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Reparations: When the Political Is Personal

May 07, 2002

After reading "Slave Owners and Their Insurers Are Named" (May 2), it occurred to me that I too have a case for reparations. You see, my mother's side of the family is Chiricahua Apache. If anyone deserves a little payback, it should be the descendants of a people who were nearly eradicated from the face of the Earth. After coming to this revelation, I began to wonder whom I should sue.

I could sue the Army, since the Army rode roughshod over my forefathers throughout the Southwest. Or I could sue the federal government for loading my surviving ancestors onto boxcars and shipping them east, like cattle, to open their land for settlement. Or I could sue the descendants of the settlers, since it was their ancestors who pushed the government to open the West in the first place. The Irish, for example, immigrated to this country and often found their land of opportunity inconveniently in the hands of savages.

However, I then remembered that my father's ancestors immigrated to America from Ireland in 1705, gradually pushed westward over the next 200 years, held various positions in the government along the way and occasionally served in the Army. I have, therefore, decided to sue myself.

John Sparks

Woodland Hills

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The Japanese received money for being subjected to concentration camps, and Bill Simon Jr. states that "we cannot right the wrongs of history by handing out money generations later." As a working person, I think that comment is obnoxious. Mr. Simon, by sending, say, $20,000, to the head of every black household in the U.S. we can right a wrong, and with a much cheaper price tag than 40 acres and a mule.

Richard Anthony Arellano

Redondo Beach

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While I do not take issue with the importance of this information (in fact, I find it interesting), I do not understand why California is expending public funds on this issue--other than the political capital some would gain. Most of the research was paid for by the insurance companies to fulfill the directive they were given, but the Legislature passed a bill and the Department of Insurance expended resources to collect the information and issue the reports.

Reading the report and list of slave owners, I don't see California as a participant in the activity at issue. So why is California expending resources on this? Most of the slave owners and the slaves listed in the report were in Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia and North and South Carolina. Why aren't these efforts concentrated in those states?

Lawrence English

Los Angeles

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