The Chicago Tribune reports a proposal for $5.5 million in reparations for the acts of Police Commander Jon Burge who gained notoriety for torturing more than 200 criminal suspects between 1972 and 1991 in order to force confessions. Those who suffered under his office would be entitled to free college tuition and counseling for psychological issues and drug abuse. The city of Chicago also plans to issue a formal apology.
Fox News host Charles Payne fears that Obama will follow suit and ask for slavery reparations to be paid nationwide. “The news in my mind is a glimpse of really much bigger news that is going to come from the White House,” says Payne. “I think that there’s going to be an official apology from the White House for slavery in America and then there’s going to be a major push to get cash. And I’m talking lots of cash.”
Payne, who is black, considers the idea counterproductive. He doesn’t want America to dwell on the past. “I actually think it would be a major mistake,” says Payne. “Instead, Obama should really discuss and focus on all the progress we have made and how all Americans need to move forward for better days for all of our kids.”
“This is not going to help race relations in the U.S. today,” says Scottie Nell Hughes of the Tea Party News Network. “It would be different if presidents today were affected themselves by something that happened back in the 1800s, but unfortunately, now all its going to do is cause more tension among the races.”
This isn’t the first time America has argued about slavery reparations. Although most Americans don’t support the idea, they are more likely to say yes if reparations are paid through education.
I think the entire process would be a nightmare. Not to mention we’re looking at a cost of up to $14 trillion, a number that appeared in the Social Science Quarterly in an article by Thomas Craemer.
Craemer, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, supports the idea of reparations. His home country (Germany) paid reparations to Jews to apologize for the Holocaust. Germany has doled out $89 billion as of 2012.
“I grew up with this guilt complex about the Holocaust,” says Craemer, “and I remember kind of feeling good that my country paid reparations.”
However, “reparations will never bring one life back, and it’s totally inadequate to the terror of the [past], but having a meaningful symbol of reparations is a good thing, not just for recipients, but for the people who provide it,” says Craemer.