“When I hear that someone doesn’t support reparations, I automatically assume that they’re a thief.” The U.S. government has passed laws time and time again that steal money from Black people. Don’t agree? Michael Harriot has some examples to share. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified
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Michael Harriot [00:00:05] If you watch this podcast regularly, you know, not if you listen, because you can’t I don’t know if you know this, but you can actually see this podcast if you’re listening. But if you watch it, you’ll notice that, you know, I like to wear shirts, tees, hoodies, especially in the winter, I like to wear hoodies. And most of the time the ones that we are by Black designers, it’s Black merchandizers Black creators. And it’s a thing that I like to do. It’s not about support. It’s just, you know, I like the style and the culture of creatives, especially Black creatives. And I was wearing this one the other day, right? And it’s by this kid, I don’t want to call him kid, he’s like 30 years old, but this creator and rapper, former scammer called Guapdad. Right. And you if you can see it, if you can’t see it, it says “steal money from white people.”.
Michael Harriot [00:01:12] So I was wearing it like a lot of times I just leave out of the house and throw a hoodie or shirt on. And I was wearing this one and somebody stopped me and asked me if I thought my shirt was offensive. I didn’t even realize which one I had on. I looked down. I was like, does it have a curse word in it or something? Because I do have some with some, you know, salty, spicy language in it. And I was like, no, I don’t think is offensive. Why would you think it’s offensive? And he said, well, you know, steal money from white people. What’s that about? So I told him it was about reparations. And that’s what I’m going to explain today. Welcome to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that’ll tell you to steal money from white people. I’m world famous wypipologist Michael Harriot and this is theGrio Daily.
Michael Harriot [00:02:13] So what’s that about? Right? Like, what is it? Why would I wear a phrase that says steal money from white people? Like, why would I even support that? Because theft is a crime, right? Well, kind of. Not really. Like all theft isn’t a crime because white people stole from Black people all of the time. And I am not promoting this shirt. You know, we do not get a kickback from this company. I don’t even know if he knows who I am. I just thought it was cool. Right. But it goes to a larger point, right? Why would anyone think stealing was cool? Well, my argument is if you don’t support reparations, then you are tacitly arguing that you support stealing money from Black people. Why do I think? Well, so I’ve for more than 20 years, I’ve preached this economic theory about reparations, which basically says that I believe or I don’t know if I believe it, but it’s an interesting question. What do you think? Do you think the money taken from Black people during slavery could be less than or about equal to the money that was stolen from Black people after slavery. Well, here’s my argument, right? I argue that slavery was constitutional, it is like really nothing a court can retroactively do about it because it was the law of the land.
Michael Harriot [00:04:01] However, after the 13th Amendment passed abolishing slavery except in the punishment of a crime which we’ll get to, then slavery was illegal. And because of the 14th Amendment, which made us full citizens. You know, we had the rights of every other American. If you stole from us. You should have been punished. Well, that’s not what happened. So let’s start from the beginning. How did white people steal from Black people? Well, I would argue that during slavery, there is no argument. Right. Every all of the labor was stolen and not just by slave owners. I think it’s important to make that point that the money that was stolen, the wealth that was stolen from enslaved Black people was not just by slave owners. If you owned a factory that sold cotton goods, for instance, you were benefiting from the theft of Black people’s labor. If you work for a bank, many of the banks, the bank that became what we know is Wells Fargo, the banks, many of the largest institutions in America, New York life insurance company, for instance, they benefited from slavery.
Michael Harriot [00:05:22] Interesting story that like so slave owners would need money and instead of mortgaging, well, they would mortgage their property. That’s a perfect way to put it. But I know you’re thinking of a house or the land, nah, like enslaved Black people were property, so they would actually take out loans and use Black people as the collateral. Even this guy named Thomas Jefferson did it, and it was a perfectly legal, perfectly reasonable thing to do. And it’s how a lot of the finest financial institutions that still stand to this day got their money. But after slavery, they figured out new ways to steal the wealth and the labor of Black people. First of all, before the end of slavery, the penal institutions in America were filled with mostly white males. In the South they had a lot of Eastern European immigrants in prisons, but it was mostly white males. And then after the Civil War these prisons exploded. Why did they explod? Well, white people didn’t have free labor to work on farms. There was this railroad boom. Actually the railroad industry sprang up throughout the South because of the compromise of 1877, when 15 white men allowed President Hayes to become president in exchange for what they call the compromise of 1877, which one of the compromises was industrialization and railroads throughout the South. And to build those railroads, they didn’t have any slaves anymore, so what they did was they used incarcerated labor because remember, there was a loophole in the Constitution that says slavery was unconstitutional except when it comes to people who are duly convicted of a crime.
