The Denver Post op/ed
Sept. 18, 2001, p. 8B.
It is hard to remember that just before last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the hot talk-show topic was whether descendants of American slaves were entitled to reparations.
The Rev. Jessee Jackson had joined the growing chorus in favor of such a program and news and talk shows across America were focused on whether such payments were a good idea. Last week's events have put that and a lot of other issues on the political back burners for now, but before the issue of reparations disappears from the public's radar screen, a couple of points need to be made.
We agree with, and wish to emphasize, some points made earlier by President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
Rice correctly labels slavery as "America's birth defect," but went on to say that the nation must today choose between focusing on the past and looking toward the future."
"I would hope," she said, "that we would spend our time thinking about how to educate black children, particularly black children who are caught in poverty." Rice also pointed out that it makes more sense to focus concerns about the effects of slavery on those areas of the world, including the Sudan, where slavery is still being practiced.
Rice and a number of other prominent black leaders have opposed reparations because such payments would effectively consign African-Americans to permanent second-class status. As one put it, "Payment of reparations would be like saying, 'Here's your money, now don't bother us again.'"
Americans, we believe, are committed to full and equal black participation in the American experiment. A program of race-based reparations is fundamentally incompatible with that goal and for that reason, if for no other, should be rejected.
William A. Spriggs
September 18th, 2002
There is something special about my country America. It is proud and arrogant; it stands before the world as a mighty representative symbol of the best of the best, noble and good, just and fair; provider of vast opportunities to masses yearning to be free. This noble representation may be true in most cases of its domain, but it in regards to the subject of slave reparations; The Denver Post editorial seems to be that part of my America that wishes to ignore a serious defect at the very core of its cognitive process. I am talking about America's refusal to neither acknowledge nor engage in any honest debate concerning its role in slavery at the beginning of its founding, and the resulting attitudes it has towards its black African descendants. This is somewhat puzzling because America, along with other nations, has taken part in some reparations to other distinct minorities. Here is a short list of recent developments:
1. Germany paid reparations to Israel for the crimes of the Nazi Holocaust. In fact, the creation of Israel is considered "repayment" for the centuries of suffering brought on by persecutions and dispossessions.
2. After 50 years of similar denial as the United States, Japan finally apologized for its wartime atrocities. But with a similar stance of denial because of it being the dominate culture, it still refuses to make reparations.
3. Speaking of the Japanese, the USA has apologized and given restitution to Japanese Americans for internment during the Second World War.
4. In 1995, the Queen of England signed a compensation act that required New Zealand to compensate the Maori people for lands seized by British settlers in 1863. She apologized for the crime and recognized a long-standing grievance of the Maori people.
5. In February of 1992 Pope John Paul II visited the slave dungeons of Goree in Senegal and begged forgiveness from the highest authority: "From this African sanctuary of black pain, we implore forgiveness from Heaven." (African Reparations Movement (African Reparations Movement)
Before I respond further to The Denver Post editorial of September 18, 2001, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: since being born in this country in 1945, I have enjoyed much that this country has had to offer to me and my family. I understand, without the slightest hesitation, that others in the world have much less opportunity and resources available in which to draw upon to improve their lives and set the course for their future; this truly is the greatest country on the face of the planet. I just feel that we have only begun to travel the path to greatness and that our greatest glories are before us -- we just have to set a few things straight. Of the criticism that I write below, remember this: the separation of dominates and submissives that I write about in this essay are part of all societies that have developed governments. Political governments merely reflect the dominate whole of populations that support them, therefore, any criticism that I argue is targeted at group living that evolves into political action.
