Slavery particularly as it was practiced in the United States was brutal and humiliating for the slaves and we now know it was degrading for the enslavers. Our nation paid a terrible price in blood and treasure in our Civil War. The consequences persist to this day. It has been suggested that there be compensation for the ancestors of the slaves. The question is who was responsible for slavery and who should provide the reparations? The usual conclusion is that whites were solely responsible and therefore the ancestors of the white slave master should compensate the ancestors of the black slaves. The idea encourages racial animosities.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. the Harvard University authority on African American Studies in a New York Times piece (op ad Friday, April 23, 2010) makes a compelling case that it was both whites and blacks who are responsible for the carnage of slavery. He points out that the European colonizers were established along the coasts of western Africa and it was black man who penetrated the interior and enslaves their fellow blacks. It has been estimated that 90% of the slaves shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. He says that,”it is a sad truth that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible or at least on the scale it occurred”.

Dr. Gates cites the transatlantic slave trade database directed by Davis Etis of Emory University which reports that more than 450,000 of African ancestors were shipped to the United States from 1514 to 1866. It adds that 16% of the United States slaves came from eastern Nigeria while 24% came from the Congo. The conquest and capture of Africans and their sale to Europeans was one of the main sources of foreign exchange for several African kingdoms for a very long time.

Gates concludes “Fortunately, in Pres. Obama, the child of an African and an American, we finally have a leader who is uniquely positioned to bridge the great reparations divide. He is uniquely placed to publicly attribute responsibility and culpability where they truly belong, to white people and black people, on both sides of the Atlantic complicit alike in one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization.”

Spiritual Implications: faith groups proclaim that the sins of the fathers should not be visited on their children. They affirm the necessity to “love thy neighbor”. They also caution of the destructiveness of individual and group resentments. It is little noted but of great importance that nation of South Africa is a pioneer in its forgiveness effort. When those whites who were responsible for the past injustices to blacks appear in court and admit their guilt and express genuine remorse they are formally forgiven and returned as potentially productive members of a now racially an integrated society. We should also find encouragement is that fact that the two bitterest U.S. enemies in WWII the Germans and the Japanese are now our closest friends. These developments mark the move from “man’s inhumanity to man” to a new era of “the brotherhood of man”.

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