Restitution is a legal word to describe repayment of damages. These damages can be both criminal and civil, which means restitution can become quite expensive even for a small crime. But you’ve probably heard of the debate revolving around reparations for slavery, a practice which ended around the same time of the Civil War. Is there a strong case?
Say an assault perpetrator punched you in the face, and the resulting injury was great enough to land you in urgent care. Although the injury is relatively inexpensive to treat with insurance, you can also ask for restitution in the form of pain and suffering — it’s impossible to put a dollar amount on this facet of the case, which means it will ultimately be up to the prosecutor or even the judge overseeing the case as to whether or not you receive the funds.
However, let’s say you have no insurance. Suddenly your injuries are much more expensive. You could seek restitution for the full amount even when Obamacare’s insurance mandate was in place. Meaning even if you broke the law by going without insurance, you can still ask of the perpetrator for whatever you were forced to pay.
How does this compare when offered into the debate of slavery reparations? Obviously no one who was enslaved by our ancestors is still alive.
But good lawyers can still prove that the racism, prejudice, indentured servitude, and maybe even epigenetic factors will continue to keep African American citizens whose forefathers were slaves at the lowest rung of society. The key is determining who is most at fault — our ancestors who inspired in many of us these racial prejudices, the Caucasian majority that continues to in one way or another subjugate the African American minority, or the African Americans who have failed to find a way to wiggle out from the marginalized lives they lead?
Based on the aforementioned examples of restitution, African Americans are not at fault — even in spite of mistakes they may have made in the day to day living of their lives — as long as the Caucasian majority continues to treat them as second-class citizens through blatant discrimination.
Part of the problem is that the United States government promised reparations to former slaves when the practice of slavery was abolished, and then went back on that promise when Lincoln was assassinated. This is why the argument of Black restitution is so persuasive. It’s more an argument about following through on what was promised than simply providing reparations, and the case is a strong one.