A Pathway to Reparations?

A few weeks ago I talked about Harvard’s $100 million project to atone for their complicity in the institution of slavery.

That isn’t good enough, at least according to one lawsuit.

The original suit was filed in 2019, long before Harvard pledged the mea culpa dough, but a Massachusetts court recently held that Harvard could be sued for “emotional distress” over a couple of 1850s images it holds among is rare collections archive.

You see, these two images depict two South Carolina slaves and the descendant of these slaves claims that they make her feel terrible every time she sees them.

How often does this happen? Only when Harvard charges people to use the images or when it holds a conference featuring the images.

They are rarely in public, but when they are, this descendant of slavery wants a cut of the profits.

In fact, she claimed to be the proper owner of the images because they are her ancestors.

This would be laughable if the court didn’t side with her. Call it the snowflake ruling.

The court did rule that the Harvard rightfully owned the images, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the potential multi-million dollar shakedown getting ready to take place.

You can probably imagine where this will go in the future. As her lawyer suggested, this was only the beginning and a great start for “justice.”

It also raises several questions. Are there not other descendants of these slaves? Do they get a cut? Can every descendant of slavery sue Harvard because no matter if you are related to these two South Carolina slaves, the images are shocking. Doesn’t it make everyone feel terrible?

What about other slave images? Can the descendants of slaves sue Google to have them removed from image searches? How about the Library of Congress or the National Archives? Are images in their possession now fair game for lawsuits because they could cause emotional harm?

How about other types of images? What about the famous Dorthea Lange images from the Great Depression? Or the Jacob Riis photographs from the late 19th century?

They certainly show people in distress, and their descendants may not be happy about their ancestors being paraded about as symbols of poverty in America.

No one cares about them because there’s no money in it, but $100 million at Harvard will certainly get people interested.

This is a potential path to a reparations shakedown. It is only the beginning.

I discuss the suit on episode 659 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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