Re "Demanding Repayment for Slavery," July 6:
As a second-generation American whose ancestors were starving in Ireland, de facto slaves of British absentee landlords, at a time when Valena Conley's ancestors were slaves of American plantation owners, I heartily support her desire for reparations.
Of course, since my ancestors had nothing to do with her ancestors' enslavement, being enslaved themselves in Ireland at the time, it's hardly fair I be asked to help pay those reparations. Still, I'd be willing to kick in a share with one caveat: Let's make this a quit-claim, once and for all.
Let's pay off those who blame the history of 100 years ago for the difficulties they face in the present day, and then let's be done with it. Let's treat it like any legal settlement. Agree on an amount, say $10 billion or $20 billion or a $100 billion, whatever they want. But make it final. One last dip in the well of collective white guilt. And then, that's the end. No more apologies. No more excuses. No more social blackmail.
And when we're done, maybe you can help the British pay me.
* The article included comments from Walter Williams of George Mason University and Robert Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, that deserve to be responded to. Williams objects to reparations on "moral grounds." Slavery was a morally repugnant institution that stripped blacks of their knowledge of self and kind, but this doesn't outrage Williams. Where was the moral outrage of the ancestors of that poor white coal miner's son when Africans were brought to this country in chains against their will? Why did the ancestors of this kid in West Virginia not protest? Instead, they went along with this institution, benefiting from the privileges of white supremacy. The masses of our people today still suffer from the effects of the period.
Woodson gets his reparations annually from conservative political action committees. Black people in America have been the hardest worked, the lowest paid and the most maligned people in this country. Williams and Woodson, if you do not want any reparations, then don't accept them. There is no such thing as a 200-year mugging, Mr. Woodson. A mugging lasts a short while and it is over; its victims leave with their language, history and culture. Slavery was no mugging, and I find that comparison highly offensive. Slavery was a total assassination of the essence of black people. Until black people re-educate themselves to their pre-slavery, pre-colonial African selves, we will continue to languish in the morass of so-called Western civilization.
REGINALD J. GUILLARY
* I, too, would like reparations because many of my ancestors died in the Civil War fighting to free the slaves. My family were Kansas farmers and I blame no one for being poor. My mother used to cut up inner tubes for elastic for my brothers' pants that she made by hand. We all worked hard and we were never on welfare, even though there were 12 in the family. Reparations indeed! Our whole family worked the fields. When we moved farther west, we all picked berries, beans, and did whatever we could to survive. So, because my family was poor and because my ancestors fought and died to free the slaves, I want to be paid for that!