Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner asked why the case was just being brought now. "If you think you've been wronged, it shouldn't take 100 years to investigate the conduct [of the accused companies]," Posner said.Posner is of course right in his observation, which is why the suit was thrown out of U.S. District Court.
Legal action couldn't have come until after the Civil Rights movement, and it would have come earlier if companies had disclosed their ties to slavery, attorney Roger Wareham countered.
But these suits just, for lack of a better word, piss me off. Assuming for a moment that these banks, most of which did not exist in the early 19th Century, actually took part in financing the slave trade--IT WAS PERFECTLY LEGAL BUSINESS AT THE TIME!!!!!! These banks did nothing illegal. Was it immoral--from our viewpoint in our time frame yes, but that is beside the point.
The banks in question were totally set up. A few years ago, groups of slave descendants, led by "need a headline right now to prove I am still relevant" Jesse Jackson and others essentially browbeat a number of banks and companies into admitting that they, their predecessor companies or companies they had bought long ago participated in the slave trade. Once these companies admitted to this fact, they might as well have retained attorneys right then since there were going to get sued.
The longer term problem with this suit is that we still can't erase the past and complaining and suing about in the present will not help the future of race relations in America. The fact that this country, despite its founding ideals permitted the slave trade cannot be changed--it happened and it was shameful. But we can recriminate all we want about the past, we can rue the slave traders and we can remember but if we as a nation are ever going to move forward with race relations, we have got to learn to leave the past in the past. Again, from the Sun-Times:
Among the descendants to show up Wednesday was Marcelle Porter, 77, of Chicago, who said his great-grandmother was a slave in Louisiana in the late 1800s. Porter said bringing the issue to an appeals court isn't about the money. "We're not after a check. We're after equality in schools, in jobs, in things most people talk about as the American Dream," Porter said.If the suit is not about a check, what is the suit about? If it is about an apology, they already have that from the defendants. If the suit is prove that these companies were invovled in the slave trade, how will that be proven? This suit is about money and only money. What will the suit prove in the long run?
"This is for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It's not for me."
It has been over 140 years since slavery was abolished in this country. I am not suggesting we forget history, but I am suggesting that we stop living in it.