To the Editor:
Aisha Gayle’s attempt to counter David Horowitz’ advertisement (“Ten reasons why Horowitz is misguided,” 3/27) contained untenable generalizations and an unsettling conclusion.
Gayle first asserts that American and African slavery were fundamentally different; in America “not only were slaves labor to support a largely agrarian economic system, but this servitude was indelibly tied to the color of their skin.”
Such a definition can be applied to slavery systems throughout history: For example, Egyptians flourished from the labor of Israelites, and Seljuk Turks sought the blond-haired men of Russia to sell in bazaars.
Reparations are unthinkable in these cases; her distinction, then, hardly holds in the light of past events.
Gayle also asserts that taking away one’s right to earn money in America contradicts the fundamental principles of our nation. Should European immigrants be afforded the same sort of reparations Gayle desires for African-Americans? Irish-Americans, for example, lived in poverty and near-starvation, told by employers that they “need not apply” because of their ethnicity.
Instead of dwelling on contemporary culpability for generations-old sins, let us proceed from something on which we can all agree: Slavery was a immoral and shameful institution in America. Realizing this, let us examine how far we have come in ensuring equal rights for all Americans and invest Gayle’s reparations in spreading this message.
What would be more beneficial to our nation: a divisive paycheck based on suspect logic which affirms racial separation or education that teaches our children the importance of tolerance and unity? Perhaps the Union sacrifices of the Civil War engenders in Gayle a “wild mix of laughter and venom.”
I, however, prefer to think of the sacrifices of these men — as well as the unceasing dedication of Asians, Hispanics and Native-Americans against racial injustice — as a much more meaningful validation of equality than a signature on the dotted line.
Matthew L. Conaty ’02
March 28, 2001