I think this is easily one of the more interesting legal conversations and certainly, at first glance, the most obvious.
Are African Americans due reparations?
However, after careful though (and ignoring ignoring Italian television) I was forced to consider a pratical approach to repairing one of our nation’s greatest blemishes.
A grand, top-heavy settlement with seemingly 100% of the African American population simply seemed intangible in today’s political climate. It’s a practical impossibility that’d you’d have a government agency proactively open itself to reparations. So you won’t see any “new” legislation around it; regardless of the continued efforts of Congressman John Conyers (NY).
There are simply not enough votes and certainly too much conservatism to pay any real attention to the “past” in that way. The government isn’t designed for “favors”.
Though it is designed to respond to formal legal claims.
If (and I mean a big IF) some portion of the American population was interested in reparations there is a framework to persue.
Since slavery wasn’t illegal for a significant period of time, you’d need to seek formal damages for acts occurring after abolition – allowing some buffer for the nation to “learn how to pay ex-slaves”. The term reasonable is used frequently in law and it typically assumes even with a duty of care, a defendant gets a reasonable amount of time to correct actions. I believe expecting anything else would be ill advised by any counsel.
Given that buffer, you’d then build a timeline of bad behavior or “Disservice Period”. Damages having occurred during this time would then need to be tied to reckless and wanton conduct by a governing body, like a municipality or a surviving corporation with contractual ties to a municipality.
The thinking here is to challenge these entity’s willful and consistent maneuvering of the new laws of the time rather than acting to rectify in – you guessed it – a reasonable amount of time. Show how that maneuvering was designed to benefit the group in some way.
Now comes the fun part. You’d need to lose that case. Not purposefully of course. But it is highly unlikely, because of statutes oo limitation that you’d lost on first account. You’d need an appeal and to lose again in a higher court.
What you’re looking for is a precedent built on firm cause – serious, actionable and capricious cause. And trust me, that will take some time, there is definitely enough cause.
You could get heard on res ipsa loquitur alone given the evidence we see everyday. But ultimately you’d have to show clear damages, a direct violation of the constitution and an entity of some kind that directly performed both. A municipality (or corporation having ties to a municipality) would be an interesting start since they’re less agile and have public records on collusion.
Now again, here comes the hard part… you’d have to have to stomach to see it all the way through to the supreme court… like 4 or 5 years battles worth of stomach. It would indeed get ugly. It would indeed be polarizing. It would indeed, formally, divide the country.
Then you’re on your way to getting Justice Roberts to issue this statement…
“Any surviving entity having directly benefitted from violations of the rights of freed men (as set forth in our constitution) must not be allowed to singly benefit from those violations and instead must produce just remunerations to those directly affected. It is not this court’s purpose or intention to bankrupt these entities but to provide the platform to set right these obvious inflictions.”
Justice Roberts of course hasn’t issued this statement but he does have a healthy legal appetite that, on several occasions, has angered both parties. Good for us, bad for convention.
Moderate compensation terms are sufficient. You don’t want to scare the courts into throwing out your case prima fascia. Precedent alone will provide the volume required for collective wins spread across several actions and several years. You want to open narrow doors – only suitable for proven damages – for a steady flow to undebatable restoration.
Funny though, Colin Powell gave practically, the most pointed comment on these types of set backs.
It sounded a bit glib at first but honestly there’s nothing like simply out-performing EVERYone around you and achieving in the face of the obstacles in front of us. We hold the keys to judging what success and failure are in our own communities.
Then we rally those spoils. Rinse & repeat. I think we’re closer to another Black Wall Street than we think.
We’ve definitely got some groundwork to lay but the legal instruments above are certainly at our disposal.
This should be interesting.