Let Martin Luther King Jr. Explain Why Reparations Are Necessary

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

This video of Dr. Martin Luther King is an important and powerful one, primarily because it presents Dr. King as he was: A strong man, with common sense who also had a sincere love for black people. I become disgusted with the caricature or Dr. King that is fed to us through mass media, and I doubt that Dr. King would be comfortable with his image being used in McDonald’s commercials.

In this speech, Dr. King explains why he’s going to Washington to “get our check.” He explains that, despite the fact that black people have always paid taxes for the collective betterment of our society, most of that tax revenue is reallocated toward other communities. He talks about how black people were given almost nothing after slavery as whites were given millions of acres of free land out west.

In addition to free land, the government provided land grant colleges and experts to teach the people how to farm their land. Finally, many of the individuals receiving government subsidies are the first ones to ridicule black people for allegedly seeking handouts from the government.

As a Finance Professor, I love this video. It helps make the case that reparations aren’t just a polite idea, but a necessary step toward achieving economic equality. Most of the wealth in America is INHERITED WEALTH. This means that those millions of acres given away by the government 100 years ago are now worth billions, even trillions of dollars to people who are living in America RIGHT NOW.

The point here is that we can’t let misleading, unproductive political football between the Democrats and Republicans keep us from focusing on the core issue. The fact is that black people have always paid taxes like everyone else, and there is clear, undeniable proof that our tax dollars have been consistently used to help other people. Therefore, it only makes sense that when we speak to ANY politician (black, white or bi-racial) about addressing matters such as economic inequality, unemployment or a lack of access to capital, they are obligated to listen.

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