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Whitlock: The reparations movement undermines black American progress

Op-ed
Steven Ferdman / Contributor | Getty Images

In less than a minute Monday night, Hilary Fordwich blew up CNN broadcaster Don Lemon’s simple-minded narrative on reparations.

In a discussion about the British monarchy, Lemon nonchalantly referenced the need for reparations because of England’s past colonialism. Fordwich pounced. The seasoned public speaker and expert on the royal family argued that Britain was the first nation to end slavery and that African slave traders owed reparations.

Her argument left Lemon speechless. He quickly moved on.

We shouldn’t. We need to discuss reparations in America. It’s a critical issue that impacts the mindset of many black Americans. Many black people believe America owes us for the oppression of our ancestors.

I take a completely different position. I believe I owe my ancestors for the oppression they endured and conquered. I owe reparations. To my mother and father. To my grandparents. To Martin Luther King Jr. and Booker T. Washington. To Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Tubman, George Washington, and Crispus Attucks. To my high school football coaches. To my fourth-grade teacher. To all the people who invested their time, concern, prayers, and mentorship in my development.

I try to immerse myself in a spirit of gratitude because I believe Jesus Christ died on a cross for all of my sins. His grace and mercy overwhelm me and combat any sense of entitlement.

Reparations are an entitlement. They’re rooted in the desire to be compensated for the oppression suffered by others. Entitlement handicaps the mind and undermines productivity.

America does not owe me. I owe America. I owe my ancestors.

When President Kennedy told Americans in 1960 to ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country, he spoke to a nation of Christian believers.

A hallmark of faith is gratitude. A hallmark or a lack of faith is entitlement.

My parents’ generation, despite facing in-your-face racism, felt grateful for their American citizenship. Their generation and previous generations fought for full American citizenship.

They earned it. And I owe them for their sacrifice. We all do.

Here’s the truth that Hilary Fordwich avoided unloading on Don Lemon: The modern descendants of African slaves brought to America (and England) are blessed and owe an enormous debt to our forefathers and mothers. They suffered so that we now live free. They turned lemons into lemonade.

I’m not owed reparations. I owe an endless debt to the people who sacrificed their lives so that I could live in the freest, safest, and most opportunity-filled country on the planet.

I wake up every day thinking about how I can pay back my mother, father, brother, sister, my high school, my college, and anyone else who helped me along the way.

I owe this country. It is not perfect. But there’s no place else on the planet I’d rather live.

I certainly do not have an interest in living in a land that Britain had to stop from capturing, enslaving, and selling people who looked like me. Americans stopped Americans from doing that. The Brits stopped Africans from doing it.

I’m an American. I’m not ashamed of that. God placed me in this country for a reason.



The American reparations movement sends the message that white people are responsible for the destiny of black people. The movement exonerates black people from our role in the slave trade.

We pretend that Europeans invented and initiated the African slave trade. It’s a revisionist history that defies logic. Africans established the African slave trade. It’s laughable to blame the customer for a product line he didn’t launch.

The fight for reparations is reinforcement of a slave mindset. It screams that black people are not responsible for themselves or their actions. It screams that black people are whores to the highest white bidder.

Are we? We celebrate rappers who profit from denigrating the image of black people. Jay Z, Snoop, Dr. Dre, Meek Mill, and all the rest are no different from African slave traders. They sell out black people for record deals and fame.

They have an entitled mindset. They owe the world and their ancestors nothing. They’ve enriched themselves at the expense of other black people. Anyone who complains is vilified as a traitor.

Black Americans will not progress until we rid ourselves of the entitled reparations mindset, until we embrace the fact that we owe our ancestors – black and white – an enormous debt.

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