There was a time reparations were actually paid – just not to formerly enslaved people, writes UConn Expert

There was a time reparations were actually paid – just not to formerly enslaved people, writes UConn Expert There was a time reparations were actually paid  – just not to formerly enslaved people, writes UConn Expert

February 26, 20212 min read
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With the topic of reparations under discussion and debate, Thomas Craemer -- an expert from the University of Connecticut -- had this to offer in a new essay for The Conversation:


The cost of slavery and its legacy of systemic racism to generations of Black Americans has been clear over the past year – seen in both the racial disparities of the pandemic and widespread protests over police brutality.

Yet whenever calls for reparations are made – as they are again now – opponents counter that it would be unfair to saddle a debt on those not personally responsible. In the words of then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on Juneteenth – the day Black Americans celebrate as marking emancipation – in 2019, “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea.”

As a professor of public policy who has studied reparations, I acknowledge that the figures involved are large – I conservatively estimate the losses from unpaid wages and lost inheritances to Black descendants of the enslaved at around US$20 trillion in 2021 dollars.

But what often gets forgotten by those who oppose reparations is that payouts for slavery have been made before – numerous times, in fact. And few at the time complained that it was unfair to saddle generations of people with a debt for which they were not personally responsible.

There is an important caveat in these cases of reparations though: The payments went to former slave owners and their descendants, not the enslaved or their legal heirs.



Dr. Craemer discusses such aspects as the “Haitian Independence Debt,” British ‘reparations,’ and paying for freedom. Dr. Craemer is an expert on slavery reparations, racial bias, and the psychology of racism, and he is available to speak with media – simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.



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  • Thomas Craemer, Ph.D.
    Thomas Craemer, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Public Policy

    Thomas Craemer is an expert on slavery reparations, racial bias and the psychology of racism.

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