As I reflect upon America's "success" and my own story, I can not escape the undeniable sense that things could have been vastly enhanced for myself, and ultimately for my family, were it not for an underlining 'poison' of consciousness, a sort of plausible deniability, that seems to run through America's social fabric, then and now, that failed to see strong analytical talents in my youth that just now seem to be expressing themselves. I ask myself, when thinking about others in my similar circumstance, how many great dreams, careers, inventions, and philosophies have been prevented from taking shape and lie dormant in frustrated souls that could not find fulfillment? In a society that prides itself on the sanctity of the family and "family values," how many slave children had to die and "families" separated and destroyed in order to advance the resources of a select few? Despite the persistent myth that success in America is only possible with strong-willed self-determination, there is strong empirical evidence that certain groups of people in our country have many more advantages working in their favor then others, hence, making "success" a breeze for these groups, while other groups have to work several times harder to succeed to the same level. I see the problem that we face today concerning slave reparations and other issues as the denial of those who occupy elevated positions in our society refusing to acknowledge that they not only enjoy those advantages, but continue to encourage and practice mechanisms that stimulate and perpetuate them -- and why not? It's good to be in control (Or, as Mel Brooks, the comedian, tell us: "It's good to be the King" -- meaning that one who has total freedom to do, not only, whatever they choose, but whenever, and at any time and place they choose, have all the advantages that this freedom returns to the individual). One can make a strong argument that this is only part of human nature. Yes, that is true, but it also can be argued that such behavior is part of our evolved past, and not part of the new future that lies before us in national cognitive thought.
Social psychologists have a name for this group behavior, it is called SDO, Social Dominance Orientation; (Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy & Oppression) and the glue that holds this overview orientation across the majority population is call generalized entnocentrism. Generalized enthnocentrism is the mechanism of identifying one's group as the dominate "in" group and creating mechanisms to encourage growth of that group's continued advantages, while encouraging the denigration of "out" groups, including those of different race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexual orientation, caste, lineage, and tribe.
As I look back on my youth, I seem to have been aware of this mechanism within my local environment as to what this scientific study was arguing about, but in the 1950s, I had no way to identify it, to label it, nor, had the foggiest idea of what to do about it. Today, when I look back with the knowledge I now process, I can not escape strong feelings -- because of no fault of my own -- of being rejected; shunned; cast aside like some out-dated piece of garment in an affluent society considering last year's fashion. I am left with questions that linger from my past and, until just recently, have haunted my present state of being; they need to be addressed and a sense of closure given to my questioning. But, I also want debate and further study on this subject, not just for me to reach answers long unanswered -- it's too late to benefit me in any direct way -- but for all other children being born on the planet today in similar circumstances. Looking back, I can now understand that my Italian-American genetic heritage, which manifests itself outwardly to those I meet as a short man (by today's standards) of 5'6" height, stocky muscularity (endomorphic mesomorph body type) and facial features that obviously are not western or central European in origin; these phenotypes have closed doors of opportunities to my person, intentional or unintentional, that contributed enormously to how I view myself and how others, at all levels, view me today. I do not entertain, for one moment, anyone’s argument that I have not tried hard enough, and that any failures that I have visited are entirely my fault.
My father was born a second generation Italian-American, my mother a second generation Polish-American; both were children of the Eastern European and Southern Mediterranean Catholic migrations that flooded America in the early to mid-20th century. They both grew up in the Depression era of grinding poverty; my mother in the coal regions of Pennsylvania, and my father in the town in which he was born: Millburn, New Jersey. My father legally changed his surname [a behavior I have labeled Origin Denial, Resource Realignment] in 1933 from Speranza to Spriggs -- he first told me it was because the teachers had difficultly in pronouncing his Italian name -- then, after he was retired in the 1970s, he changed his story (admitted) that it was because he wanted to become a businessman and thought it would help if he assimilated. Despite limited job opportunities, and struggling with various jobs, my father found a house to rent, which later my parents would purchase, and they settled down to raise my two sisters and me in an awkward attempt to emulate the growing and thriving American way of life that surrounded them. I say awkward because despite our poverty, my father used to deposit and pick up my mother every Sunday morning at the front door of the Catholic St. Rosa Lima's Catholic church for services -- just like the wealthy folks -- in his own limousine-like 1950 Packard which he used as his flag ship in his three-automobiled "Spriggs Auto-Livery" service. It was not quite a real taxi service because the town fathers refused to give him a taxi-license stating that the small town already had a taxi service. However, my father quickly realized that there were no restrictions on what his auto-livery service could deliver -- and that included the delivery of humans, which my father already realized was the best meal ticket in town; he immediately began to push the edge of the envelope and began carrying human "delivery items." The town fathers were so embarrassed that an Italian-American out smarted their restrictions that they just ignored the problem -- or perhaps, they left him alone after he began hauling specific human cargo that was useful to the dominate culture's elders.
