Author Archives: John Lusk

Ok, kids, you heard it here first.

On Reparations (back-of-the-envelope calculations)

2004, Harper’s: $97 trillion for stolen wages (

A year of human life is worth $50,000 in 2008 (,8599,1808049,00.html#:~:text=In%20theory%2C%20a%20year%20of,cover%20a%20new%20medical%20procedure.).

Two different sets of figures for life expectancy in Civil War times: 25 White vs 21 Black, and 35 White vs. 31 Black. Both indicate 4 lost years of Black life per person. (See also I found another reference that indicates 20 years of difference ( but maybe we can go with 4 as a floor.

4 million enslaved people in 1860.

4e6 people * 4 years of lost life * $50,000/year = 4e6 * 2e5 = 8e11 = $800 trillion for years of lost life. And that’s just a snapshot of 1860. (And, by the way, I’m not even counting years of lost life after Emancipation until the present simply because that’s more nebulous and I want hard numbers.)

So, throw in the $95 trillion, and we get about $900 trillion. That is a big number (and a minimum).

We blew $6 trillion on Iraq ($2 tril for the 10-year “engagement” and $4 tril over the following 40 years to care for wounded veterans and replace lost/damaged equipment) (, achieved nothing, and the economy didn’t even burp.

We spent 400 years profiting from the labor (and misery) of Africans permanently cut off from their homelands and forcibly brought to this country, so we can’t quite be expected to pay it all back overnight. Say we pay it back over… 100 years? So, 1e12/100 = $10 trillion/year? U.S. GDP recently is about $20 tril/year. That’s kind of a big hit? I guess? Say we do it over 400 years? That’s, like… $2.5 tril/year, a 10% payment on our GDP? That doesn’t seem so bad.

Just throwing some numbers around. It’s not infinity.

(Sorry, Native Americans, I know I totally left you out. I can’t even begin to calculate that.)

Population of enslaved people over time because WordPress/IFTTT/Twitter always grab the last link:

A Former Tennessee Slave Decline His Master’s Invitation to Return to His Plantation

I’ve run across this before, and I may have blogged it, but it is SO good that it’s worth blogging again.

«Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly- – and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty- two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio.»

(UH is University of Houston.)

An Open Letter to White Progressives


My name is John.

I am a fragile white person.

(I didn’t think I was, but I am. I can get past it, though, and be better, with some practice* and the help of God, who really does love me.)

«“I think white progressives can be the most challenging because we tend to be so certain that it isn’t us. And that certitude is problematic. It doesn’t allow for humility, and, to be direct, it’s quite arrogant. So we don’t tend to be receptive at all. … I think the worst fear of a well-intended white person is that we would accidentally say something racist. But then how do we respond when someone lets us know, “Hey, you just accidentally said something racist”? We respond with, “How dare you. No, I didn’t!”»

*Seriously, practice. Every new skill starts with clumsiness, I believe.

Community Building | National Museum of African American History and Culture

«Community building is something we do together to share perspectives, create brave space, and foster relationships. We are members of a community dedicated to ending racism. Let’s build a national community and grow your local one.»

I haven’t read every word of this, nor have I watched any of the videos (at this moment), but I feel like it’s going to be an important resource for me, so I’m pinning it.

Let go of institutionalism