Reparations for Slave Descendants Are a Very Bad Idea
The old idea of reparations for the descendants of slaves are popping up again. It is a very bad idea in every way. It is merely another Democrat left-wing scheme to use taxpayer money to gain votes. It lacks any moral, legal, or rational justification.
Yes, the United States bears the scar of slavery – and always will. It was common in the earliest colonial days – first brought to what is now the Carolinas by the Spanish in the mid-1500s. It gained a foothold in the English and French colonies. The first colony to legalize slavery was Massachusetts.
At the time of the Declaration of Independence … the Articles of Confederation… and the United States Constitution … slavery was found in every colony – but not without a growing opposition in the North.
Eventually, slavery divided the nation politically and geographically. The evil institution ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and several amendments to the Constitution.
That was 158 years ago. Unfortunately, it did not end institutional racial prejudice against freed slaves and their descendants – most notably in the old solid Democrat Southland.
But that was long ago. If there were a statute of limitation of reparations, it would have expired more than 100 years ago.
Reparations may be justifiably imposed on those who owned slaves – or the politicians who maintained institutional slavery by legislation, policy, and culture. Payments would be made to those who were subjected to slavery. But those folks are no longer alive – nor are their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren. There are no former slaves to compensate – or slaveholders to pay.
In fact, the vast majority of Americans have no ancestral history as slaves or slave owners. Millions of Blacks are the descendants of people who came to America after the end of slavery. Most White Americans are also descendants of folks who arrived here long after slavery ended – or descendants of northern abolitionists. Hundreds of thousands of White men died to end slavery in the Civil War. Should their descendants get reparations?
One argument raised in support of reparations is that today’s descendants of slaves or still experiencing the Draconian effects of slavery. That is not necessarily true. If there is any case to be made for the current suffering of Black Americans, it is not from the slavery of their ancestors more than 150 years ago – but rather the more than 100 years of institutional racism in the former Confederate states and the still segregated big cities.
If there is any justification for reparations – and I do not believe there is – it should come from those who imposed institutional racism, Jim Crow legislation, and violent terrorism at the hands of para-military vigilante groups.
When President Clinton raised the prospect of paying reparations for the descendants of slavery, I suggested that the only appropriate payee should be the Democratic Party. Slavery and the 100 years of institutional racism – Jim Crow and Bull Connor – were the sad legacy of the Democratic Party.
If you are going to absolve the Democratic Party because it has changed, then you surely need to absolve the American public in general because it has changed.
Apart from a lack of rationale for reparations, there is the impossible task of determining who would pay whom. Would it be the general taxpayers of the nation or of a state – such as California, where Democrats are pushing for state-funded reparations?
(Consider the irony. California was never a slave state. In fact, it was not even a state in the days of slavery. It was never one of the Jim Crow states. And yet, Governor Gavin Newsom thinks the people of his state should pay reparations.)
Supposedly, the money would go only to the descends of slaves. And how do we determine who they are? Most of the folks who descended from slaves have no records to prove it. Are we supposed to accept every claim without documentation?
Even worse, the proponents of reparations are setting up a scheme to create potentially false documentation. They want to place a question on the ten-year census – asking folks if they are descendants of slaves. With the prospect of getting money from Uncle Sam, I have no doubt that many people would make that claim as long as they did not have to document it. It is just human nature.
Would the bogus census question then be the “documentation” to establish slave ancestors? That would make reparations nothing but a grand con game with the American taxpayers – Black and White — as victims.
I recently watched a television program about Jesse James. They interviewed several of his descendants. Should we be asking them to pay reparations to the victims of the James gang robberies? That makes about as much sense as reparations for slavery.
We can all agree that slavery was an evil and immoral institution. We can also agree that the 100-plus years of institutional racism was evil and immoral. We can also agree that there is a lot to be done to wipe out the residual of institutional racism where it remains. I have spent a lifetime in that battle. But reparations are not the answer. They are a cynical politically-based distraction.
So, there ‘tis.