Every week on Monday morning, The Council Forum and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question:Are Blacks In America Entitled To Reparations for Slavery?
Rhymes With Right: Are blacks in America entitled to reparations for slavery? That is an easy one. Not just no, but HELL NO!
Let me explain my answer, which is based upon two principles.
First, past reparations have been paid to those who were personally harmed by wrongdoing. My favorite example is the reparations paid to Japanese-Americans interned by FDR during WWII. When the US got around to making what were relatively nominal payments some 40 years later, those payments only went to surviving internees and not to their children and grandchildren. Thus the dear lady who lived next door to me when I was a child received a reparation check, but her children did not receive a check to compensate for their deceased father’s internment — nor did his widow receive any reparations on her late husband’s behalf. Given that we are 150 years on from emancipation, there are no surviving slaves to be reparated.
Second is the question of who will pay and who will be paid. The reality is that this will be nothing but a race-based transfer payment that does not actually take from those responsible and give to those harmed. Consider Barack Obama as an example. His ancestors did not toil in bondage in this country — he is the child of an African father and a white mother who is a descendant of slave owners — and yet any reparations scheme would make him a beneficiary of the program despite being a descendant of the perpetrators of slavery rather than the victims of it. Similarly, my ancestors fall into two groups — northern whites who fought in the Union army to eradicate slavery and immigrants who arrived in the decades that followed emancipation. In neither case am I the descendant of guilty parties — on what basis should I be expected to make whole the descendants of those harmed merely because of the color of my skin?
In short, in 1865 the Union should have made good on the “40 acres and a mule” promises. Unfortunately, it did not — and when the Slave-o-KKKrat Party regained control of the Southern states through violence and political chicanery, the promises of the post-Civil War amendments were frustrated for a century. But at this time, a century and a half later, the wrongs committed belong the category of historical sins to be lamented and learned from rather than personal harm for which victims are compensated.
GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: Nuremberg Tribunal defined crimes against humanity as “Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population . . . whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated” (Slanted words via moi)
Webster defines Reparation(s): To repair, to mend, to fix. … reparations means, on a human level (personal, cultural and political): To make amends for a wrong done; to recompense someone, or a group, for damages done to them. In attorney talk, the phrase would be: To Make Whole.
This does not necessarily take the form of money—there are, obviously, all sorts of problems with that. The form that it takes, according to Randall Robinson (who wrote the definitive book about reparations: The Debt, What America Owes To Blacks), is “needs based programs.” Needs based programs are essentially an extension and enlargement of Affirmative Action.
Yet it often does come back to cash.
If it’s finally agreed that the damage must be paid for somehow, then you have to ask: Who does the paying? Who, in modern America, should be found guilty and bear the burden of paying for the crime?
What is like gon be the determination of who should and who should not pay? Tax payers?
Also, you have to consider the Union soldiers that fought to ensure Confederacy died kicking and screaming.
Most cats who emigrated to America from the rest of the world struggled with immense hardship and poverty, and, in some cases, terrible discrimination. Lots of the immigrants to this country came here because they were victims of crimes elsewhere in the world, or suffered some intolerable form of oppression, poverty or class discrimination in their country of origin.
Should the descendants of all these groups of people, 99.9% of whom never had a slave-owner in the family or benefited from the profits made off the backs of slaves, be forced to pay for old crimes they never committed?
The victims of slavery died a long time ago. The perpetrators of the crime also died a long time ago. There is no one left alive in this country that was a direct victim of slavery, just as there is no one left alive who could be arrested and tried, or sued for this crime. The past is the past. Does the descendant, even one generation removed, of the victim of a crime, have a right to be compensated for the crime?
The GNP of black America is so large that it makes the African-American community the 10th most prosperous “nation” in the world. “American blacks on average enjoy per capita incomes in the range of twenty to fifty times that of blacks living in any of the African nations from which they were taken”
Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and the advent of the Great Society in 1965, trillions of dollars in transfer payments have been made to African-Americans in the form of welfare benefits and racial preferences (in contracts, job placements and educational admissions) – all under the rationale of redressing historic racial grievances. It is said that reparations are necessary to achieve a healing between African-Americans and other Americans.
If trillion dollar restitutions and a wholesale rewriting of American law (in order to accommodate racial preferences) for African-Americans is not enough to achieve a “healing,” what will?
