundred years? Or, how about I make a claim against the Hispanic community for the tortures inflicted on my ancestors by the Spanish Inquisition? (No one would expect that!)

Again, don’t get me wrong, I think that American history is full of horrible and inhumane incidents. It was a less enlightened time. I don’t see how we can try to apply today’s moral standards in judging the past… and I don’t see how we can penalize the current population by making them pay for the sins of their great-great-grandfathers.

That’s my opinion.

Brief hijack:

Dex, you might be interested in this story, if you haven’t seen it, from the Cleveland Museum of Art ( I thought this showed a lot of initiative on their part.

[edited for length]

List of 370 Paintings Posted Today on Museum Web Site,,

The Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Katharine Lee Reid, has announced that the museum will post a list of approximately 370 paintings from its collection on its website that have gaps in provenance (the historical background of prior ownership) between 1933 and 1945. The posting is the newest stage of the museum’s ongoing research, a two-year project conducted by the museum’s curatorial division to identify works in the collection with any relationship to art confiscated by the Nazis during the World War II period.

Mrs. Reid states: “This museum is making good on its promise to thoroughly investigate the provenance of its holdings in light of information that has emerged in recent years about the mid-20th-century art market. Our list comprises European paintings with any ownership history missing between 1933 and 1945; and it is intended that this will be specifically helpful to individuals or families with potential claims for Nazi-looted art. Based upon new information that has been made available to the public, especially via the Internet, we are hoping to fill these gaps and respond to legitimate ownership claims that may result.”

The Cleveland Museum of Art has 615 European paintings in its permanent collection. About 25% were acquired by CMA prior to 1933 when Nazi looting began, and others may have been in private collections in the United States prior to that date and later acquired by the museum.

The list of works being posted includes a range of works from 15th-century to mid-20th-century including Claude Monet’s 1868 painting The Red Hood, Madame Monet and Henri Matisse’s Interior with an Etruscan Vase painted in 1940, both listed among the museum’s highlights.

Anyone with information to help complete the history of ownership of these works can contact Stephanie Stebich, Administrative Coordinator, via email at or by calling 216.421.7340, ext. 251.

Frankly, I think the Civil War was enough of an apology for slavery.

Armed, dangerous …
and off my medication.

CKDextHavn probably spoke for millions of others when he said:

Gotta call you on that last point. Whatever one’s position on reparations and whatever the level of involvement of one’s ancestors in a slavery-based economy, all of us in this country who are not black have indirectly profited from slavery (at least comparatively speaking), because we weren’t on the receiving end of the pervasive and persistent racism that slavery so strongly encouraged. Please skip the obvious rejoinders about other kinds of racism and other forms of oppression and prejudice: I know that almost everybody has experienced (in their own lives or in those of their ancestors) discrimination or oppression on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, whatever, and I strongly deplore all of that. But I think it’s undeniable that racist oppression in this country has hit blacks first, worst, and longest, and (pace folks like Sentinel and KM2) that anti-black racism still permeates our culture. It’s still true that people who apply for jobs or loans or try to buy a house or even walk down the street or talk to a cop in many, many, many cases get better treatment for not being black, and this was even more the case in earlier eras (and it has by no means been entirely counterbalanced by policies like affirmative action.) Active prejudice against people who aren’t like you gives you a comparative advantage, and our history of slavery and its aftermath has established such active prejudice very deeply in this society. Whether this ought to be translated into monetary compensation is something that can be debated endlessly; I just don’t want to see people trying to dissociate themselves so entirely from any responsibility for the problem. If you as a non-black person choose to live in a society that significantly discriminates against blacks, you are indeed indirectly benefiting in some ways from this evil and you have a share in the universal obligation to change it.

I do agree, though, that the Chicago city council could spend its time more appropriately on municipal issues.


Kimstu, I don’t disagree with your main point – I have no idea to what extent my grandparents had racist prejudices or reaped benefit from the suppression of blacks in the early half of the 20th Century. However, I think there is a difference between racism and slavery. As far as I am aware, no one is suggesting “reparations” for racism.

