The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
5 Points

the united states federal government ought to pay reparations to descendants of slaves

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/7/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,721 times Debate No: 79391
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




"Reparations, I believe, are talked about for political reasons, trying to cater for the purpose of getting votes. If Congress was serious about reparations - in '93 and '94 the Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, and not one single Republican vote was needed for reparations." -J. C. Watts

it is because my partner and i agree with J.C Watts that we must stand on the con side of today"s debate Resolved: The United States Federal Government ought to pay reparations to African Americans


Reparations (from merriam webster) :the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury

Ought (from merriam webster) :used to express obligation , advisability , natural expectation , or logical consequence

contention 1 reparations won"t cure the past
Gregory Kane, Why the Reparations Movement Should Fail, 3 U . Md. L.J. Race Relig. Gender & Class 189 (2003).

Slavery is a part of the history of our society and cannot be erased. When proponents rely on reparations to cure the past treatment of Blacks in this country, they fail to realize the basic underlying premise that Blacks can never be made whole again. There is no way to right the wrongs from America's unsavory past. The essence of black culture was taken away and replaced with a new way of life.Now, we are all Americans and must learn to effectively deal with current problems. These problems certainly will not miraculously disappear simply despite claims by reparations supporters that holding the government responsible for slavery will correct the past.

contention 2 reparations isn"t the solution to the problems african americans face today Hawkins, John. "John Hawkins - 5 Reasons Reparations For Slavery Are A Bad Idea." N.p., 26 July 2014. Web. 04 Sept. 2015.
Just giving people money seldom helps to fix their problem. That"s why America"s "war on poverty" has been an utter and complete failure. After doling out more than 21 trillion dollars over the last 50 years, we"ve done nothing to reduce the poverty rate.
Shortly after the War on Poverty got rolling (1967), about 27% of Americans lived in poverty. In 2012, the last year for which data is available, the number was about 29%."
In fact, it"s entirely possible that the poverty rate would be LOWER today if there had never been a "war on poverty." You can see this same dynamic with aid to Africa. After handing out more than a trillion dollars, much of the continent has gone BACKWARDS over the last 10-15 years. Even winning the lottery doesn"t tend to make a generational impact.
A paper by economists Hoyt Bleakley and Joseph Ferrie traced the results of the Georgia land lottery down the generations. They found that, "one generation after the distribution of the Georgia land, sons of winners have no better adult outcomes (wealth, income, literacy) than the sons of non-winners, and winners" grandchildren do not have higher literacy or school attendance than non-winners" grandchildren."
Of course, that doesn"t mean we shouldn"t do anything. No American should have to live in an area where he"s afraid to let his children play in the yard because drug dealers sell openly on the corner. Terrible inner city schools disproportionately impact black Americans. That"s why school vouchers and charter schools disproportionately benefit them. Slashing tax rates in depressed areas down to almost nothing would encourage businesses to move in and would help black entrepreneurs. Micro-loans could help aspiring small business owners to get on their feet. Helping black Americans to help themselves would do more to create success and prosperity than any giveaway program ever could.

contention 3
It is unjust to hold current citizens financially accountable to debts which aren"t theirs. DAT
Thompson, Janna. "Memory and the Ethics of Reparation." Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Melbourne University. October 2005. Web.
Some supporters of black reparations insist that the US Government ought to be regarded as a person in its own right: an agent that persists through time and the generations, incurring debts and responsibilities which, as a moral person, it is bound to discharge. Nations are expected to keep the treaties that they have made, even when this requires sacrifices from people who were not alive or were children when the treaty was approved and signed. Nations are expected to pay reparations even though some of the sacrifice will be borne by taxpayers who had nothing to do with the wrong. Corlett thinks that so long as citizens support the political institutions that they have inherited from the past they are liable for their government"s past debts.7 But a political practice of requiring present citizens to honour past agreements or past debts needs a moral justification. The government is supposed to represent the people, and the problem remains of justifying the imposition of moral debts on citizens who were unborn when the wrongs occurred. There is in fact a robust tradition in American thought, and indeed in liberal thought in general, that holds that a democratic nation of free individuals ought not to tolerate such impositions. According to Thomas Jefferson, "one generation is to another as one independent nation to another".

with all these reasons and many more i urge a con ballot in today"s debate thank you


Thank you for this debate and I look forward to hearing your arguments on the con side. I will be arguing that the Federal Government ought to pay reparations to the decedents of slaves.

Contention 1: We are in agreement here. Nothing done today will affect in anyway what was done in the past. The past is already settled and those whom were enslaved are long since dead. We can in no way do right by them.

Contention 2: While simply handing out money would be a bad idea for every reason you cited, it would also be bad for other reasons as well. I will not be making the argument that simply handing over sums of money is the right way to go.

William T. Sherman's Special Field Order No. 15, issued on Jan. 16, 1865 declared freedmen would be given 40 acres. Not only was this merely land he was ordering handed over, he was also setting up an all 'negro' government within those lands as well. The idea today would look something like the Native American reservations we have. While they would still be part of the US in some ways, they would simultaneously be autonomous too. This order was revoked by Andrew Johnson in 1867. It was not only revoked, but the land that had already been settled by 40,000 freedmen under order 15 was then confiscated from those blacks and reallocated to the whites who owned it before the civil war. Andrew Johnson stole that land and then handed it back to the very people that had declared war on the North to begin with.