My father became successful in the business of "delivering" black maids who lived in the black ghetto section of Newark, some ten miles to the East, and arrived in Millburn via the Erie Lackawanna rail line and needed a ride to their wealthy white employers up on the hill. In the train station across the street was the only taxi service that was "protected" by the town fathers (owned by a white male, by the way) and had first access to the maids as they exited the station trough a long tunnel. But since my father treated all the black maids with such great dignity and respect -- especially telling the one's with the large full-bodied figures to take their time in entering and exiting the Packard. He also took occasional book" on an occasional horse race and selling British Sweepstake tickets [these were the days before lottery tickets and power ball games] thus providing a sort of traveling betting parlor, all devises used by the poor to keep hope alive that there was a better life out there. It was, I believe, these little things that made the maids walk the extra 500 feet to my father's "taxi" stand across a heavily trafficked street, and it was not long before he soon captured the entire market share of this important commodity so vital to the dominate culture of our community.
In the 1950s, Millburn New Jersey was a perfect Norman Rockwell type town where the rich white folks lived upon the top of the hill in grand homes of indescribable elegance; the poor workers lived down at the bottom and did the manual labor that revolved around their existence. On my return to the region in the late 1990s, I could see nothing on the surface that would indicate that anything had changed. Through the middle of the township, running east and west, the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, once proud hauler of commerce, was reduced to transporting white affluent males to the city of New York in the morning rush and back again at night into the arms of the beautifully dressed and highly coiffured women who sat waiting in their Ford and Chevy station wagons. The rich folk took such special pride in themselves, their homes, their children, and their environment that they even managed to influence the then politically-influenced Post Office into giving them their own zip code -- Short Hills -- despite their small area. In order to preserve the "bucolic" British country charm and real estate values of their local environment, they insisted that no concrete sidewalks would line their country lanes and access ways; it seems that stop signs would pop up at intersections only when the inconvenience of someone's death occurred, and then, only as an afterthought.
I suppose, in some ways, my father's "success" was made possible by open and hostile discrimination of all black males persistent at that time in our small village. It seems that when the black husbands of the maids attempted to drive their wives to work, (many could not find jobs for themselves), the males were always stopped in the affluent neighborhood by the town's ever vigilant police force. The police then escorted the lone black male drivers to the city limits, thus, making sure that they would leave. In the late 1950s, the word "profiling" did not exist in America's lexicon -- as this was standard operating procedure to consider a black man in a wealthy white neighborhood as something that was "just not natural" and one could assume that the black male was "up to no good" by his mere presence. I recall newspaper articles from The Newark Star-Ledger dated in the late 1950's and early 1960s accompanied with photos of black male faces that started with the first sentence of the newspaper article telling us something like this: "John Smith, a negro, was held on suspicion..." on this or that violation of the law. But even in my youth I wondered why a similar newspaper article on another "John Smith" that was accompanied by a white man's face never had a coma and "a white" racial identification tag after his name. There was something in the air -- something not quite right -- total and complete -- that one could not escape breathing that affected all of us.
