You do the Math: “How Much is a Black Life Worth?”

How much is a black life worth?

When it comes to reparations, that’s the question I ask myself. The history of black people is a painful one. As we progress, to be treated as people and not animals, there’s still suffering. We’ve come far but still aren’t any closer to a Promise Land.

America is a house that we built but we aren’t made its landlords. How do we call this place home? We’re not seen as its residents either. There are doors that are locked. We have no access to most of the rooms. Sometimes, we have to bust down the front door to enter even when given a key.

Is this fair? Of course it isn’t.

However, we’ve become real good at breaking and entering. Picking a lock is as easy as picking an afro. No wonder we’re treated as criminals. A house that we’ve built was never intended to belong to us. Until now.

As another election season begins, the talk of reparations has as well. And it seems, that conversation is no longer a quiet one. In fact, these discussions have made their way from barbershops to campaign trails. Black Lives Matter, no longer just a hashtag, but is a political talking point.

Do I even need to explain how big of a phenomenon Hip Hop has become around the world? Watch as a democrat tries milly rocking their way into the presidency. Though it didn’t work for Hilary Clinton, we cannot knock them for trying. How else are they going to get black people’s votes? Actual policies be damned.

Black culture has dug deep into the American soil. It has become roots that blossoms into a forest, which could possibly explain the rise of deforestation. Trees are being cut down. Rivers are polluted and drying out. The air has turned browner than the dirt. Everything seems to be dying and nothing is really being done about it. Do you see why I don’t care for reparations?

When I think of reparations, I think of a math equation. Considering how bad I was in High School when it came to Algebra, my brain is already malfunctioning (so if you find any misspellings or bad grammar, I have a reason).

Ask yourself this: how much is a black life worth? Then, when you find an estimate, multiply that for every black life that lives in America. Once you get those calculations, multiply that number with every black life that’s on the planet. And then multiply that number with every black life that is no more.

Do you see how complicating that math equation is? My head hurts thinking about it. Yet, finding the answer isn’t the hardest part; it’s the original question. How much is a black life worth?

Think of our ancestors and everything they’ve went through. Think of all the black people locked away in a prison cell for petty offences. What about the people wasting away in poverty? All the black people mourning a loved one taken away from a crooked police officer has to be included as well. In fact, put your loved ones and yourself into those numbers. Now, do the math.

The want for reparations requires a lot of answers that I feel don’t exist. How much is a black life worth? What should be gained from a sacrifice? When something is taken, can it ever be replaced? If you ask the devil, what’s the price for a soul, would you like his answer?

I don’t believe in reparations because I don’t have any answers. In your opinion, do you think there’s a way to compensate slavery? Five hundred plus years of being dehumanized as a people can never be reimbursed. No one can ever get that time back. Or their lives and humanity. Or their loved ones. Or their mental health. Or their pain and suffering. Or, everything else that’s taken.

Don’t believe me then put yourself in that position.

Imagine being forced to work to build someone else a house on someone else’s property that would never belong to you. That person then turns the house into a large resort to make profit while you sleep on the street, or a tent, or some cabin somewhere. It doesn’t matter where because it’s not like it’s ideal, right? You see the rich tenants of that resort and you think to yourself that you should have a place there, because you should have a place there.

Even worse, while your struggling to make do with what you have, those tenants still expect you to help out. So if you don’t fix that clogged toilet in apartment B on the second floor than that will be a fine. Or, a prison sentence, or death, or whatever they prefer.

Anyways, years later, that person offers you a room no bigger than a janitor’s closet where you can live. Maybe they give you that closet out of guilt for you being homeless. Or, they just want you to stop scaring others off with your endless blabbering from outside the gate that you want to be let in. Then again, it doesn’t really matter their reason, does it? You have a place in a janitor’s closet.