If you’re trying to say that slavery helped build up the cotton industry, so anyone who wears a cotton garment has/is contributing to the slave-trade… well, I think that’s way too remote.

But let’s take these reparations a step further. Who will pay them? where does the money come from? Does it come from ALL Americans? So… black Americans will also pay their share of a higher tax, the government and bureaucracy and lawyers will take their share, and a lesser amount will be returned to them? Or will only white Americans be charged this higher tax?

It just doesn’t go anywhere logically. Trying to remedy a centuries-old crime, when the assets (ill-gotten gains) arising from that crime have been long distributed, just don’t make sense.

Hey! How about all that gold the Spanish took from native Americans? What if we try to get that back? Let’s sue Spain in the World Court!

My, my, my, there is a surfeit of white liberal guilt on this message board.

How in the hell did Chinese coolies working on the railroad, Vietnamese & Japanese immigrants, native Hawaiians, Inuits, or any Indian tribe benefit from oppression of blacks?

Furthermore, I challenge some of the sensitive souls on this message board to go to certain areas like parts of Appalachia or certain rural sections of Indiana and explain how many poor whites have benefitted from oppression of blacks.

CKDextHawn: Slavery of blacks was perfectly legal until the 1860’s. It was certainly immoral, but it was NOT a crime.

Not only is there the problem of who would pay for the reparations, but also there is the question of to whom reparations should be paid.

After all, not all blacks who lived in the US during slavery were slaves. Should their descendants receive reparations?

What about people who emigrated from Africa to the US since 1865? Should their descendants receive reparations?

Or people who emigrated from Haiti. Yes, there were slaves on the plantations there, but then the beef would more properly be with the French Government, not the US Government.

I think it will be interesting to see where (if anywhere) this whole thing goes. However, too much time has passed, there is no “Slavery Gold” to seize and pass around, and there are too manny variables to determine who would pay for reparations, and who would receive said payments.

Additionally, Kimstu, I’ll wager (for what it’s worth) that you’ve got the cause-and-effect backwards – it’s not slavery that strongly encouraged racism, but racism that encouraged slavery.

Yes, we all need to fight racism. But living in a country with a racist past (or even racist present) gives us the obligation to solve present problems, not pay reparations for a distant expression of that racism.

I can’t wait for the Heckowee Indian tribe to file a lawsuit against all black homeowners in the South side of Chicago.

“This was OUR land, forcibly stolen from us,” Chief WIld Eagle will proclaim, “And we demand full reparations for all this land in South Chicago. We demand $5,000,000 from the NAACP. In small bills, preferably.”

Of course, black homeowners will scream, “WHAT? WE didn’t take your land! The land was taken from your ancestors long before we were born! How the hell can you sue US?”

Hey, I’ll sympathize- it sucks being held financial accountable for things that aren’t your fault, doesn’t it?

Originally posted by Kimstu:

>> Gotta call you on that last point. Whatever one’s position on reparations and whatever the level of involvement of one’s ancestors in a slavery-based economy, all of us in this country who are not black have indirectly profited from slavery <<

Now I’m going to have to call you on your point. Even blacks living in this country today have indirectly benefited from the slave trade. They live in one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. Since most of the slaves came from Sub Sahara Africa how well do you think they’d be living there today? I’m not saying it has been peaches and cream since the 1860’s. But they, like you and I, reap plenty of benefits by being here.


Dex said:

Excuse me. Only white Americans whose ancestors were in America during the time of slavery. I don’t see why the rest of us should pay. Hmph!

Originally posted by Keenan:
>>**Additionally, Kimstu, I’ll wager (for what it’s worth) that you’ve got the cause-and-effect backwards – it’s not slavery that strongly encouraged racism, but racism that encouraged slavery.<<

 Having a weak military leads to slavery it has very little to do with racism. The Slavs used to be Europes source for slaves because they were fragmented and couldn't put up much of a fight. The Zulu's on the other hand were very strong in the military arts. How many Zulu slaves were brought to America? Of course when the only examples of a group of people you see are as slaves it would be quite easy to become a racist.