For all the blather about reparations, and who owes what to whom, one ought to step back and consider who among those who reside in the United States have been aggrieved, how recently, for how long, what was the impact at the time, what are the ramifications today, and what is the overall assessment?
Many ethnic and racial groups at various times throughout our history made significant contributions, which, across the broad swath of today’s population, remain virtually unknown.
Focusing on the Chinese
The Central Pacific Railroad in California (that hotbed of reparations proposals) in the 1800s, for example, employed as many as 12,000 Chinese as young as age 12. The pool of these workers represented America’s largest industrial workforce. Nine out of 10 people employed by the Central Pacific Railroad were first generation Chinese in America — not merely of Chinese ancestry.
Curiously, little has been recorded or even noted about this vital workforce. Some 50 years ago, one historian was surprised to learn of such scant information about these Chinese, while European and American workers of the same era had been described and characterized at length.
In 2012, the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America project assembled a massive collection of oral accounts, documents, photos, and other paraphernalia on this area of American history. This Chinese railroad workforce, it has since been determined, provided the lion’s share of the most labor-intensive tasks: cutting or even blasting through granite, and effectively laying track across the far western States.
Productive and Unknown
How were they able to be so productive? As it turns out, many of these workers had been blacksmiths, tin smiths, carpenters, woodworkers, and even architects before their arrival in the U.S. In other words, they represented a highly skilled and, in some cases, educated group. Yet, they have been largely ignored by history, and when anything is written about them, it is often in the collective sense.
Whereas we know the names of pioneers in the Black Freedom Movement, such as Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Sojourner Truth, and numerous others, the names of Chinese leaders during this era are virtually unknown. And we tend to view this workforce as monolithic with no individual personalities, aspirations, or objectives.
Among these Chinese workers, one has to wonder. Were they underpaid? Likely so. Was the rate of mortality on the job significantly high? Undoubtedly so. How about the rate of injury and illness? How about the ability of the individual worker to rise in the ranks? Own property? Aspire to U.S. citizenship?
The Folly of Redressing All of History
Should descendants of these Chinese be given reparations? Should descendants of all others throughout our history that did not get a fair shake be given reparations? This notion, of course, is folly. We cannot go back and redress every incident, in every locale, for all time, nor should we.
The history of the U.S., as with the history of EVERY other country on Earth, is replete with unfairness and injustice. Leftists, apparently, are the only group that does not know this, and would not listen if this historical reality fell in their laps.
What’s more, if we consider Caucasian males, today’s scourge among Leftists, their sacrifices have been extraordinary. At least 360,000 Union troops died in the Civil War with far more than a million gravely injured. Caucasian abolitionists represented one quarter of all lynchings (primarily male victims) in the U.S. Finally, the death toll of Caucasian males in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts is staggering.
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Republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.
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