In their eyes, you should be happy that you have a roof over your head. Except, it’s not a roof but a stained ceiling that has leaks. Oh, and by the way, you have to pay rent. And of course, your rent will be higher than everyone on the upper floor (who didn’t help you build their rooms in the first place).

Do you think that’s fair? Of course, you don’t.

How much is a black life worth? A free college education? No more student loan debt? If I get sick, will my medical bills not even be a thing? What if reparations means we never have to pay taxes? Could the government raise the minimum wage to a number that we can live off of? You know what, let me relax, there’s no need to get my hopes up.

On paper, reparations sounds like a good idea. And that, right there, is the biggest problem. Yes, black people should have some way to catch up to white people, who’ve had a five hundred year head start in getting ahead. I mean, what black parent wouldn’t want to buy their kids way into Harvard. Rich white people shouldn’t have all the fun; black people have done enough to deserve that.

But seriously, even if reparations was passed by the government, how would all that money be distributed? Will every black person be given a million dollars per year? If a million dollars was put into my bank account every year, I’d never work again. In fact, I’d probably go to church more and give God 20% instead of the usually 10. And instead of Harvard, I can buy myself into Heaven. More than likely, that’s probably my best chance of getting in.

Another problem with reparations that nobody seems to concern themselves with is who is giving the money out. I don’t know about you, but I have little faith in the government. Do you think all these white supremists in these political spaces will be fair in giving black people money? The KKK will throw a revolt if they found out black people in Chicago were given anything from the government. You think those tiki torches were bad? Just wait until that money starts rolling in.

White validation is another issue that I have with reparations. As long as most black people look to white people to help us do anything, we’re never going to get anything done in a way that works best for us. We’re too busy wanting white people’s input on a blueprint to a house we have all the tools to build on our own.

Remember when Barack Obama won the presidency? We thought we won something big. That was like a form of reparations; finally, it seemed like our struggles would be over. There were even white people who thought Obama’s presidency was a victory; a turning point that America’s racism was behind us. And we were quickly reminded how wrong we were.

I don’t want to go back to that with reparations. Having black people think we won something big only to be disappointed when it goes to shit. Watching white people act like racism is finally over when it’s not. Do you want to live in a lie? Have white conservatives and Fox News personalities hide their racism under the guise of, “we gave you negroes reparations? What more do you want?”

Then again, maybe my issue with reparations is an ego one? Why are we asking the government to compensate us? The same government that is still stealing resources from Africa. The same government that is bombing people in black and brown countries and none of the white ones. The same government that doesn’t respect our history, ignores our struggles, blames us from their failures, and makes our accomplishments their own.

Asking the government for reparations is foolish. Imagine someone you love being murdered and then asking for that murderer to pay for your pain and suffering. That killer receives no punishment because they’re the judge, jury, and prosecutor within the case. On top of that, while you’re asking for compensation, that killer continues to torture and kill people, including more of your loved ones. And you’re fully aware that all this is happening.    

I don’t know about you but I’m not asking for a serial killer to do anything for me. What I would want is for that serial killer to be brought up on charges and punished for their crimes. However, this is America we’re speaking about. Mass murder is only terrorism depending on the color of the shooter and the victims.

Reparations won’t end police brutality. It’s not going to stop institutional racism. All that reparations will do is put a band-aid on a wound caused by a shotgun blast. Reparations in the form of free medicine won’t heal the scar that’s left behind. So we shouldn’t be ashamed of the wound, but embrace it. A scar is nothing but a story that tells those who see it how we survived.

Instead of reparations, the government should respect us enough to hold the pen. In turn, we’ll give them the book as our stories should be told and told truthfully. By understanding the dark part (no pun intended) of our history, they won’t make the mistake of adding onto it. By giving us the pen, they cannot add another chapter to our story as we’re more than capable of writing our own happy endings.

1 thought on “You do the Math: “How Much is a Black Life Worth?””

  1. Well done, well written, very well thought out. You have cause me to rethink my position on reparations. I am very proud of your.


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