Michael Harriot [00:07:40] So, those incarcerated people became enslaved labor. Right. And in states like Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, most of the state’s revenue came from leasing out their incarcerated people as labor. And so the people who owned farms, the people who owned railroads or were building railroads, would lease out, convict labor. It’s called the convict leasing system and pay the state. And the state would benefit. So not just the people in the prison system, not just slave owners anymore. It was everyone who lived in that state benefited. They got transportation, they got lower taxes because there was this revenue coming in from Black bodies. And so they were stealing money from Black people. One of the things that the compromise of 1877 included was the right for the south or southern states to basically treat Black people how they wanted. Well, we call that Jim Crow. That’s what it became known as. And Jim Crow laws specified a bunch of things. One of the things that Jim Crow law specified is that, you know, you couldn’t live in many cities, in most cities next to a white person. You know, we couldn’t ride in the same streetcars. We couldn’t live in those neighborhoods. Well, those assets in Black neighborhoods became devalued, but still they still are, according to a study by the Brookings Institute. The average Black home in an identical neighborhood as a white home with the same amenities, same resources, same square footage is about $48,000 less than the value of a white home on average.
Michael Harriot [00:09:40] Stealing money from Black people. Right. Because not all of those homes accumulate in value. And you can use them to, for instance, pay for college. You can use them to, you know, borrow money. But, home ownership is the biggest driver of wealth in this country. Stealing money from Black people is a result of segregation. How else? Well. Not only were those neighborhoods segregated, but we know that schools are funded by property taxes. And if you have a home that is of lower value, then all of the homes in that community. Have lower tax value, which means the schools will be funded at a lower rate. So the reason why Black schools are underfunded, it’s just because white people don’t want to live around Black people. They steal money from Black people. And then you can also look at the government policies.
Michael Harriot [00:10:52] One of the things that we talk about with Jim Crow. Is segregated schools. Well, those segregated schools were not equal. Two white schools. But those taxpayers, the people who whose children attended those schools, they are paying the same amount of taxes. So they were paying essentially to fund the wealth of those white children. As a matter of fact, one of the cases that became that we know is Brown versus Board of Education, which wasn’t one case, but it was a combination of five cases. The first one that was filed was called Briggs versus Elliott in South Carolina. And it was in a town called Summerville, where kids would go to school every day. They had one school in this town, and sometimes they had to cross a river. Some of the kids lived on the other side of the river. There wasn’t a bridge. Sometimes they would make their own rafts. Sometimes they would wade across. And sometimes those kids would drown. And so the parents of that school asked the school district to give them one of about 30 busses. The school district had about 30 busses and all the as well was one. And the school district said no. Remember, these Black people were paying for those white kids busses. And the reason this is interesting because is because Summerville at that time was 75% Black. And they had no busses.
Michael Harriot [00:12:31] So all of the Black people in that town was funding the white kids education, their nice school. The Black school didn’t even have heat. The kids, when they got to school after crossing the river, they would have to, you know, build a fire in the stove in their classrooms. And so those parents sued the city and the state. And that is one of the cases that became known as Brown versus Board of Education, which desegregated schools. But the entire reason that Brown versus Board of Education was successful was because the Supreme Court said they were stealing money from Black people. So segregation, in essence, was stealing money from Black people. And at the same time, there were Black soldiers who were in the armed forces who were not only being paid less, but after World War Two, when the US passed the G.I. Bill, it wasn’t available to Black soldiers. One, they couldn’t use the guaranteed government backed loans to buy houses because they couldn’t build a house in white neighborhoods. They couldn’t build a home also in Black neighborhoods because of a government policy called redlining. Redlining was created by the Home Owners Loan Corporation during the New Deal. And the New Deal basically built America’s middle class by giving money to white people. But it wasn’t a government money. There’s no such thing as the government’s money. Black people were paying taxes, too, so they were taking Black people’s tax money and using it to build a white middle class again, stealing money from Black people.
