Another lesson from the Holocaust settlement may be that only the actual victims, not
their descendants, ever received any money.
“We made the very tough decision in our mediation that we had to cut it off at some point,” Eizenstat said. “There wasn’t enough money. The difficulty of trying to track down the heirs of 10 million slave-enforced laborers would have taken so long that the people we would have tried to benefit would have long since died.”
Added Eizenstate: “We created a concept we called rough justice. Rather than settling cases in law, where you had to prove a direct connection between damage and injury, we basically said, we’re going to pay people in their lifetimes, quickly.”
The problem, of course, is that most American slaves who were directly wronged are long gone. The injustice, some argue, is simply too old for the law to redress now.
Some Cities Pass Laws Making Slave Profits Public
There also may be historical questions. Did the United States, as some say, already enact reparations by fighting a Civil War and outlawing slavery, and by constructing, under President Lyndon Johnson, a series of Great Society government programs designed, in part, to undo the effects of discrimination?
There may be more questions than one probably doomed lawsuit in Chicago can come anywhere close to answering.
But the current case will not be the end of it, said the woman who started it with a law school project. Companies, she said, will feel growing pressure.
“The amount of information on reparations is only growing,” Farmer-Paellmann said. “People are becoming better-educated on the subject. They’re going to face more difficult times later on. The sooner that they put this behind them, the better off they are.”
The cities of Chicago and Los Angeles have passed laws requiring companies that do business with those governments to declare whether they have any profits in their past based on the labor of slaves. It’s unclear whether this is the beginning of a trend.
And no such federal law currently exists. That would require action by the Senate and the House of Representatives that operate under the Capitol dome that slaves built for no pay, during another time in U.S. history.