“Slave”: A person who was property of another and was forced to obey them. Slavery, as an institution, during its grip on a developing America, socially and economically, not only eviscerated almost all potential of Black Americans slaves to move up in society but also directly affected those who were considered free slaves through oppressive laws and social nature which rose against those with dark skin. One of the most vivid depictions of slavery’s grip on historical America can be seen through The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In his narrative, Douglass presents the story of his upbringing, being purposefully disconnected from his mother by his master, being tossed around from owners to owner, having his hard-earned wages taken from him, and eventually, after a botched attempt, escaping slavery. While Douglass’ story, as he identifies, is a fortuitous one in comparison to other slaves, the heinous effects of slavery on an individual and general level still permeate throughout the book. And, these heinous effects of slavery still permeate throughout our society today in the form of what is colloquially known as “systemic racism.” With the identification of the reality comes a question: “What is to be done?” One proposed solution for healing the racial socioeconomic disparagement between Black and White Americans is reparations for slavery. While many pro-reparations arguments based on reimbursing Black Americans for the economic and social disruption which has its roots in slavery have proposed reparations as a step towards curing socioeconomic disparagement within America, these arguments are considerably ambiguous to what reparations could look like, 2 making it harder to pass as legislation and also proposing an unsure equivocacy to how effective reparations could be in ending the disparagement between Blacks and Whites in America. Rather, establishing a more affordable healthcare plan through a single-payer healthcare system would be more conducive to the eventual goal of disposing of Black American socioeconomic disparagement and would be easier to pass as legislation due to its popularity amongst the American populace.
While variations of what reparations could look like have been proposed, there is no concrete prescription for what it could look like if established. While this could change in the future, it seems like this detrimental facet of the argument for reparations has already resulted in polarization by and opposition from the general populace of America. In July 2018, a survey conducted by progressive think tank Data for Progress showed that only 26% of Americans support some kind of compensation or cash benefit for descendants of slavery. The ambiguity about what reparations could look like in America leaves a misunderstanding about the actual fiscal benefit it could have on closing the socioeconomic gap between White and Black Americans as well as likely having an effect on the popularity of reparations among the general populace. The lack of popularity amongst the general populace suggests that passing legislation for reparation is not likely resulting in the question of whether or not it is really a veritable solution to helping close the disparagement gap.
A clear example of modern-day systemic racism, though it is one of many economic and social setbacks which resulted due to the permeating effects of slavery, is the American healthcare system and the disparagement Black Americans face within it. The average annual cost for healthcare premiums for Black Americans is roughly 20% of household income. When considering general socioeconomic inequalities Black Americans face as a demographic, this 20% of household income is not as small as it may seem. Although Black Americans face many struggles in relation to the conglomerate that is the current American healthcare, the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 has improved the conditions of Black Americans within the healthcare system. However, in Jamila Taylor’s report completed through The Century Foundation, an independent, progressive think tank, it is revealed that, despite the ACA’s strides forward, Black maternal mortality, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a plethora of rates of health conditions are prevalent, exemplifying the disparities Black Americans face in the healthcare system when compared to White Americans. Moreover, Black Americans are more likely to die from various chronic illnesses in comparison to White Americans which can be heavily attributed to the lack of access to reliable healthcare due to economic disparagement.
Systemic racism exemplified through the relationship between Black America and the healthcare system has a massive effect on the economic lives, social lives, and survival of Black people within America. Once again, another question arises: “What could reform to the healthcare system look like and how could it improve the lives of Black Americans?” The most effective and pragmatic response to this need for reform can be seen in a single-payer healthcare system. Medicare for All, a popular framework for a single-payer healthcare system, could help to cure a lot of the issues with the current healthcare system’s oppressive nature. The plan itself would attempt to eliminate out-of-pocket payments and premiums which is predicted to result in massive cost-savings for consumers. The reduction of spending on medical situations and insurance would be an immense step forward to annihilating Black socioeconomic disparagement. In her same report, Taylor predicts that general health outcomes would improve as a result of the proposed comprehensive healthcare coverage system being put into place. So, not only would a single-payer healthcare type system improve healthcare and, in turn, the lives of millions of disenfranchised Black Americans, but also the concept itself is very favorable amongst the American populace making it more likely than any form of reparations to be passed as legislation. In 2020, a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 73% of Democrats and 58% of independents at least “somewhat favor” a Medicare for All, national healthcare service. The popularity amongst the American populace suggests and the predictions of what the system could do for Black Americans provide reasoning to believe that a single-payer healthcare system would be more efficient in ending racial socioeconomic disparagement and would be more likely to pass legislation than reparations.
While pro-reparations arguments push for reparations as a response to the socioeconomic disparities which permeate society today, the ambiguity of what reparations could look like along with its lack of popularity among Americans poses it as an inefficient response to these permeating effect of slavery. By establishing a federal single-payer healthcare system the government could alleviate Black Americans from the heinous, lingering effects of slavery in our society today.