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Should Reparations Be Paid to Native Americans and African Americans Term Paper

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Should Reparations be Paid to Native Americans and African Americans?

Today, there are approximately 3.4 million Native Americans and 40 million African Americans in the United States (U.S. people, 2019), and virtually all of these individuals have ancestors that unfairly suffered at the hands of the federal and state governments at some point in the nation’s history. The research topic of interest to this paper concerns the issue of reparations for certain American minority groups that have suffered hundreds of years of injustice at the hands of the U.S. government. In this regard, the research question that will guide this analysis is, “Should Native Americans and African Americans be paid reparations?” The overarching thesis that shaped the answer to this guiding research question as was follows: Historical injustices including genocide, oppression, slavery, and racial discrimination in the United States have caused current economic disparities between racial groups so the call for reparations is quite justified and the various arguments in support and against reparations are examined further below.

Review and Analysis

Type of historical injustices that have caused economic disparities between racial groups today

The historical record is replete with instances of genocide, oppression, slavery, forced relocations, invasions and racial discrimination that have adversely affected or ended the lives of tens of millions of people (Bradford, 2004). This has also been the case with the history of the United States where slavery of African Americans was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the subsequent Indian Removal Act of 1830 proclaimed in essence that “the only good ‘injun’ is a dead injun.’” While it is not possible to precisely calculate the human suffering that has been caused by these and other racially motivated laws and acts, it is possible to “make people whole” again through the payment of reparations. It is vitally important to point out, though, that making people whole through mere words such as those used by Australia’s annual “Sorry Day” whereupon the mainstream citizens seemingly apologize as a collective nation for the wrongs done to them by their ancestors, regardless of their views about the equity of all humankind at present. These types of initiatives, though, do not serve as a replacement for actual monetary compensation and may be regarded as a cheap substitute that holds not actual meaning for survivors today (Bradford, 2004).

While the depravities that were exacted upon millions of enslaved African Americans during the first two centuries of what would become the United States are also well documented, the United States undertook a mission to rid the continent of its indigenous population by whatever means necessary. For instance, according to Flavin, “The British army distributed smallpox-contaminated blankets to the Indians of Pennsylvania. Many people believe that Jeffery Amherst, a ‘lobster-backed general’ who once commanded the British military in colonial America, perpetrated a ‘genocide’ by ordering the distribution of smallpox [infected] blankets to Native Americans in 1763” (p. 2).

Against this backdrop, the case for implementing some type of reparations scheme represents a truly daunting ethical dilemma for 21st century policymakers as discussed further below.

The rationale in support of reparation payments

The arguments in support of reparations are based on the stark historical facts. People in the United States did in fact enslave millions of African Americans for decades, and the efforts to eradicate American Indians are well documented. The wrongs done to these two…

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…they are completely innocent of these activities and are only subject to the harms caused by the mainstream society for the country’s first centuries of existence. In sum, critics or reparations maintain that not only is the formula involved far too complex to make economic reparations a viable solution, anything short of making millionaires out of all of the blacks and Indians in this country will be insufficient given the enormity of the injustices these minority groups have suffered. This does not mean, however, that nothing can be done to address the historical inequities, but determining how best to compensate victims of ethnocentrism and racism is far too difficult to assign a dollar amount.


The research was consistent in showing that the historical record is peppered by numerous instances of genocide, oppression, slavery, forced relocations, invasions and racial discrimination that have ended or otherwise adversely affected the lives of countless people, most especially tens of millions of African Americans and American Indians. The interest of justice compel modern lawmakers to take these wrongdoings into account as the move forward as a nation of like-minded peoples. Indeed, it would be enormously difficult or even impossible to single out living descendants of those responsible for genocidal actions during the Indian Wars. Moreover, if reparations were paid to American Indians, it would leave the door wide open for descendents of Americans, most especially women that were kidnapped and held against their will as veritable slaves by various Native American tribes. In sum, reparations may sound like a great idea which is congruent with the fundamental tenets of restorative justice, but critics argue that the harsh reality is that it is simply impossible to develop a formula…

Sample Source(s) Used


Bradford, W. (2004). Beyond reparations: An American Indian theory of justice. Ohio State Law Journal.

Flavin, F. E. (2002, Winter). A pox on Amherst: Smallpox, Sir Jeffery, and a town named Amherst. Historical Journal of Massachusetts, 30(1), 1-5.

Forrester, K. (2019). Reparations, history and the origins of global justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Gilmore, B. & Adams, H. (2019). The case for a reparations clinic. Michigan State Law Review.

Howard-Hassmann, R. E. (2004). Reparations to Africa and the group of eminent persons. Cahiers d’étudesafricaines.

Lenzerini, F. (2007). Reparations for indigenous peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lockhart, P. (2019, June 19). The 2020 Democratic primary debate over reparations, explained. Vox. Retrieved from reparations-democrats-2020-inequality-warren-harris-castro.

Loewen, J. W. (1995). Lies my teacher told me. New York: The New Press.

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