(Todd A. Smith)

I think I have finally figured out why so many on the right like Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis consistently make a fuss over made up nonsense like critical race theory, which is a law school elective, and obsess over this “woke” nonsense that they have totally taken out of context.

The reason that so many conservative, specifically White conservatives, want accurate American history removed from classrooms and libraries is because history shows if the American people hear the horrific stories that our ancestors had to deal with well into the 1950s and 1960s, America would have to reckon with its past and make amends like it did for our Japanese American brothers and sisters who received reparations after their own country forced them out of their homes and into internment camps during World War II.

The Associated Press reported, “Some advocates said the idea of reparations for the World War II incarceration camps was once considered outlandish. But many young, third-generation Japanese Americans were inspired to mobilize from civil rights and ethnic pride movements, including the Black Panther Party and the Brown Berets, who promoted Chicano rights.

“Some advocates were outraged by—and threatened to boycott—hearings set up by a 1980 federal commission of Japanese internment, [calling] it a delaying tactic. But the testimonies that came out of public hearings the following year served as a turning point.”

Many people today do not believe African-Americans deserve reparations for slavery, convict leasing or other forms of oppression.

But many Americans did not favor reparations for Japanese Americans until they began hearing those aforementioned horror stories.

Miya Iwataki, who served with the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations, said, “There was not a dry eye in the house at those hearings.”

Those stories changed the way Americans viewed reparations in the 1980s.

Therefore, it is possible that Americans will sing a different tune when they begin learning the truth about how African-Americans built this country, built generational wealth for White families and made millions and billions of dollars for Fortune 500 companies that used convict leasing (forced labor) to fatten their coffers for free.

When I discuss reparations with some of my Hispanic and White friends, the conversation always ends with them rethinking their views on race, reparations and American history.

Although I cannot say that addressing those issues with them has totally changed their minds, I can say that they are not as adamantly opposed to descendants of African-American slaves receiving reparations.

Furthermore, my friends initially opposing reparations does not make them bad people, bigots or racists by any stretch of the imagination.

However, I think many people (me included) have so much more to learn about this country’s actual history that we cannot fully express a well-informed opinion on the hot-buttons issues that seem to divide Americans.

Many people think that White people, as a collective, have much more wealth than their African-American counterparts because they simply work harder than us.

While the argument that African-Americans need to work hard is rooted in prejudice, bigotry and racism, it is more rooted in their ignorance.

The definition of ignorance is the lack of knowledge.

Therefore, all people are ignorant to a degree.

So, calling them ignorant is not an insult.

People just do not know what they do not know.

But as a history buff, I take the time to educate them on all the “reparations” that White Americans have gotten throughout the centuries and continue to get.

When slavery supposedly ended on June 19, 1865, former White slaveowners received reparations to ease their transition into having to pay their workers.

However, at the same time, the former slaves who built this country and many of its esteemed institutions for free had to make a life for themselves and their families out of nothing.

Meanwhile, when European immigrants immigrated to this country, the government gave them acres upon acres of land out West for free.

Therefore, those are two times that White Americans got reparations (or at least handouts we can call them) from the American government.

Furthermore, many White people receive “reparations” regularly to this day because of housing discrimination against African-Americans.

Often, homes owned by African-Americans are under-appraised by tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When those African-American homeowners have their White friends pose as the owners, suddenly the value goes up by tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The same home, in the same condition and in the same area loses value or gains value because of the color of the homeowner.

Therefore, African-Americans are cheated out of generational wealth and White people are given generational wealth because of the color of their skin.

That is a form of reparations for White people in my opinion.

Additionally, when many African-Americans pulled themselves up from their bootstraps and started doing better than their White counterparts by the turn of the 20th century like the people of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Okla., many of their White neighbors took offense and destroyed those affluent and vibrant communities.

Often, White people would just steal land they wanted from African-Americans, consistently meaning African-Americans had to start over from scratch in their quest to achieve the American dream.

But those African-American who were not fortunate enough to build a life for themselves often found themselves incarcerated for made up crimes like not having a job without the White man’s permission.

A judge would convict those African-Americans of a “crime,” assess a fine and when the “criminal” could not pay the fine, a White plantation owner or business owner would pay the fine, and “allow” the “criminal” to work off the fine.

However, for some reason, those African-American convicts would accumulate interest on their debts and never pay it off, making them a slave to the plantation or the company for years or even for life.

That form of slavery (known as convict leasing) lasted well into the 1950s.

Many of those victims might still be alive.

Additionally, a few survivors of the Black Wall Street Massacre are still with us, negating the argument that some have against reparations, saying the victims are all deceased.

But the deceased argument carries no weight because if White families still enjoy generational wealth that they received by stealing property or enslaving my ancestors, then that wealth should be transferred to its rightful owners.

At the minimum, Fortune 500 companies and Ivy League schools that became household names because of their reliance on African-American slaves owe African-American owned businesses and Historically Black Colleges and Universities a lot of their wealth because my ancestors got them that wealth, not their ingenuity or work ethic.

To those who say this generation should not pay for the sins of their ancestors, I say where was that argument when Japanese Americans got reparations during President Ronald Reagan’s administration?

My mother and father were not yet born when Japanese Americans endured the horrors of the internment camps.

Yet, their tax dollars went to pay reparations in the late 1980s, after they had already spent 20 years in the workforce.

However, many people do not know these realities because many on the right want a romanticized teaching of American history.

That is so because if the true sins of this country were ever taught, a self-described Christian nation would have to repent for those transgressions.

And America is still not ready to repent for its their sins.

Todd A. Smith
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