With this in mind, I strongly feel as though the Federal Government ought to return land to the descendants of those freed slaves as reparations. Because giving out that exact land would harm people that were not alive during those times, I advocate for the release of Federal lands to be turned over to the descendants of slaves. This land would be like a reservation for those blacks. It should require that this reservation be governed by descendants and land rights should be restricted to those same bloodlines. Since it will be governed by descendants, they will set their own genealogical requirements though. This could mean that all blacks are welcome to occupy land and own or not own it. Or it could mean only certain bloodlines could occupy and own the land. One necessary restriction to this self governance would be that this new government could not allow emigration from outside the US to the new reservation.

Contention 3: This is a misguided approach to debt. We, as a Nation, have shared debts. We can no more forgive the debts of a prior generation than we can forgive our own personal debt. If we could, all we would need to do is declare that no one in the newest generation is responsible for the National Debt because they were not alive when it was accrued. Then we simply wait until all prior generations are deceased and then we wipe out the national debt and start over. No, that is simply not how debt works on a National level. And make no mistake, we all owe a debt for the free or nearly free labor we received as a Nation on the backs of slaves. This debt can not be denied by anyone who claims any semblance of a moral character. So while it is true that I did not own any slaves and I did not directly benefit from their enslavement; it is also true that I inherited the debt owed to them. Much in the same way that I still owe part of the National debt that was incurred before I was born. This also includes all those whom emigrated after the slaves were freed. When you emigrate to a new Country you take the benefits and the debt onto yourself.

Furthermore, I believe that some monetary form of reparations must be given along with this land. This money and land would be a package deal. No one could refuse the land and retain their right to any money. The amount is a very complicated math problem though. I would argue that you would need to set an amount owed for the prior ill gotten labor and then reduce it for every subsequent generation. There are two distinct reasons for this reduction.
1. Every generation enjoyed more liberty and were more able to accumulate wealth than the prior enslaved generation. Because of that I feel there needs to be a reduction in the payment.
2. Assuming the slaves were paid and spent none of that money, when they died they would have been subject to estate taxation. So for every generation after the enslaved one, we would need to reduce the amount paid by the percent of estate tax of the time. You do run into some math problems here though. The Revenue Act of 1862 and the War Revenue Act of 1898 imposed an estate tax of sorts but bother were repealed not too long after they were passed. It wasn't until 1916 that we have a true estate tax.

I would not argue that simply handing money over is a good idea. I would argue that granting land with some money to establish that land is a good idea. Of course there will be some of the descendants that have a pretty good life now and would not be inclined to relocate and start over. After all, what they stand to lose by doing this can be vast. The rewards can be immense too though. But even with some (possibly many) refusing this land we would, as a Nation, finally have a real reparation to point to. This could even go so far as to assuage the guilt that seems to be pervasive with many Americans. We would finally have something to point to when others tell us that we are all manner of evil towards blacks.

I would want to see the land come from the current Federal land holdings. Ideally this would be many reservations and not one vast one. I would also propose the money to be paid out should come from the immediate end to foreign aid. We would need to end foreign aid until we accumulate enough money to pay this debt. I would also like to see a modest lump sum payment be made and then a monthly payment be made until the debt is no more. Something like 50% up front and 2% per month for the next 25 months. This would help to build the land and homes and ensure that for 2 years an economy can be built, aided by this financial buttressing.

Finally, I am making a distinction here for the rational behind the land and monetary reparations. I only argue that the labor was illicit and non-compensated and that we owe for their past wages with modest interest. I do not claim that we owe anything for ill-treatment or other such physical or emotional injuries. We can not set a precedent that every crime against ones bloodline is now grounds for payment. If we did, then far too many people would make such claims in an attempt to be granted payment. Furthermore, paying an descendant of one whom suffered physical or emotional maltreatment would also be an admission of guilt. That admission would be grounds for other legal actions seeking judicial restoration of bloodlines. Only the ill gotten labor must be admitted to and paid for.

Again, I thank you for your arguments and rebuttals. And happy Labor day.
Debate Round No. 1


chrisbrocker505 forfeited this round.


I will interpret my opponent's forfeiture as agreement with my rebuttals. I await the next round.
Debate Round No. 2


chrisbrocker505 forfeited this round.


Because my opponent has forfeited the last two rounds, I ask you to vote pro.
Thank you for your consideration.
Debate Round No. 3


chrisbrocker505 forfeited this round.


I guess this means that my argument was simply too much for my opponent.
Vote pro.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by KasiaLynne 2 years ago
People don't know who was descended from slaves. In fact whites were slaves before blacks were. How are we going to be able to tell who has ancestors that were slaves and who didn't?
Posted by chrisbrocker505 2 years ago
yeah I would be willing to narrow it to the decedents of slaves.
Posted by NotThatClever 2 years ago
Are you willing to allow me to narrow 'african american' to only those that we can link to slavery?
Posted by DuBbAcOnCaT 2 years ago
I can see there are no contenders due to the fact that there is completely no justification as to why the united states federal government ought to pay reparations to African Americans.
Posted by NotThatClever 2 years ago
I would like to take this on ; however, the term 'African American' is far too broad. If you allow me to narrow it to those whom we can directly link as descendants of slaves I would take it on.
Posted by Mister_Man 2 years ago
Try to call BrianTheLiberal over here, he might do this.
Posted by FrozenLichBox 2 years ago
You're going to have a tough time finding someone to argue with you about that. I'd do it just for the experience of debating for something you don't agree with, but I honestly can't think of a logical reason to give aid to those who don't suffer from a past system.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Full forfeit by Con, leaving all of Pro's arguments unanswered. Con's formating was so bad as to be distracting. Loss of conduct for the forfeits by Con.