But, as I mentioned above, that was before science looked very closely at societies and how we humans behave in those specific environments. I am sure that you do not want to read my rants and possible unsubstantiated hunches -- after all, I'm just a "disgruntled" submissive/subordinate; you want science -- you want facts before you are study further, debate, or be moved to action. Social psychologists, such as (Sidanius & Pratto, Social Dominance, 1999), have us taught us that this form of stereotype labeling is a form of enthnocentric ingroup/outgroup identification cognitive processing; It is a complex variety of discrimination by groups of individuals who are labeled as such by the dominate ingroup. The "tagging" in the newspaper and the police profiling that I mentioned above and the police "profiling" are two forms of stereotype categorizing and "targeting" submissive/subordinate males to achieve a form of separation. This particular culling of the minority male is what they call SMTH -- Subordinate Male Target Hypothesis. All one has to do is look at the incarceration interments in America's prisons to see the obvious (Cole, No equal justice, 2000). Theories concerning the evolutionary origins of the process are still in their infancy, but structured hunches lean toward their being Alpha male alliances with assistance from Beta males (law enforcement agencies controlled by dominates) targeting the submissive/subordinate males away from resources necessary to attract females, and thus reproducing. There are no doubts, in the biological evolutionary sciences, that the human male with the most resources gets picked more often then not in the mate selection process, (Buss, The evolution of desire, 1994) and that the accumulation of economic resources in our modern world looks pretty good to the average female of today when choosing her mate in her innate quest required for doing the best for her future children.
Way before evolutionary psychology came on the scene, Marx and Engels (for political reasons, not biological) made the argument that the exploitations of the masses by the rich were caused by economic surpluses (hence, their misguided belief that taking money from the rich and giving to the poor was the solution to such conflicts). Once again, in 1984, social scientist (Lenski, Power & Privilege: A theory of social stratification, 1984) found, in comparing hunter-gatherer societies with modern advanced societies, evidence generally supporting the idea that the ability to create economic surpluses was equated with social inequality.
And that appears to be the apex point of view from the social scientists behind all of our social conflicts: that the evaluation, accumulation, and retention of economic surpluses (which in biology are called resources) can be found at the foot of racial, sexual, gender, and ethnic discrimination; it's about the resources, people. From a biological point of view, I have a small problem with the argument: Economic surpluses only began to appear in our human history when our ancestors began to domesticate animals and agriculture around 10,000 years ago; they stopped roaming and preferred the "permanency" of one, or just two locations in their local environments by creating central camps and villages and small cities. But, currently science is in agreement that the last biological change in our human brains "exploded" (increased) somewhere around 50,000 years ago (Zimmer, C., Evolution: The triumph of an idea, 2001 p.302) and (Klein, R.G.,The human career: Human biological & cultural origins, 1999).
That means that the biological structure to evaluate, accumulate, and retain resources must have been part of the architecture of our ancestors' brains well before these early agrarian farm communities began to be established. Having established this logic, the argument that then follows is that dominate groups will articulate something like this: that the modern accumulation of resources and the inequality between the various groups found in all societies on the planet is the "normal" function of the brain, and any resource inequalities found are the result of superior genes manifesting themselves over inferior genes. This mistaken, self-centered, selfish argument has been the mantelpiece of economic and conservative thought for over 250 years from Adam Smith down to Newt Gingrich.
If it's biologically set in stone, does that mean that "separation" of people by resource attachment has been the preferred path for Homo sapiens now and in future? Not by a long shot, pal. Science has some really bad news for all you who adhere to the "infectious greed" and "greed is good" philosophy: It's not how modern humans coexist on the planet today. 99.9% of humankind, at this very moment, is not engaged in a violent struggle to the death for resources, and thus, there is also a very strong argument that something else is guiding our modern behavior that is imbedded in our brain's architecture. Although, many in the evolutionary community have argued successfully that our brain's architecture was originally designed for the hunter-gatherer tribe size and not for mass existence that we now find ourselves living in -- hence this feeling of alienation that many individuals feel today in society -- there is also new research going on that basically says that we humans are a cooperative bunch, but that we are struggling with how to do this cooperation with the groups we find ourselves living in. I strongly suggest reading Randolph Neese's new book, Evolution and the capacity for commitment.
What we really could be dealing with is the human capacity at recognizing the hierarchical position of others and ourselves in our local environment and the cost/benefit evaluations that are going on in our brains are closely linked to our ability to manufacture and engage various interpersonal strategies that evaluate, maintain, or avoid losing our position within the hierarchy that we find ourselves. And, this leads me to make a somewhat obvious observation: That we humans have not yet evolved into an open-armed, embracing species that can feel comfortable and safe with people outside of their own hierarchy. “We talk a good talk, but do not really walk the walk.
