Jun 12, 2019 in Review

The Debt: What Americans Owes to Blacks by Randal Robinson

It is hard to deny the fact that 350 consecutive years of racial antagonism have serious social consequences at present. Hence, the issue of discrimination on the grounds of race has received considerable attention in the past decades. Contemporary authors dwell on human-right wrong and suggests solutions to the existing problem. Being a notable example of Afro-American authors and thinkers, Randal Robinson tackled the theme of racial equality, American democracy, and cultural identity in his mind-opening novel The Debt: What Americans Owes to Blacks, which is to be analyzed and reviewed below.

In his controversial novel, Randal Robinson is advancing the overall idea of racial prejudice and its impact on Afro-American people over the past centuries. The major catalyst in the novel is direct references to the years of slavery and intentional discrimination on the basis of race. The author is entirely convinced that white Americans are deeply indebted to the black people and therefore have to contribute significantly to creating open and tolerate society that truly epitomizes the Paine’s idea of democracy and equality between races.

According to the manner of presentation, the novel is the first person narration, which is why the plot appears to be compelling and inspiring. Furthermore, it becomes increasingly apparent that Robinson’s arguments rely heavily on the research data, which makes the novel an educational and reliable piece of writing. Apart from the research evidence of tension between the races, the author suggests personal experience of being treated less favorably in the past years. Importantly, he speaks in a passionate manner about long-suffering generations that lived within American borders: “I am old and broken now and I cry. I cry for all who have been abducted, for this empty broken land…for the souls of my ancestors who gave art and craft and science to the whole of the world” (Robinson 23).

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The main struggle of the plot, however, lies in the title of the book. In essence, the author does not simply linger upon the historical overview, but poses a worthwhile question: “What Americans Owes to Blacks?” Throughout the novel Robinson raises awareness that little has been done to restitute the centuries of persecution and discrimination: “Here my intent is to stimulate, not to sate. To cause America to compensate, after three and a half centuries, for a long-avoided wrong” (9). Regarding that, he suggests providing equal education and job opportunities to people of all ethnicities. Besides, the author stresses the importance of paying reparations for slavery in order to alleviate a burden of racial history.

The next section of the book offers a clear summary of important historical issues, without understanding of which the racial problem can hardly be resolved. The focus here is therefore wider than just arguments about reparations for slavery. To be more precise, the author states that black people owe to themselves their unique traditions, considerable culture, and historical roots that were abandoned long time ago. Hence, the theme of cultural identity is brought to the surface: “Languages, customs, traditions, rituals, faiths, mores, taboos – all vitals of the immortal larger self – gone, extinguished…No people can live successfully, fruitfully, triumphantly without strong memory of their past…” (Robinson 27).


In the novel The Debt: What Americans Owes to Blacks, Robinson actively fights against America’s crime named racism. Logical argumentation adds weight to the author’s points so that a reader becomes convinced that genocide was committed. By means of emotional appeal, the author emphasizes that the contemporary society also contributes to the continuity of quasi-slavery, which is why it is crucial to make a change. Eventually, a reader searching for a thought-provoking literature will be pleased to enter into a direct dialogue with Randal Robinson to find the truth about racism in America.

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