Monday, April 1, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 120



The United States is slave to its past

Richard W. Whitrock

Slavery was and is one of the most despicable acts by one human towards another. To take away someone's God-given right to free
choice is a travesty that cannot even begin to be quantified. To put it into a catch phrase, you cannot put a price on any soul. At least,
most people thought you couldn't.

A $1.4 trillion lawsuit was filed Tuesday in New York against U.S. companies FleetBoston Financial Corporation, AETNA, Inc., CSX
and others believed to have profited from the slave trade by an individual claiming to represent all African-Americans. Apparently,
$1.4 trillion is the cost of African slaves.

This happens to be quite a bit more than the $0 that Jewish slaves are worth in Egypt, the $0 that Irish/ British/ Germanic/
insert-race-here slaves are worth to Romans and the $0 that any other slave anywhere else is worth now.

Not one single person living in America now owns slaves. The same can be said for most Americans' grandparents and
great-grandparents, and usually much farther back. By the same token, not one African-American is enslaved now, and not one has
been enslaved since 1865.

African-Americans are not the only race that has endured slavery. It would be a supreme challenge to find even one race that has
ever existed on this planet that has not at one point been subject to slavery. Where are this group's efforts to avenge them? Why are
Africans worth avenging, but no one else? Just the same, there is not one race that has existed on this planet that has not practiced
slavery, so how can they be so holier-than-thou? Why aren't they suing African companies, governments or persons that profited
from the slave trade?

This particular suit is not against the government, but against companies that were supposedly built with slave labor. Some of these
companies admit it. Others, like CSX Corp., didn't exist until 1980. Either way, the argument is that since these companies profited
from slave labor, all African-Americans alive today deserve a portion of that profit.

Does anyone else see just how absurdly ridiculous that is? First, $1.4 trillion didn't even exist back then. Taking the sum total of all
money that had ever existed in America up to that point still wouldn't equal $1.4 trillion.

Second, since when do employees have rights to the profits of the companies they work for? Profit sharing didn't even exist until the
20th century, and even now it is not exactly widespread. Now some would argue that because slaves weren't paid, this is just their
long-overdue paycheck. This is not quite true, because slaves were technically paid in food and lodging (not to say that the pay was
in any way comparable to the work performed).

Interestingly enough, the monetary payment received by people doing similar work paid for little more than food and lodging,
sometimes not even that. The point is, African-American slaves were not the only ones taken advantage of by corporate America in
those years.

Putting all that aside, however, there are very few people alive who would argue about making reparations to the actual slaves. Not
their descendants, who did not suffer slavery, but those who did. That, however, is not possible.

Even allowing that their descendants should be paid, the only people who should be paying out are the ones who owned slaves. Let
the people who committed the crime pay for it instead of forcing innocent people to give up what they have earned for something they
are not responsible for. This, too, is impossible.

The fact is, slavery was the single worst thing members of this country have ever participated in. It was wrong then, it is wrong now. It
is time for us to move on, grow and not be slaves to that dark past. Lawsuits like this one only stop that from happening and keep
America mired in slavery, finger-pointing and whining. Lawsuits like these exacerbate the aftereffects of slavery, such as racism and
discrimination. America cannot recover unless we learn from our mistakes and move on.

Whitrock, a freshman university 
studies student, can be reached at

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