In locating and identifying the basic motivation behind these behaviors, it becomes clearer as to why the focus falls on resources as the pivot point in social hierarchical maneuvering. In the processes of separating and labeling people into groups ("our's" and "their's") and then controlling those groups by various social mechanisms the modern dominate human can have enormous impact on their own living conditions in the positive direction, while causing enormous impact in the negative sense for those who do not have resources. The large incarceration rate of minority males in relation to dominate males lends very strong support to the evolutionary hypothesis that sexual isolation of minority males is the most effective method in keeping them "from inseminating 'our' [property] women," or "If they have no resources, then they can't tempt or attract 'our' [property] females." Not only does the physical separation by incarceration work to keep resources away from submissive/subordinate males, there are copious amounts of data also showing similar patterns of resource distancing mechanisms against target males in employment applications, loan rejections at banks, the retail sector, housing markets, educational opportunities, and police enforcement practices. (See the citations below) But not only that, cross-cultural studies in various countries also find similar patterns between dominate males against submissive/subordinate males for various reason -- be it for skin color, ethnic origin, caste position, tribal origins, or religious affiliation in their own countries. This cross cultural bias lends very strongly to the possibility of universality of the mechanisms, which, once again leads us to the belief that the process may have had its beginnings in our lower mental biological history.
The large evidence of targeting submissive/subordinate males is wide spread indeed, but logic would also raise the question shouldn’t there be a similar targeting and culling against submissive/subordinate females? After all, aren't the females the ones that give birth to more outgroup populations??? Here, the evidence tends to indicate that yes, there is discrimination against the submissive/subordinate women, but the data also tells us that the distancing mechanisms are not as intense against the submissive/subordinate female as against the male (In particular the policing practices). What does show up in the statistics is the general cross-cultural discrimination against all women, which includes dominate group females as well. Science is not ready to declare that the universal practice in cross-cultural studies of discrimination against all women is biologically innate in males, but it has attempted to argue that it could be part of a larger mating strategy by males -- including the firestorm created in 2000 by (Thorhill & Palmer, A natural history of rape: Biological bases for sexual coercion) suggesting that rape may be included in the human males' innate mating mechanisms. I tend to disagree with the mating strategy argument and argue that male rape of the female is more part of the male's self-cognition in the use of dominance through strength to obtain his goals. Males rape other males at alarming rates in our American prisons system (Mezey & King, Male Victims of sexual assault, 2000), and (Scarce, M., Male on male rape: The hidden toll of stigma & shame, 1997). Also see, web site: No Escape Male Rape in U.S. Prisons - Case Histories. None of the citations suggest that this particular kind of rape is a mating strategy -- it's about dominance and control first, then sex.
I argue that the evolutionary mechanism behind the discrimination against all women goes something like this: In the Pleistocene era, when most our modern brain's architecture was established, women could not hunt when pregnant and nursing and required enormous effort to be protected from physical violence by outside forces; this protection was provided by the male whom she selected and who was committed to her during this birthing period. This then forced the necessity for the female to remain close to a base camp, so to speak, and this lead to the beginnings of the practice of division of labor by gender -- the males hunted far and wide, and the female gathered near by. But the division of labor did not truly manifest itself until after humankind became less mobile and become more sedentary 10,000 years ago. It also is important to note that the “lowly” female is responsible for over 75% of the nutrients in most modern hunter-gatherer tribes -- a point that was never quite "discovered" by anthropologists until just recently, see (Kelly, The foraging spectrum: Diversity in hunter-gatherer lifeways, 1995).
This vast timeline of nurturing the young evolved because our large brains are small at the time of birth allowing access through the birth canal, yet still requiring that intensive learning (nurture & culture) continue for at least an additional ten years in order to insure survival of the small child -- and that takes time and commitment by the both the male and female, but mostly, this falls as the responsibility of the female. This critical time of commitment and the delicate balance of resource allotments required to raise the child could easily be upset if support from the male is lacking. This failure to nurture the child to maturity by the female if resources, both physical and mental, are withheld has not gone, I feel, unnoticed by males in terms of hierarchical positioning and mating strategies.
