Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Journal Sentinel Columnist: Slavery Still an Issue

Last week, a Milwaukee Common Council committee passed a [slavery disclosure ordinance]. Sponsored by Ald. Mike McGee, it will follow the same principle as Chicago.

If a company wants to do business here, they have to disclose their ties to slavery.

Thus summarizes Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane's column yesterday. Detailing his business with Charlotte-based Wachovia, one of the nation's largest banks, Kane expressed his distaste with the fact that so many Fortune 500 companies have ties to the use of blacks as payment for debts back in the slavery days. He believes the Council's proposal is just what the city needs to heighten awareness of the slavery issue that he believes has become taboo in today's society.

And for good reason: slavery was abolished 140 years ago, by white Republicans. African-Americans gained the right to vote less than a decade later, and forty years ago were given equal access to voting with the passage of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment barring the poll tax. Several generations have passed since the final slave was given freedom and the right to vote, yet somehow Mr. Kane believes we must hold corporations like Wachovia accountable for their past transgressions.

This has nothing to do with the interest of full disclosure, but it has much to do with trying to punish corporations for sins against humanity which no current employee would ever condone. The fact is that any company that was founded in the mid-19th century and is still in business today is likely to have had ties to slavery and would now do business in every region of this country. Are we to assume that every one of these companies owes some debt to today's African-Americans?

It seems pretty clear that Mr. Kane, a liberal whose ideology borders on Marxism, is simply looking for any excuse to punish profitable corporations and distribute their profits to the nation's poor in accordance with Marx's philosophy. I have absolutely nothing against the disclosure of past ties to slavery, but only at the will of the corporate headquarters. If, for instance, the head honchos at Wachovia feel guilty for what its 19th century counterparts did, then by all means let them offer their most sincere apologies to today's African-Americans. However, there is no sense in forcing these companies to come out and knowingly hurt business by letting every black in America know that they potentially traded their ancestors as assets back in the day.

It's hard to believe that any amount of justice will be served by forcing corporations to come clean on their past ties to slavery. It is, however, easy to believe that these actions will disproportionately affect these same companies versus their "clean" competitors and drive business away from the former and over to the latter. A tip for Mr. Kane, quit making everything that involves a black man or woman a "racism" issue. Not every black person is fired because their superiors were racist white men, and not every black job applicant is turned down because the white man holds them down by restricting their access to higher education.

Wake up and tune your radio into "The 20th Century" ... now with Equal Opportunity Employment!

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