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How a Google Search Proves the Case for Reparations

    Recently, PBS published a statistical breakdown of what Google’s workforce looks like, complete with percentages of women, White, Black and Hispanic employees and who is and is not included in leadership positions. Google has long kept this information under wraps and PBS’s report reveals why.

    Reportedly, Google has hired so few Black people that, approximately, they make up a mere 2% of Google’s workforce and this includes only 1% of tech employees, only 1.5% of which are in leadership positions.

    This information is disturbing, but timely.  The Atlantic posted an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates titled, “The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy.” In this article Ta-Nehisi reminds his readers of the plethora of research academics have done that strongly supports a legitimate argument that Black Americans rightfully deserve reparations. In his article, Ta-Nehisi cites Chris Hayes’ explanation that “slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets,” a figure that, in modern terms, would amount to $10 trillion. Thus, slaveholders, and America in general, made a ton of money from Black bodies. So much so that, “slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” as Eric Foner explains.

    More importantly, however – and getting to how Google fits into all of this – Ta-Nehisi cites Jim McPherson’s statement that both White slaveholders and White non-slaveholders agreed on one thing. He explains, “Whites of both classes considered the bondage of blacks to be the basis of liberty for whites. Slavery, they declared, elevated all whites to an equality of status by confining menial labor and caste subordination to blacks. ‘If slaves are freed,’ maintained proslavery spokesmen, whites ‘will become menials. We will lose every right and liberty which belongs to the name of freemen.’”

    Many opposed to reparations explain that ‘times have changed.’ And the nation should not be punished for crimes committed over a century ago. But are these crimes really so distant?

    Those opposed to reparations but agree that wealth distribution is a viable concern have argued that increased access to higher education is a more feasible answer, providing Black people with more opportunities to ‘earn’ their way into equality.  But how has this worked out?

    Clearly, as Jim McPherson explained, White people have long ago expressed their desire for economic and social hierarchies in which they maintain their position at the very top, and they also expressed their fear of become inferior to Black people both socially and in the workforce.

    So with the abolition of slavery how have they reconciled these feelings?

    Google’s workforce report illustrates how.

    Since slavery, things haven’t changed as much as we think they have. America has figured out a way to ease Whites people’s concerns by locking Black people out of workforces that have the highest wages and the highest possibility to foster economic growth and upward mobility.

    Just as Jim McPherson explains, Google has systematically reserved the more “menial” jobs for Black people, denying them a significant place in leadership positions. Further, they have, for the most part, denied Black people access to jobs with their organization, in general. 2% is not representation.  Nor would I call it access. In fact, according to PBS’s report, in the U.S., White people make up 72% of Google’s leadership positions, while Black people represent only 1.5% of those with leadership roles.

    So, if, as some argue, access to higher education and Black people getting more college degrees is the answer to inequality, since this will, in turn, afford them the opportunity to get better jobs and earn higher wages, bridging the wealth inequality gap, how does Google’s stats reflect this notion?

    Access to higher education will not fix centuries of systematic racism in which Black people are limited to the very bottom of the socio-economic totem pole.  Even in the best of economic times, Black people still have the highest unemployment rates. Black college graduates with degrees comparable to their White counterparts are not getting jobs comparable to those their White counterparts are hired for.  Corporations still refuse to hire Black people with the same frequency as they hire White people.  Big business still operates under the same fear of White people being “confin[ed] to menial labor and caste subordination to blacks.”  And Google’s statistics reflect this sentiment.

    So what is to be done? Google’s lack of diversity in the workforce is not uncommon. To be fair, you will find very similar numbers for big business corporations in America across the board. Instead of offering the false hope of affording imaginary opportunity based on hard work and higher education, America needs to own up to the persistent wealth disparity and it’s historic and CURRENT financial capitalization on Black labor and a racial caste system, and settle their debt.

    As many have said before, you can’t subjugate an entire culture for over a century (at the very least, 400 years), then stand them at the start line and say “ready, set, go,” while proclaiming, “may the best man win,” as if it’s a fair playing field.

    More important, you can’t disproportionately hire your own and then tell them their persistent poverty is their own fault for not working hard enough.

    The gruesome and hard to swallow fact of the matter is, many of TODAY’S fortune 500 companies have roots in the slave trade. Many of them got the capital to start and grow their businesses and acquire or merge with other corporations from capital they made off of slavery.  Don’t believe me? Here are 15 of the many companies with substantiated evidence, tying them directly to profiting off of slavery.

    So, America profiting off of Black slave labor wasn’t so long ago. In fact, it continues today. And if we can discuss how Black slave labor not only affected us historically, but we can also discuss and PROVE how what’s happening RIGHT NOW affects us RIGHT NOW, then we deserve reparations and financial compensation.

    Jews received reparations for the Holocaust. The U.S. awarded an estimated $1.6 billion to Japanese Americans who were placed in internment camps as reparations.  The idea is NOT, by any means, far fetched or absurd. It’s only considered absurd in the context of Black people.

    We’ve gotta do better. And by “we,” I mean the so-called “United” States. And by “better,” I mean own up, and pay up.  Reparations are not handouts. Reparations were WORKED for. Reparations were paid for with lives. Reparations are well earned and well deserved.


    Camille H. is a writer, educator, editor, lecturer and public speaker. She can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_CamilleH You can also add her on Facebook.