Now, hold that thought and let's fast forward to our modern post 1960s political scene where the "liberal excessive behaviors" of sex outside marriages, drugs, race riots, and civil rights marches, and the feminist movement gave birth to affirmative action policies, abortions on demand, and welfare projects designed to help "lift up" submissive/subordinate outgroups from past discriminations. It is my strong belief that all these projects and ideologies were anathema to the dominate controlling groups, because it "appeared" that they were losing control of the submissive/subordinate groups that they once had complete and total control over. The conservatives then reorganized their efforts and convinced many southern male democrats to switch their political alliances to the Republican Party by playing the race and gender card and “re-labeling” the discriminations under the protective banner of objecting to “immoral” behavior because of Judo-Christian morality, or “reverse discrimination” done to whites (Whitaker, R., The new right papers, 1982).
This "southern" strategy helped to create a Republican majority in Congress that in the 1980s began to dismantle many liberal policies. One of the more important developments to come from this "switch" from liberal to conservative ideologies is, in my belief, the male dominate understanding of and controlling the reproductive choice freedoms of the female. Women can not give birth alone in our modern society; they need the support of family, friends, and a positive reproductive attitude within their community willing to help financially and emotionally. But, sometimes this reproductive gift that nature has given the female can become a burden if none of the above support mechanisms of family and friends are in place as is the case of many single submissive/subordinate females. This has, and had, caused an over reliance on welfare systems provided by the liberal political structures that grew out of the 1960s. It is my strong belief that nothing incenses dominate male conservatives more than the thought of a "free" submissive/subordinate female. (That hatred can even include Hillary Clinton, if all women are considered "inferior").
On the subject of controlling reproduction, no scientific advancement has had a greater impact on this process then contraception. It is a very recent development in the natural selection process and adds tremendous leverage for the female in deciding her own "free" course of action in her local environment. In today's society, take away that freedom of contraceptive choice, and you limit those freedoms, thus once again, reattaching the birth process to others for assistance; in our modern political world, that usually means being under the control of dominate males, whom overwhelmingly control the purse strings in our political world. If the female was free from the biological consequences of being "forced" into child-bearing -- i.e., arranged marriages or rape, she could, with diligent planning and self-determination, go her own path, thus limiting overall male access to females, and then further reducing a male's advantage in the mating strategy.
So, what has evolved politically is that conservatives are eager at every opportunity to take away the female's right of choice by controlling their reproductive choices -- mostly, by insisting that public funds not be used for abortions, and disguising this objection wrapped in a high moral reason -- such as the noble quest of caring about the rights of an unborn submissive/subordinate outgroup baby. However, if the quest for the sanctity of life were the paramount reasoning behind such behavior, then the dominate society should also reflect that it should not incarcerate, in prisons, so many lives, souls, and dreams in a vast wasteland of outgroup warehouses. The next logical mechanism in establishing control over the female would be to limit welfare policy funds that help support the young mother in raising the new submissive/subordinate child; attaching the receipt of public funds with requirements for training, and any employment requirements (usually in minimal income-producing jobs) that strain time and logistical movements -- all designed to frustrate and stall any births of the submissive/subordinate outgroups. All these "gatekeeper" roadblocks would then "send a message" to the submissives/subordinates from the dominate ingroups that if they become sexually active, monies that were once freely available from the "liberal" outgroups, would now be no longer available.
