L&T Publisher Earl Watt
During a recent study session on how to conduct genealogical research, I found out that those who descend from settlers who crossed on the Mayflower might total about 35 million or about 10 percent of the entire population.
I found that to be an astounding number given that only 102 settlers came across on the now famous ship, and only 53 survived the first winter.
In doing the research, it was also discovered that these descendants have a wide range of economic status today with some that have been proven to be descendants living very lavish lifestyles while others who have also made the connection are living in abject poverty.
Most of the 35 million descendants have no idea of their connection to the Mayflower.
Would those who came on the Mayflower and their descendants be considered privileged?
By today’s standards, many would say yes. They were white, European settlers. Their descendants have lived through the expansion of the United States and all of the opportunities that provided, from the natural riches of an untamed continent to the opportunity to own land during the Homestead act and every other economic boom.
They also lived through every economic bust, every depression, the Dust Bowl, the multiple wars and every other risk that has landed on this continent.
If privilege comes simply by being in America and being white, these settlers should be the cream of society, living in opulence and looking down on all the rest of us.
But they don’t, at least not very many.
These people also planted a seed on this continent of self government. The began the groundwork for what a society could be that would provide opportunity for all.
That opportunity did not come without hard work and sacrifice.
Sure, there is the situation of being at the right place at the right time or winning the lottery, but for the most part, the path forward was planted on the shores of Massachusetts.
Some took advantage of the opportunity and some squandered it.
In some of those early settlements, the term diversity was very different, but in many ways the same. Diversity might have been a French settler among English settlers. It could have been someone from Denmark, possibly another European country. Today, those people might all be placed under the generic “white” label. It is quite possible that these early settlers not being the majority might have also experienced some sort of prejudice or discrimination.
Did that cost the descendants of these people monetarily? Are they due a special compensation from today’s government because they faced discrimination?
Many came as indentured servants, pledging seven years of servitude. How much is that worth?
Currently California is considering legislation that would provide 1.8 million African Americans reparation payments for being descendants of slaves. The amount they are considering is $360,000 per person for a total of $648 billion.
Whether that passes or not is up to the people of California. But the bigger question is, to what end?
Is this guilt money that America once had slavery, as did every other nation that existed prior to the 1900s?
Does it set a standard that any historic wrong is corrected with a payout?
If a family can prove that they are descendants of a Northern soldier who died fighting against slavery in the South, are they due compensation for their loss?
What about women? The data clearly shows that women have been adversely affected by historic social norms that kept women from earning wages equal to men, and were even denied the ability to vote. What reparation payment is required to make that right?
And again, to what end?
Will a $360,000 payday to 1.8 million descendants of slaves end racism in America? Will it satisfy that all is now forgiven? Does compensation correct historic wrongs?
Will it guarantee financial success forevermore for the recipients?
If those who would have been given the best opportunity at success by coming over on the Mayflower have not had guaranteed success with every golden opportunity in front of them, how can reparation payments ever be seen as anything more than trying to buy the votes of African Americans.
If poverty is the punishment many face, perhaps the solution is a pathway to prosperity instead of a paycheck to clear our conscience. Changing a life starts with the ability to earn, and that comes with an education on skills training.
If we want our African American communities to succeed, we should be providing them a top-notch public education, access to college education and trade schools, and it should be made available to all who are financially prohibited from ever turning a corner.
Providing these payouts might have a temporary effect, on those who receive it, but if it isn’t spent to become a source of ongoing wealth, it will be squandered.
According to an MIT study, lottery winners file bankruptcy within three to five years of their winnings. Other studies indicated that those who won the lottery were neither happier nor healthier after the financial windfall.
If we know this to be true, why then try to offer 1.8 million people reparation payments that will not gain the necessary results for the recipients and will not change the trajectory of their earning potential?
Within the last two years, many Americans received a stimulus check from the government.
That money for most has long benn spent without any negligible long-term benefit. But the national debt soared and will have to be paid by the next generation.
Should this take place, within five years, it is likely calls for a second reparation payment will be required to bail out the damage done by the first.
To what end?