For all America’s faults, African-Americans have an enormous stake in their country and its heritage. It is this heritage that is really under attack by the reparations movement. The reparations claim is one more assault on America, conducted by racial separatists and the political left. It is an attack not only on white Americans, but on all Americans — especially African-Americans.
America’s African-American citizens are the richest and most privileged black people alive — a bounty that is a direct result of the heritage that is under assault. The American idea needs the support of its African-American citizens. But African-Americans also need the support of the American idea. For it is this idea that led to the principles and institutions that have set African-Americans – and all of us — free.
JoshuaPundit: Reparations should by rights be given to people whom actually suffered a loss as opposed to a greedy class of permanent victims. The Arabs whom identify themselves as Palestinians have used this same trick to get more aid than any other developing country in history. Race pimps like Al Sharpton, Toure’ and Ta Nehesi Coates make their rent agitating for people whom never victimized anyone to pay up to people whom were never victimized, and with no small degree of success.
Nevertheless, I’m for reparations under certain conditions, which I admit are very difficult, perhaps impossible. First of all, I’d want a binding agreement by a majority of America’s blacks, their self-appointed leaders and especially by organizations like the NAACP,The Nation of Islam and Operation Push that this would end the complaints, the constant whining about ‘white privilege’ and address the issue once and for all, and that everyone would agree to abide by the results.
Second, I’d want an honest accounting.
We’d need to figure the actual value of black labor during slavery based on the wages of that time. We could certainly figure in pain and suffering for any actual losses due to things like lynchings and racial violence, like the draft riots in New York City in the 1860′s.
We’d need to subtract from that amount the cost of the American Navy patrolling the seas after 1804 to abolish the importation of slaves. We would further need to subtract the costs of the Civil War, not only in terms of what the war cost the Union to fight but in terms of the economic value lost by the deaths and disabling of close to half a million Union soldiers. We would also have to figure in the economic value of the civilian deaths, and value of the property damage and the cost of rebuilding in the South, where the war was mostly fought.
We would also have to weigh in actions for counter damages by Southern whites whose ancestors were disenfranchised whether they owned slaves or not or whose civilian ancestors had property stolen or confiscated or were otherwise victimized during the reconstruction.
Of necessity, a honest accounting would involve the actual value of the freed slaves as well, since they were in fact legally acquired property that was confiscated by government action without compensation. This is actually no small matter. When Great Britain decided to outlaw slavery, they recognized this principle and compensated the owners of human property for their slaves at a rate fixed by the government.
As we move to more modern times, there’s the cost of the War on Poverty, easily a trillion 1960′s dollars. We’d also need to figure in the cost of affirmative action policies in governmental hiring and special minority set asides and preferences in government contracts that played a significant role in creating the black middle class, but at significant cost to taxpayers.
We might also have to figure in counter suits by white and Asian businessmen who lost business or job applicants and college applicants whom were denied jobs or places in universities they were fully qualified for because of race based preferences.
Regrettably, we should, if we’re honest, come up with a formula to calculate the rightful black share of social welfare benefits paid out based on their percentage of the population and subtract any overage. Also, if we’re being fair, we’d have to do the same thing with the costs associated with crime and the costs of the criminal justice system.
That would be an honest accounting. However, when the numbers were crunched, I have a feeling the agreement about abiding by the results wouldn’t exactly be honored!
The Razor: I recently had a DNA test done to help me with my genealogy work. Turns out I am a mixture of ethnicities that haven’t faired well through history. Slav gave us the word “slave” perhaps because central Europe was a battleground for just about every megalomaniac with an spear, axe or musket. Consequently they were massacred and enslaved by nearly everyone who ever stepped foot in Europe. Then there is my Irish ethnicity. They were subjugated by the Vikings, Normans and of course later the British who embarked on several hundred years of systematic cultural extermination which culminated in the famines of the 1840’s that lead to my great-great grandparents risking it all and escaping the island on a coffin ship, so named because so many Irish died during the Atlantic crossings. I’ve searched the manifests of these ships, and what stunned me is how entire families died during the voyages, their names crossed out with rarely a note.
Should I seek reparations from the United Kingdom for the horrors inflicted on my Irish ancestors? Should I pursue lawsuits against Russia, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, France, Italy (the descendant of the Roman Empire) and Mongolia (for what Genghis Khan inflicted on my Slavic ancestors)? To what purpose? Those who suffered during these conquests are long dead, and why should I be rewarded for their suffering? And what about the countless millions who died without leaving descendants? How do we pay them back?