It now all seems to fall into place and make sense. When I first wrote the first version of this rebuttal/essay in the fall of 2001, I knew deep in my heart that the evolutionary creation of hierarchies and the accumulation of resources that began with the domestication of plants and animals around 10,000 years ago was the at the central core of all human discriminations. But at that time, I did not have the citations necessary to make a balanced rebuttal; I was writing mostly from emotion and structured hunches. Living in the present moment of our existence, we have no way of grasping the vast enormity of everyday events as they pass by our consciousness. We do the acts we do because we only have the reality that surrounds us in our local environments; we take in that reality, analyze that information, and act upon that incoming data the best way we can. In the case of discrimination, sometimes we rely too much on family and friends to give us answers about other human souls instead of even attempting to understand the things that separate us. Perhaps this reliance evolved from the need for speed in knowing whose one's potential enemy might have been; perhaps it was just easier; perhaps, there could also be a deep seated pleasure in seeing a submissive/subordinate go though discomfort knowing that you, as a dominate, were not in the same position. Sometimes, like in my case, with the path of academia not taken, the passage of close to fifty years “of hard knocks," and intense study in evolutionary psychology over the past eight years was necessary to grasp the significance of what transpired in my youth. I believe I now can understand, why in 1955, the white mother of a young friend that I was visiting, bent down on both her knees, faced the boy squarely face to face, placed both hands upon his shoulders, and then shook him vigorously three or four times to make sure he was paying attention, and said, "Don't you ever bring his kind into this house again" as I stood just a mere foot or two away. Needless to say, I lost a friend that day, but I also did not quite understand why.
With the passage of those years and studies, I believe I now can understand why I, and many others of my socioeconomic class, were segregated and placed in "slow" or remedial classes in high school. I believe I now can understand why our home room teacher where we started our daily trek through classes constantly derogated us by telling us that we were "stupid," "lazy," and would never amount to anything. I believe I now can understand why a science teacher, Mr. Forest, said in the first day of class in my senior year: "I'm not going to teach you anything this year because it would be a waste of my time and yours. Why should I? You're just going to leave this place, get a job, get married, and have babies." Back then, I pondered over the situation and concluded that the station in life where I found myself was my fault and that I had better redirect my efforts in order to save myself from the doom that this person in a position of trust predicted for us.
Fortunately, we are no longer in the Dark Ages of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement where lunch counters, water fountains, and bus seating were segregated by race. Yet, I can't seem to escape this conflict in my consciousness regarding a society that tells me that "all men are created equal," and that there is "equal justice under the law" while solid empirical evidence surrounds me in abundance that our great American society is no where near being equal in its distribution of opportunities and distribution of justice. With this massive set of data available on discrimination, I sometimes hesitate and then bristle at the suggestion by others that I should get over it and focus on the future instead of dwelling in the past because I know that something is just not right that needs to be corrected. But that is precisely the point of this essay; I am saying that we can't go forward into the future making the same mistake over and over again unless we acknowledge that there is a fundamental flaw in our cognitive process as a nation that is impacting the lives of many people in a negative way. We are a great nation, yet our self-denials most likely will prevent us from enjoying even greater deeds as the global village grows around us.
I believe that the place to start this “rebirthing” process is at the beginning in America's history where Ms. Rice's understates America's role in slavery as a "birth defect." This simple wave of the hand to brush over a fatal flaw at the foundation of America's birth is also part of what this essay wishes to bring to the surface: That refusing to acknowledge, or even be aware that the exploitation of slave labor at America's birth helped to create or perpetuate vast wealth for select dominate individual land owners and their inheriting families. Here's another stark truth that gets buried with this brush off: America would never have been able to form a centralized government if the Northern alliance had not agreed to the Southern alliance demands that slavery be continued in the newly formed country. Oh, there were arguments pro and con concerning slavery, but in the end, the acceptance that slavery held many advantages economically for the country won over the religious, ethical, and moral deliberations. I will say that the founding fathers did all they could to keep language concerning slavery out of the Constitution with their strong belief that someday slavery would end, but that did not stop some Southern forces to demand the following Constitution entry regarding fugitive slaves to be included:
Article IV Sec. 2
No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
The Denver Post editorial should be considered as a "polite" form of the gatekeeping process that I mentioned above. If the entnocentrist theory holds, then if one were to take the most negative interpretation of the editorial, one could see tht the dominate culture in America is telling us little folk at the bottom of the heap that we are lucky to have a life. That one's survival is the direct result of the efforts by an elite core of wealthy individuals who put capital in motion together to create even more wealth only through the efforts of their determination and genius -- and we little folk who they consider as their children had also be thankful for the job opportunities that they create. The editorial fails to mention that without of the efforts of slave labor at the time of America's birth, most likely the profits of agriculture that created that vast head start of wealth for select individuals would most likely be lying fallow in a field of tobacco, rice, sugar, or cotton in a vain attempt at profitability due to intense labor costs. (By the way, as a note to economics – I have yet to see any economic game theories based on Master & Slave behavioral strategies). In a similar vain, the editorial fails to mention that because of the efforts of labor in today's society, wealth would still be sitting in a bank vault somewhere growing mildew on it. No amounts of effort by capital will result in any creation of more wealth unless Labor moves it. The unacknowledged truth that exists in the world today is that Capital and labor TOGETHER create the all the wonders that you see before you in our great land and on the planet. Don't misinterpret my words; I do not believe for one second that the responsible editors of The Denver Post put these words in motion to harm or derogate anyone. I just strongly argue that they are not aware of the full range of biological and social forces at work. In the evolutionary timeline of Homo sapiens, our species are like newborn children crawling about their new environment.
