Post Spins History to Attack Business

Post Spins History to Attack Business
Reparations story calls slavery a crime and fails to remind readers that it really wasnt.

The Washington Post used its June 20, 2005, front page to criticize standard bank loans and business practices 140 years old. The article detailed the efforts of businesses to cope with the idea of reparations for the descendants of former African-American slaves.

The story by Daniel Fears, entitled Seeking More Than Apologies for Slavery, showed the struggle of reparations advocates to make companies like Wachovia and Aetna pay for entirely legal actions from the 1700s and 1800s.

Fears delivered a pro-activist position and blamed Aetna for a crime, even though slavery was legal a point never made in the article.

Several reparations advocates were quoted in the story, but the only historical view included was from Charles Ogletree, a Harvard University law professor and reparations activist. Although much of the story focused on the legal aspects of bringing reparations claims, no other law professor was included who could comment on the legality of forcing companies to pay for legal actions. The article included an estimate of the value of the slave labor at $40 million or $1 trillion today. No similar estimate was given about the cost of the Civil War that ended slavery.

Much of the article focused around business apologies for any involvement in the legal slave trade and a new series of laws that are being used to force companies to dig hundreds of years into their corporate history to reveal entirely legal activities. However, as Fears put it, Wachovia apologized after a study found that his company had purchased two banks that exploited slaves. Part of that exploitation, according to Fears, was simply to use slaves as collateral on loans at a bank Wachovia only later purchased.

Fears also left out most of the inherent problems with the reparations movement. According to a Dec. 9, 2002, article by Yale University law Professor Peter Schuck, these include:

    How to define who would receive reparations, whether that would only include actual descendants of slaves, and how that would be proven. Would beneficiaries have to show they were harmed by slavery? Who would pay if reparations are decided upon?

The crime in Fears story was blaming businesses for legal activities undertaken more than seven generations ago.