Is it really fair to the current citizens of these countries, some of whom are much poorer than those of Irish or Slavic ancestry their supposed to compensate? Do we then only shakedown the wealthiest countries while ignoring the poorest such as Mongolia?
This leads to the topic I rarely hear mentioned in the discussion of African-American slavery: the culpability of Africans. While living in Tanzania, I lived among Tongwe people, a small tribe that lived along Lake Tanganyika. They used to live in the mountains to avoid slavers, mostly Arabs but also from the dominant and powerful African tribes of the east. There were no white slavers in East Africa. In west Africa the situation was similar. The white slave traders often bought their slaves from black slavers. Do we hit up the Nigerians, Ghanaians, and others to pay off the comparatively well-off African-Americans? If not, then why not? Is it about slavery or is it really about an easy payoff?
What about those whose ancestors fought to free the slaves? Do they then deserve a payoff from the African-Americans to show their gratitude for their ancestor’s risk and sacrifice?
The whole idea is ridiculous and is put forward by race-baiters whose real purpose is to divide ethnic groups for their own personal benefit. Perhaps they should be sued for compensation for the pain and suffering they’ve caused an entire generation of Americans.
In order to justify it, you’d need to come up with a good explanation for why a Korean immigrant who arrived in this country in 1990 should pay reparations to a Ghanan immigrant who arrived in this country in 1990.
Ask Marion : No… because it wouldn’t change anything! And I honestly believe that most Americans would say, pay it, if they thought it would!
Although not many, outside the recent Atlantic essay of 15,000+ words by Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Case for Reparations that is getting the expected reaction, there are a few books including The Case for Black Reparations and Reparations: Pro and Con that have been written on this subject; an idea that has been incrementally floated with little follow-through or general interest, because in the end the argument is always thin. But The Atlantic essay has once again temporarily brought this subject to the forefront.
Coates doesn’t present much new, except for some historical anecdotes that add some detail to what we already knew about the sad history of slavery, segregation and discrimination in the United States (and around the world).
…the crime with which reparations activists charge the country implicates more than just a few towns or corporations. The crime indicts the American people themselves, at every level, and in nearly every configuration. A crime that implicates the entire American people deserves its hearing in the legislative body that represents them.
…. No one can know what would come out of such a debate. Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.
And in the end, Coates never gives puts forth a plan as to who gets what and how, if we were really to entertain this idea seriously. It is just more of the usual pot stirring; adding fuel to the fire of division that is at an all time high, in recent history, since President Obama’s election instead of finally having put the division to rest, which is what many Americans had hoped for when they voted for Obama in 2008.
We now live in a country where millions have come here being lawbreakers as their first act and although I don’t have the exact figure probably nearly as many present day Americans didn’t have ancestors who owned slaves, condoned slavery or ever experienced segregation or true discrimination… or even lived in the U.S. at that time, as did. So, why should they pay reparations to people who were not slaves themselves and many of whom did not personally experience segregation either. Some would also make the argument that Americans have paid reparations in kind through Affirmative Action, school bussing programs, and other related attempts to help blacks move ahead.
My question is, “Where does it stop?” And would sending each black American a check change anything? I think not. Millions of Caucasians, Asians, and other Non-Black Americans wanted to end the cycle and prove that they weren’t, they aren’t, prejudice, so voted for Barack Hussein Obama without demanding that he be vetted and without many unanswered question about him being addressed. They bought the ‘hope and change’ hook, line and sinker because they wanted America to have a new start… a line to begin from after racism. It didn’t happen. Racism and race-baiting has been heightened on all sides and now we hear that Obama wasn’t really black enough anyway.
Hate and forgiveness come from knowledge and from within. Forgiveness is a choice, as is race baiting, and no check, no matter how large or how small, will change someone’s heart!!
The Independent Sentinel: No. They are entitled to all the rights and privileges of every other American. None of us were around during slavery and none of us are owed or owe anything.
The far-left mag Salon said if we paid reparations, we’d owe them $100 trillion for unpaid man hours. They of course think we should give reparations. Let them and their friends give then, nothing is stopping them.
Where would it end? Shouldn’t we then do the same for Native-Americans? What about the Japanese who were put in containment camps during WWII? Then of course there are the people who come here illegally – many seem to think we owe them something also.
Well, there you have it.
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