Michael Harriot [00:14:33] So, there is a good argument to see to whether, you know, the post slavery theft was bigger than the pre-emancipation. That’s right. It’s an interesting argument. I’m not saying one was bigger than the other, but I think it’s an interesting argument. But I know for a fact that post emancipation, segregation was deemed unconstitutional. So all of those segregated schools were constitutionally required to desegregate because they said you were illegally stealing money from Black people. There is a good case for reparations right there because they already said it’s stealing money from Black people. Right. Same with the G.I. Bill. The U.S. government. Congress passed that law. That allowed the armed forces to steal taxpayers money and fund white veterans. They were stealing money from Black people. So as you can see, we don’t even have to go way back to the forties again. We showed about we talked about home values, but there are a lot of ways that whites still steal money from Black people because first of all, that wealth was passed down into generationally from whites to the kids and the grandkids. But that intergenerational theft created what we call the wealth gap. And the wealth gap still exists, but not because of stuff that happened back in the 1910s and 1930s and the 1950s. It happens because of stuff that is still going on today.
Michael Harriot [00:16:32] For instance, if you have a Black sounding name you are less likely to get employed. And those companies still sell stuff to Black people. They still make profits from Black people. They are stealing money from Black people. If you attend a majority Black school it’s still, to this day, underfunded by an average of about $2,226 per student. Stealing money from Black people. If you put your money in a bank and you’re Black you’re less likely to get a loan. And if you get one, it is more likely that you’ll pay a higher interest rate than someone with the same income and the same credit history as you, because those banks, which are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a government entity, are stealing money from Black people. If you are just living in a neighborhood you’re likely to be in a Black neighborhood that is overpoliced because police officers don’t patrol white neighborhoods like they patrol Black neighborhoods. If you are caught with drugs, you’re more likely to be incarcerated, even though white people use more drugs than African-Americans. The criminal justice system is stealing money from Black people. As a matter of fact, if you are incarcerated for any crime you are likely to have a sentence that is on average 20% longer than a white person with the same criminal history who committed the same crime. Again, the criminal justice system steals money from Black people. Right.
Michael Harriot [00:18:32] And so this phenomenon happens throughout the U.S. economic system. Right. Whether it is banking, whether it is employment, whether it is politics. Since 2012, more than 1200 polling locations have been closed, mostly in low wealth and nonwhite neighborhoods. So when you go to vote, you have to walk or drive literally further to a polling place than a white person. They’re stealing money from Black people because those polls are paid for by your tax dollars. As a matter of fact, there was this great study, the best one that was ever done. So these scientists used cell phone data locations on voting Election Day to see how long people waited in line to vote. And what they found out is that if you lived in a majority Black neighborhood, you were 74% more likely to wait longer than a half hour to vote than a person who lived in a white neighborhood. And this didn’t correlate to income. It wasn’t really correlating to Hispanic people. It didn’t correlate to Asian neighborhoods. It was just the difference between Black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods because they steal money from Black people. So. I can understand if you find this shirt offensive, because honestly, me, if I’m being honest, I find the fact that white people be stealing very offensive.
Michael Harriot [00:20:20] When I hear that someone doesn’t support reparations, I automatically assume that they a thief. I check my pockets. I lack mercados. I don’t carry a purse. If I did, I would grab my purse. I don’t have any pearls, so I can’t clutch my pearls. But I know that people who don’t support reparations are thieves. And it doesn’t matter how you configure those reparations or where you get it from. And that’s tje crazy thing about reparations is when people say that we’re asking white people to pay reparations, now we’re asking our country, our government to pay reparations. Right? Like Black people’s tax dollars would be used just as much as white people’s tax dollars, because reparations is what this country owes Black people. And if you don’t think so, then you’re in favor of stealing money from Black people. And that’s why you have to support reparations. And that’s also why you have to subscribe to this podcast. You have to download theGrio app. Check out our streaming services. You just got to just support us, man, because if you don’t, you’re supporting stealing. Okay, well, not necessarily stealing money from Black people, but just help us out, bro. And we’re going to leave you with the famous Black saying today’s Black saying is one everybody’s grandmoms said, “It’s two things I can’t stand; a liar and a thief.” Even my grandma didn’t want to steal money from Black people. We’ll see you next time on theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio.com.
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