I moved to the United States from Mexico with my family in 2002. I thank God every day for that.
Since living here, I have worked hard to earn what I have, and what I’ve achieved. I’m proud of that. Nothing has ever cut me deeper than when I was once asked if I had earned my spot in a prestigious graduate program through Affirmative Action.
No. I earned my spot through working my A$$ off to keep a stellar GPA while working 20-30 hours a week, editing a paper, and being the president of my national sorority.
But as confident as I felt in my achievements, I have to admit it stung. With a few words, someone managed to undercut everything I had ever achieved. Everything I had EVER worked for.
It’s this experience that makes me completely understand why a black person may feel motivated to speak out against reparations.
They are not a service -they are a crutch. And for those of us who willingly work our butts off to be the best we can be – they’re a weapon used to undercut our very best efforts.
I hear this same fear in this young man’s statement, as well as many other incredibly valuable points. A statement he was viciously booed for:
“Racism is a bloody stain on this country’s history and I consider our failure to pay reparations directly to freed slaves after the civil war to be one of the greatest injustices ever perpetuated by the U.S. Government,” Hughes said.
He added, however: “Black people don’t need another apology. We need safer neighborhoods and better schools. We need a less punitive criminal justice system. We need affordable health care. And none of these things can be achieved through reparations for slavery.”
Members of the crowd booed at this point.
“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today,” Hughes added.
“We would insult black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors, and we would turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction, from a union between citizens, into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants.”
“I understand that reparations are about what people are owed regardless of how well they are doing,” he said.
I understand that. But people who are owed for slavery are no longer here. And we’re not entitled to collect on their debts. Reparations, by definition, are only given to victims.
So the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that, you’ve made one-third of black Americans who poll against reparations into victims without their consent.
And black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner. The question is not what America owes me by virtue of my ancestry, the question is what all Americans owe each other by virtue of being citizens of the same nation.
And the obligation of citizenship is not transactional. It’s not contingent on ancestry. It never expires, and it can’t be paid off. For all these reasons, bill HR 40 is a moral and political mistake. Thank you.”
“Justice for the dead at the price for justice for the living.”
He’s a far braver man than most.