Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
By P. Muzi Branch
In most cases, when an enterprise or corporation causes injury to people or property, the “injured” are compensated for the damages. The fine or judgement that is levied is ultimately paid at the expense of the shareholder in the corporation. The enterprise passes the settlement expense on to stockholders by reducing dividends or, heaven forbid, ceases to exist. It matters not that you bought your shares when the company began or the day before the judgement and fines were levied, your shares are included in the settlement. But, like I said, “In most cases.”
The USA is actually a business enterprise/corporation with shareholders we call citizens. Each shareholder/citizen of lawful age gets to vote on the direction of the enterprise and they are entitled to a share of, and a share in, the prosperity of the USA Business Enterprise.
It doesn’t matter if your family has been a shareholder for 200 years or if you just joined yesterday – you are an equal shareholder/citizen. Therefore, contemporary shareholders are fully vested into the entirety of the USA: the past, present and future of the enterprise.
So if the USA owes a debt because it caused injury, each shareholder/citizen takes on that debt. No shareholder/citizen can claim they have nothing to do with the debt, unless they divest their shareholdership/citizenship.
The injury caused to Black Americans through acts perpetrated by agents of the local, state and federal governments, private corporations, financial institutions and white-supremacy-radical-Christian terrorists is well documented and must be rectified. The reparations debt that the USA owes is connected to the obdurate wrongdoing by the aforementioned that injured Black people, which permitted the USA enterprise, financial institutions and multinational corporations to be prosperous.
As it should be with all these enterprises, when it is proven that they have caused harm to the environment or the Black community and have accumulated substantial assets, it is obliged that they pay the injured parties. The injured parties, in this case, are all Black American citizens.
So it matters not that your family did not own slaves or that you are an immigrant and naturalized citizen; you are a stockholder in this USA Corporation, and all benefits, privileges and rights that are bestowed come with the baggage of the past. Every citizen will be affected by the reparations litigation and settlement.
The irony is that Black American citizens, who have paid taxes or own stock in one or more of the private corporations, are the plaintiffs as well as the defendant stockholders. And we vote to pay the reparations.
P. Muzi Branch is a Richmond artist and musician.