by Moe White –
A retired attorney living in Asheville, who spent his career in New Orleans, has spoken out several times, sometimes vitriolically, against the decision by Asheville to make reparations to African Americans for generations of discrimination and the very concept of reparations.
Most recently, in a letter to the daily newspaper, he wrote that the “sheep’s clothing of reconciliation” would bring about the “wolf of reparations.”
Both in writing and in his statement at the Reparations Listening Session at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium on June 10, he has asserted that it’s not just difficult, or even impossible, but WRONG to try to make such reparations. That assertion posits that White people alive today have not harmed Black people through slavery; that it is morally wrong to make today’s White people pay for what their ancestors might have done to Black people of yesteryear; and that he himself, now a retiree in his eighties, has not personally benefited from any of the “so-called discrimination” against Blacks or “so-called white privilege” accruing to White citizens—and therefore shouldn’t be responsible for repairing those societal ills.
So let’s look at some facts. According to public records, the gentleman was first licensed as a lawyer in 1965, suggesting he began his three-year law school education in 1962. Public records also confirm that he practiced in Louisiana for most of his active career.
Public records don’t show what law school this gentleman attended. As it happens, however, that same year—1962—two African American women, Pearlie Hardin Elloie and Barbara Guillory Thompson, sued Louisiana’s Tulane University for the right to attend the all-white law school there. The following year Tulane School of Law “chose” to integrate its facility. Its first Black students, designated the Class of 1966, arrived that same autumn of 1963—when the Asheville letter-writer would apparently have been a second-year law student.
By extrapolation, it is possible, even likely, that when this man was admitted to law school in 1962, he himself took the place of a qualified Black college graduate who had been denied admission, under then-current Louisiana policies and law, solely because of race.
So when this 82-year-old spouts nonsense that no living White person should have to pay reparations for discrimination that happened “long before their lifetimes,” to Black people “who couldn’t possibly have been discriminated against” (because Brown v. Board of Education had been decided in 1954!), there are only three possible explanations for his assertion.
First, the man might be utterly ignorant of the facts of discrimination, white privilege, and the lawsuit that forced Tulane to integrate. Alternatively, he might be in a state of conscious or unconscious denial of the facts. Or, finally, as an active, lifelong, and conscious beneficiary of white privilege and anti-Black racism, he might simply be deliberately obfuscating.
In light of the 1962 Tulane lawsuit, it’s clear that many white lawyers of his age did personally benefit from systemic discrimination at the expense of deserving, qualified Black students whose places they took at Tulane School of Law. (Don’t even think about the tens of thousands of Black students denied admission over the previous century.) It equally suggests that this man is so incapable of recognizing those facts, or unwilling to admit them, even to himself, that by both intellect and character he was LESS qualified to go to law school and enjoy a lucrative, 40-year career than the two Black applicants who had to sue to gain admission.
Now, I don’t suggest that the man’s house in north Asheville—valued at over $1 million, according to public records—should be taken as reparations for Ms. Elloie and Ms. Thompson, who were clearly harmed by systemic racism. Such a taking would “irreparably harm” the man’s wife and children who stand to inherit the home and the rest of his wealth when he dies—and we know that irreparable harm to White people is not permitted in our society.
But why shouldn’t the city and county, at the very least, use the annual property tax revenues (an estimated $7,200 per year) from his mansion and direct them toward reparations. Use that money to “repair” the harm done to Asheville residents who were—within our lifetimes—denied equal rights, equal opportunities, and just compensation for their properties, many of which were stolen through fraud and deceit under Urban Renewal.
Such reparations would be more than fair as an alternative to stripping this gentleman of his white-privileged gains.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed here, as well as assertions of facts, are those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of The Urban News.