For those who think racism is a thing of the past:
One of my favorite military blog-thingies has a li’l something to say about the GI Bill (go read the article if you don’t like me chopping it up and making snarky comments):
«In 1947, largely because of the GI Bill, 49 percent of students admitted to colleges were veterans. By the time the original bill expired, nearly half of the 16 million World War II veterans had received a college education or participated in a vocational training program. In 1955 the Veterans Administration backed 4.3 million loans, including nearly a third of all home loans, with a total face value of $33 billion — about $316 billion in 2020 dollars.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact of the GI Bill on American society. An article in The Saturday Evening Post concluded that “the 1950s’ prosperity wouldn’t have been possible without millions of veterans who had upgraded their skills with the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act … and set a new standard of living for themselves and their children and grandchildren.” The GI Bill funded the educations of 22,000 dentists, 67,000 doctors [hey, did I ever mention my dad, a vet, got his MD around this time?], 91,000 scientists, 238,000 teachers, 240,000 accountants, 450,000 engineers, 14 Nobel Prize winners, and two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners.
By 1956, the education and training benefits had paid out $14.5 billion, about $137 billion in 2020 dollars. Congress estimated that for every dollar spent under the GI Bill, the U.S. economy received seven dollars in return. While it might be difficult to measure exactly, the post-World War II economic boom in which the United States grew to be the dominant economic power in the world was to a significant degree underwritten by the GI Bill. America was trying to do right by its veterans and they returned the favor.
The bill in some ways was also a boost for American equality. Children from poor immigrant Jewish, Irish, and Italian [somebody in my extended family had Italian grandparents who came over in the 1920s and were discriminated against] families in the cities, as well as those from poor rural farm families, had an opportunity for a college education that their parents never could have dreamed of. Tablet magazine notes that
«before the war, the college-bound were drawn almost entirely from white, elite circles; what’s more, cleverly designed quota systems made sure to keep the Jews at bay. After the war, the potential pool of applicants was now more diverse — racially, ethnically, and religiously — than ever before.»
The new rising middle class in post-World War II America was much more diverse than it had been, thanks to the GI Bill.»
Yay, the GI Bill, making everything post-war in America great!
«But it was still largely white, and that wasn’t an accident.
The key sponsor of the bill in the House was Rep. John Rankin, a notorious racist from Mississippi. Rankin had fought for laws banning interracial marriage, against laws penalizing lynching, and for the poll tax. Rankin ensured that particular language was included in the law to ensure race would be taken into account:
«No department, agency, or officer of the United States, in carrying out the provisions of this part, shall exercise any supervision or control, whatsoever, over any State educational agency, or State apprenticeship agency, or any educational or training institution.»
States’ Rights! Woo-hoo! \o/ And he didn’t even have to be explicit about race! Win!
«Rankin knew that, at least in the South, the GI Bill’s education benefits would be filtered through state agencies that were governed by both the formal and informal rules of Jim Crow. He could rely on the banks and the Federal Housing Administration to help ensure that the home loans would also be restricted.»
Red-lining! More win!
«The bill paid for college, but how many colleges were open to black Americans? In the South, blacks were barred completely from most colleges and universities, and in the North their options were extremely limited.
…for blacks in the South, where two-thirds of the black veterans were from, “The G.I. Bill exacerbated rather than narrowed the economic and educational differences between blacks and whites.” President John F. Kennedy sent the National Guard to force the desegregation of the University of Alabama in 1963. The World War II GI Bill expired in 1956.»
Yeah, but the university was desegregated! Everything’s all fixed now! Right?
«While black veterans had somewhat better access to vocational training than to the college benefit, here too the value in practice was rather limited. A study compiled from data from the Bureau of the Census, the National Urban League, the Southern Regional Council, and the American Veterans Committee observed:
«Only eleven cities had any formal vocational or technical training facilities. Only Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D. C, among those cities with segregated school systems, had satisfactory schools which Negro veterans could attend. In cities where color lines were not drawn, Negro veterans were able to attend only the industrial arts departments of high schools. These give only a general training which is not applicable to a specific job.»
The study noted,
«Because of the limited training opportunities, a number of individuals and groups have set up special vocational training courses for Negro veterans. Although these courses have, in every case, been approved by the Department of Education in the respective states, it is doubtful if many of them meet minimum standards for this type of training.»
«The data for the other major component of the GI Bill, home loan guarantees, is even worse.»
Ok, gonna skip the redlining part, because we have enough horribleness for one blog post, thank you.
Cut to the chase:
«America made a promise to these men and women of the “Greatest Generation” and, frankly, we broke it. Looking at the United States today, the average net worth of an African American family is about one-tenth that of a white family. That didn’t just happen. Two significant mechanisms for building wealth are education and home ownership.
It’s time for a World War II GI Bill Restoration Act. Under this act anyone who can document that they had an African American direct ancestor who served honorably during World War II and did not use the GI Bill benefits to which they were lawfully entitled would be eligible to receive the benefits under the current GI Bill, as well as the same housing loan support the Department of Veterans Affairs provides to current veterans. Not a new program, just an expansion of the eligibility rules of existing ones, with the details of administering it to be worked out by the department. This won’t be without cost, but on the education front it’s really an investment that will pay the country back. And home loan guarantees only cost something if the borrower defaults.»
Martin Luther King, Jr. said something about a promissory note. We should make good on it.
Mildly surprised I haven’t put this in my blog yet. Known as the Black national anthem. Written in 1921 and in the United Methodist hymnal (No. 519). I like the churchy version, and the images of this one are pretty good.
«Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Our native land»
2004, Harper’s: $97 trillion for stolen wages (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reparations_for_slavery_in_the_United_States#United_States_government)
A year of human life is worth $50,000 in 2008 (http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1808049,00.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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slave_health_on_plantations_in_the_United_States#Life_expectancy) I found another reference that indicates 20 years of difference (https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3040) 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) (https://herereadthis.blog/2019/01/30/iraq-war-costs-u-s-more-than-2-trillion-study-reuters/), 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: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1010169/black-and-slave-population-us-1790-1880/
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.)
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 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.
Just kind of thinking in my mind about reparations for slavery and, oh, I dunno, Jim Crow racism. I’ve seen a figure for repayment for stolen labor (fair wages for the labor we paid darn near $0/hr), adjusted for inflation, being $16 trillion, counted from the founding of this legal entity we call “our country”.
And I wonder if that includes interest.
And then I’m thinking, “what about payment for the lives we cut short?”, which leads me to wonder how much IS a human life worth? Or a year of human life?
$100,000, by this flawed measure.
So, still thinking. But here’s a number.
Here’s the beginning of a rabbit hole that seems entirely worthwhile (check out the “Resources” links, especially that “download the toolkit” bit, since the rest of the site seems pretty broken).