1. Opinion

What ‘reparations’ could mean | Saturday’s letters

Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s paper.
A replica poster for Juneteenth, signifying the end of slavery on June 19, 1865, is lyrical and poetic in its proclamation "slavery drizzled out of time, blue skies of truth and thrive!" [FRED BELLET  |  Tampa Bay Times]
A replica poster for Juneteenth, signifying the end of slavery on June 19, 1865, is lyrical and poetic in its proclamation "slavery drizzled out of time, blue skies of truth and thrive!" [FRED BELLET | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 13, 2019

What ‘reparations’ could mean

A.T. McWilliams is a writer and poet based in Oakland, Calif. [A.T. McWilliams]

My ancestors’ case for reparations | Column, Sept. 1

A.T. McWilliams makes an interesting and thoughtful statement about the “case for reparations.” The post-bellum theft of land from non-whites — including indigenous peoples — was an important factor in producing the country as we know it today, but certainly not the only reason to warrant reparations. It is clear that both private and governmental actions (and inaction) have created a gross inequality, based on the false idea of racial differences. And that’s not even considering the theft of people and their labor that occurred before slavery was ended.

The questions about reparations for slavery include: Was there wrong and injury and reason for amends? If yes, who makes them, how and to whom? McWilliams does not answer the later questions, only presents one of the “cases” of injury. He suggests no solution or proposed payment, but does ask the presidential candidates to offer a “strategy to repay black slave descendants.”

Most of us agree that injury was perpetrated on a group of people based on their continent of origin. Perhaps the word “reparations” is too loaded with unrealistic expectations and resentments. I don’t believe I should get payment even though I can show that some of my ancestors were slaves. We should be able to agree that amends are warranted. I don’t think there is an equitable way to compensate individual descendants of slaves, but I believe our country is capable of creating programs and taking actions aimed at eliminating the inequities of education, health care, financial status and life’s expectations that have come from 400 years of denial of humanity, and over 150 years of denial of equality.

A commission to examine the problems and possible remedies is long overdue. Let’s not avoid the discussion because the situation is too complex and/or expensive. And maybe we should move away from the idea that reparations has to mean money paid to individuals.

Mitchell B. Turner, Tampa

The real risk is unknown

A retention pond spills over into Loon Lane last month in a mobile home park south of Brooksville a few days after heavy rains hit the area.

Know the true flood risk | Column, Aug. 28

I don’t feel it’s fair to expose Florida home owners to excessive rate hikes to their insurance based on events that haven’t happened yet. This is uncharted territory at best because the effect of carbon emissions is uncertain. Flood insurance is a huge expense. What if nothing happens? Do we get our money back? Of course not.

Hal Batey, St. Petersburg

Rudderless foreign policy

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing on Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House. [PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP]

Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders | Sept. 8

In most cases clarity and certainty in foreign policy are desirable characteristics, though often to get to the policy requires a process of flexibility and adaptation. President Donald Trump’s process of forming foreign policy is mysterious and often unpredictable. He seems to operate based on intuition and the moment with little regard for the views of those he appoints to assist him. Our allies, enemies and all nations in between must be rather confused and frustrated as our foreign policy may go right, left and straight all in the same day. Mr. Trump famously states often “we will see what happens” and the guessing begins. I would think after 18 years in Afghanistan, U.S. troops and commanders are wondering when will this end and why should more of us be killed?

James Gillespie, St. Petersburg

Home-grown spirits

Promoting local business

The support NJoy Spirits Distillery has received from our local tourism promotion agency, Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville-Weeki Wachee, along with a small grant from Visit Florida, has helped us grow. Located deep within the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, our 80-acre farm had no signs to direct visitors. With the Visit Florida grant that Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville-Weeki Wachee helped us secure, we bought signs, produced a short video, printed brochures and advertised on social media.

As one of Florida’s first craft distilleries, we have always had a passion for making small batch rye whiskey and rum the old-fashioned way — by hand and by the purest standards. We grow a 401 black rye grain for our gold award-winning Wild Buck Whiskey and sugar cane for our Mermaid Rum while using double-filtered rainwater. We take pride in making the finest of spirits but being small has had its challenges. We have a modest budget to properly market ourselves as an agri-tourism business. That is why we rely so heavily on support from local and state tourism promotion efforts.

Since we received help from our destination-marketing organization, visitation has quadrupled and 95 percent of visitors tell us they plan to return. Our success has a ripple effect on other local businesses. When people stop by our distillery, we encourage them to eat at local restaurants, stop by area breweries and wineries, and see the nature our region has to offer. We have created an attraction that pulls in visitors who spend their resources in our community, putting more people to work and increasing the tax benefit visitors provide Hernando County. We couldn’t have done any of this our own. It is only through tourism promotion dollars that little places like ours have been put on the map.

Kevin and Natalie Goff, Weeki Wachee

The writers own NJoy Spirits Distillery Owners.

One shot is plenty

A Virgin Mary painting, flags and flowers adorn a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. [ANDRES LEIGHTON | AP]

Why won’t Congress act on guns to save lives? | Editorial, Sept. 8

I agree with the five changes this editorial says Congress should approve. The ones that make the most sense are to ban high-capacity magazines and to ban military-style weapons. When the right to bear arms was amended into the Constitution, only single-shot guns existed. That is all you need to protect life and property now, just as 200 years ago. Why would we need to have high-capacity guns in our homes when we have the technology and materials to make our homes a lot more secure than was possible back then? Dad, mom, grandpa or Uncle Billy Bob should be able to take their kids out to learn how to hunt. But those firearms should be obtained by their relatives 21 or older.

Jeff Harris, Tarpon Springs


  1. Paula Dockery of Lakeland served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years.
  2. The United States' life expectancy has gone down four out of the last five years largely because of deaths in the 25-64 age range.
  3. Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
  4. In this image from video, the vote total, 53-47 for not guilty, on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of congress, is displayed on screen during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate.
  5. Nurse manager Amy Hunt holds the special stethoscope that allows nurses at Tampa General Hospital to record a heartbeat while they listen to it during a routine exam.
  6. Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. Workers are preparing to mail 260,000 vote by mail kits for the November General Election.
  7. Left tot Right: US Army Reserves Captain Jessica Purcell, 37, St. Petersburg, spends time with her 10-month-old son Jameson, and her attorney Natalie Khawam on Jan. 21, She has breast cancer and has filed a medical malpractice claim. Photo by SCOTT KEELER/Times
  8. Oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. The company at the center of that disaster, British oil giant BP, announced a zero emissions target this week.
  9. Three teens died in a fiery stolen SUV crash on Tampa Road in Palm Harbor in August 2017.
  10. Les Miller, Hillsborough County commissioner and chairman of the county's transit agency board, made the motion to fire chief executive officer Ben Limmer during a special meeting. Only one board member voted no.
  11. This columnist will participate in the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs.