After weeks of rioting, looting, and wanton attacks on whites, after weeks of tearing down statues of Confederates and Columbus, after months and years of hearing the lie that it is unsafe to be a black man or woman in the systemically racist USA, it’s time to admit that black nationalist Marcus Garvey was right. Blacks and whites just can’t get along. It’s time for Americans to look seriously at one answer to the racial injustice, real and imagined, that “peaceful protesters,” Black Lives Matter, and Antifa say must be rectified: not reparations, meaning a cash payment from those who never owned slaves to those who never were slaves (see Carl Horowitz’s refutation Slavery Reparations: Revival of a Bad Idea [PDF]) but restitution—offering blacks the chance to return, at taxpayer expense, to their ancestral homelands in Africa…which is in fact what black separatist Garvey advocated.
But the fact remains that impressions are real. Many blacks really do think they should fear police and other government agencies. We must accept this. Denying it, or explaining why blacks have nothing to fear, is pointless.
A historical analogy: Blacks’ fears and resentments are reminiscent of those among Sudeten-Germans in the Czechoslovak Republic before World War II. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled in 1918, the German-speaking people of Bohemia, later called Sudetenland, suddenly found themselves under Czech rule. Most non-German observers thought the country was a bastion of democracy in Central Europe. But the Sudeten-Germans, like American blacks, did not perceive the state in which they lived as democratic or even fair.
It is a hard thing to be ruled by an alien race; and I have been left with the impression that Czechoslovak rule in the Sudeten areas for the last twenty years, though not actually oppressive and certainly not ‘terroristic,’ has been marked by tactlessness, lack of understanding, petty intolerance and discrimination, to a point where the resentment of the German population was inevitably moving in the direction of revolt.
[House of Lords Hansard, October 4, 1938]
Like the Sudeten-Germans, American blacks are “moving in the direction of revolt.” They have been ruled by an “alien race” much more alien than the Czechs were to the Germans, the period of rule has been 400 long years, mostly in slavery.
Runciman wisely suggested that the Sudeten-German areas be ceded to Germany for the good of both nations. His mistake was thinking that Adolf Hitler was an honest broker and would maintain the deal struck at Munich, but that aside, Runciman’s proposal was a form of restitution; i.e., giving the Sudeten-Germans some form of justice, however imperfect it might have been.
That is what I propose for American blacks.
a: a restoration of something to its rightful owner
b: a making good of or giving an equivalent for some injury
2: a legal action serving to cause restoration of a previous state
Restoring a “previous state,” returning blacks to the state before the wrong was done, is the restitution the U.S. should offer to repair the damage done by slavery.
This is not a new idea.
Marcus Garvey, in my opinion the greatest black leader in modern history, created the Universal Negro Improvement Association to just that end. His group purchased steamships to return blacks to their motherland.
Unhappily, the era’s Cheap Labor lobby encouraged the government to charge him with mail fraud, leading to his deportation from the U.S. (he was a Jamaican immigrant) and to the collapse of his 5-million-strong movement, the largest black movement in our history.
Cheap black labor was more important than the freedom and well-being of blacks or the end of the racial problems in the United States for those long-ago Chamber of Commerce types.
The Black Muslim faith was founded on the concept of the return to the Motherland as well, although current black Muslims seem content with trying to create a back state here or taking over the US altogether.
And before them both, of course, was the American Colonization Society, formed in 1816 to encourage the voluntary emigration of blacks. Its members and supporters included James Madison, Henry Clay, and, famously, Abe Lincoln himself, although the 16th president stopped talking about the idea after the War Between the States.
How practical it was to send blacks back to Africa by sailing or steamship will never be known. But today, international airline travel is affordable to all: a ticket from the U.S. to Ghana, host of the 2019 Year of Return, can be had for less than $1,000. Airline capacity to Africa appears to be enormous and underused, which offers any large-scale program of return the possibility of substantial per-seat savings [Africa Aviation Outlook 2019: Change may be in the air – at last, CentreForAviation.com, January 31, 2019].
As well, $14 trillion in reparations for slavery, as proposed by Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson, would easily cover the cost of sending all 37.1 million American blacks to Africa, with more than $10 trillion left for generous resettlement packages [BET founder Robert Johnson calls for $14 trillion of reparations for slavery, CNBC, June 1, 2020].
That’s a lot of money. But it also solves a problem, at least for blacks who feel hunted and unsafe in the white jungle.
Of course, returning to Africa should be voluntary, and blacks who consider themselves Americans and do not feel hunted or discriminated against should not be forced to return to a country and continent they do not know or even want to know.
But for the BLM activists, for those convinced the deck in the U.S. is stacked against them, repatriation permanently repairs the continuing “legacy of slavery.” To participate, blacks would have to renounce American citizenship and accept the passport of an African country.
Of course, no one should have any illusions that the returnees will find Wakanda waiting for them. Life in Africa is, as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, “poor, nasty, brutish, and short” [Average life expectancy in Africa for those born in 2019, by gender and region, Statista.com].
But the hard fact is, opportunity often comes knocking disguised as hard work. Ten million or 15 million English-speaking blacks with American know-how and a pocket full of resettlement money would certainly spur economic growth for the whole region, and perhaps counterbalance the growing Chinese infiltration of the continent. Some have already moved there at their own cost, and are happy to be in the land of their people.
A return to the Motherland—restitution in kind—would give social, mental, emotional, economic and perhaps even physical benefits to American blacks.
For whites in the Historic American Nation, it would give all the same—plus the added knowledge that the debt of slavery is paid in full, this country’s original sin, as it is always called, washed away.
Divorce is another and somewhat more familiar way to think of it. The marriage of the two main racial groups here has never worked and has not turned out well despite all efforts for improvement—as the founders of the American Colonization Society, not least The Great Emancipator himself, predicted.
Four hundred years in, the death of one man can lead to near rebellion, destruction of our cities and death on the streets. A bad marriage needs to be ended, so let’s start talking about property division and payout.
It’s time to face the truth and recognize that Marcus Garvey was right, and that the U.S. would be wise to fund the only possible and reasonable form of restitution for slavery—an orderly resettlement to the Motherland of those blacks who believe they are oppressed 155 years after the end of slavery and 50 years after the Voting and Civil Rights acts.
Back home, no doubt, they will be “free at last, free at last, Lord God almighty, free at last!”
Anthony Boehm [Email him] is a federal civil servant.