But despite presenting new evidence in the field of evolutionary psychology to the debate on slave reparations, one can still make logical replies to opponents of any repayment plans that have been presented. In arguments refusing to consider slave reparations, one major point given is that the origin of African slavery began with the African's themselves taking slaves and dragging them to the western coastal demarcation cities where they would sell their own brethren to the slave traders. That is true. However, the other side of the coin is the simple truth that the "customer," who constantly seems to remind us that they are the moral and religious leaders of the world, could have simply refused to purchase them -- hence, deflating the "invisible hand of supply and demand." Another argument opponents of reparations use is that it would be "too difficult" to solve the "problem of how to distribute money" to all the relatives of past slaves. In reply, one must recall that since 1969, America has had 29 Nobel Prize winners in Economics who have won or shared the prize, placed men on the moon, sent robot probes to the outer limits of our galaxy, and, in addition, we have all witnessed the vast explosion of technological marvels that have enriched our society. The excuse that it is "too hard to figure out" seems obviously disengourgingly limp.
In all fairness, since reparations have already been paid to some American Jews and Japanese Americans, The Denver Post editorial should also be calling for the return of those reparations paid to those groups so as to demonstrate to all Americans who share in the equal participation of the American experiment that these groups should be saved from the disgrace of "permanent second-class citizenship."
The arrogance of refusing to enter serious debate concerning slave reparations sends the message to the world that our country is above international law. In some ways, this arrogance has contributed to the greatness of the United States and we cannot deny that we, as a nation, have done many great things. But standing alone like the rough and tough symbol of America's Western cowboy, standing alone on top of a hill, pounding one's chest over his victorious assent and ignoring all pleas for justice is a symbol that will not prevail in our new expanded role in the world after September 11, 2001. The issue of reparations will not fade from the radar screen because they represent a fatal flaw in American cultural thought (and once again, let me emphasis, across all cultures as well). The 'birth defect' that Ms. Rice talks about is really more of a clump of bad misinformation, stuck in negativity, that left unresolved, will only fester and continue to make this country a target for terrorists who envy our resources and successes we have achieved. Even without advances in the behavioral sciences to inform us of what is really unfolding within our societies, common sense tell us that these denials about reparations are really about money, greed, power, and the cowardice to acknowledge one's past errors. It is time for the leaders of this great country to face their obligations, be the “manly men” they say they are, and, at the very least, apologize.
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The above essay/editorial rebuttal is an update of the original I wrote last year in October of 2001. The first essay was primarily a venting of emotions; the major revision is due to the inclusion of many citations from social psychological studies. William A. Spriggs, September 18th, 2002. The original essay can be found at: Slave Reparations
Please note: the references below are only a partial list of the citations found in,
Social Dominace: An intergroup theory of social hierarchy and oppression
This book has contributed much to the scientific foundation of my arguments found in this, and the original essay written last year. I thought that I would share in the foundational wisdom started by Pratto & Sidanius' work.
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Yinger, J. (1996) Closed doors, opportunities lost: The continuing costs of housing discrimination.
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Copyright, Evolution's Voyage
& William aA Spriggs 1995 - 2011
Editorial, Copyright, The Denver Post, 2001. Permission to use has been requested.