Charles Moses of Loxahatchee, 68 years old and a proud capitalist, makes the case for reparations while Gov. Ron DeSantis says America’s racial history doesn’t belong in school lessons.
Charles Moses, a reader from Loxahatchee, wanted to know if we could talk about “the ‘R’ word.”
Moses, 68, grew up in Palm Beach County. As a Black man, he has witnessed a wide sweep of this country’s racial history.
His parents, denied a proper education in South Carolina due to their race, worked here as unskilled, illiterate laborers. His father delivered ice to West Palm Beach homes in the days before refrigerators, and his mother was a maid in Palm Beach.
Their son, Charles, had more options. Moses, graduated from then-John F. Kennedy High School in Riviera Beach in 1970, and went off to Florida A & M University, a historically Black university.
He became, by all standards, an accomplished man who has built a successful life. Moses worked 41 years in information technology with Pratt & Whitney, the aerospace company based west of Jupiter. And in a blended family with his wife, he has become the father of seven adult children and has 16 grandchildren.
Moses is a retired homeowner who is financially secure with what he called “a great retirement plan and a great 401(k) plan.” And five of his seven children are college graduates.
He’s not looking for a government handout. But he is looking for justice, which is why he wanted to talk about what he called “the ‘R’ word” – reparations.
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“My wife and I are pleased with our financial success and our middle-income status,” Moses said. “However, we can’t help looking back at the many opportunities that did not come our way during our career, because we were Black.”
I can’t help thinking that white people like me ought to be listening to people like Moses more than our own Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said this week that civics education in Florida schools ought to be scrubbed of any discussion of America’s systematic history of racism.
“There’s no room in our classrooms for things like Critical Race Theory,” DeSantis said. “Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.”
DeSantis has it dead wrong. Moses doesn’t hate his country.
“I’m all for America. I love capitalism. I just want it to be great for everybody,” he said.
“It’s like being an alcoholic. You can’t get better from it unless you acknowledge you have the disease,” Moses said. “You can’t fix racism unless you acknowledge you have it.”
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While Moses and his success might seem like a refutation against the evils of racism, he sees it differently. He sees it through the lost opportunities in career advancement for both he and his wife, who worked with him.
“We used to come home and say, ‘We should have been considered for that promotion, or to head that project,’ ” he said. “We would get projects that were doomed to fail, and our white colleagues would get projects that were big hitters, and the funds were there for them not to fail.
“We were just determined to succeed.”
So to Moses, reparations is not a crazy idea, but one that deserves a serious discussion.
“I know everything’s going in the opposite direction these days,” he said. “But I think it needs to be said.”
Reparations, to many white people, is a dirty word, or as Moses called it, “the ‘R’ word.” The idea of paying Black Americans for the sins of white people from past generations is a non-starter for most people.
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Eighty-five percent of white Americans are against the idea of reparations, an Associated Press poll found. And for years, the U.S. House wouldn’t even consider H.R. 40, a resolution offered by former U.S. Rep. John Conyers just to discuss the issue.
The resolution was a call to “study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans.”
Think reparations are a radical idea? Think again, and study your U.S. history
Despite its unpopularity, paying reparations for old wrongs is not such a radical idea.
In 1994, Florida acknowledged the 1923 burning of the Black enclave of Rosewood, setting up $150,000 payments to its survivors, and a state scholarship fund to descendants of the Black residents who lived there.
Georgetown University created a $400,000-per-year reparations fund for the descendants of the 272 slaves the college sold in the pre-Civil War era.
Even some slave owners in the South got reparations from the U.S. government. The District of Columbia Emancipation Act of 1862 gave reparations to slave owners of up to $300 for every Black slave freed.
The Indians Claims Commission paid out $1.3 billion in reparations to Native Americans for land stolen from them.
And about 26,000 Japanese-Americans were paid a total of $37 million by the U.S. government in reparations for their confinement in internment camps during World War II.
We have a long history of acknowledging wrongs through reparations.
In “The Case for Reparations,” a scholarly discussion of race in America published in 2014 in The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the point that to celebrate American history without acknowledging its original sin of racism is to practice “a la carte patriotism.”
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“The early American economy was built on slave labor. The Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. President James K. Polk traded slaves from the Oval Office.
“The laments about ‘black pathology,’ the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children.
“An honest assessment of America’s relationship to the black family reveals the country to be not its nurturer but its destroyer. And this destruction did not end with slavery.
“Discriminatory laws joined the equal burden of citizenship to unequal distribution of its bounty. These laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government – through housing policies – engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day.
“When we think of white supremacy, we picture ‘colored only’ signs, but we should picture pirate flags.”
And here’s one man’s way to pay for reparations
But how would you even go about paying reparations to so many people? Coates didn’t offer a concrete plan. But Moses did.
Through the Social Security system. Moses noted that Black Americans have a life expectancy of five fewer years than whites. Some of that, he argues, can be explained by the systemic racism that has contributed to shortened lives.
“And we’ve been contributing to the extra five years that white people have gotten,” he said.
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So reparations can be in the form of allowing Black Americans to receive Social Security five years earlier, he said. To pay for it, he suggested adjusting the threshold of taxed income for workers.
“This proposal would provide financial reparations to Blacks that have worked and contributed throughout their work career and provide similar support in the future for Blacks that are still working toward retirement,” he said.
“And Black people would be paying into this, too,” he said. “We would all have skin in the game.”
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