Reparations are gaining steam again, as the House of Representatives held the first hearing on the subject in over a decade for Wednesday, June 19. The hearing was intended to consider the “continuing impact” of slavery, which was abolished over 150 years ago, and ponder the concept of “restorative justice,” which means penalizing people who had nothing to do with it.
Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have embraced reparations with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Some of them express support for a bill to study reparations introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is one example:
Slavery is a stain on America & we need to address it head on. I believe it’s time to start a national, full-blown conversation about reparations. I support the bill in the House to support a congressional panel of experts so that our nation can do what’s right & begin to heal.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 19, 2019
Other Democrats are full-throated reparations boosters with semi-detailed proposals of their own. Candidate Marianne Williamson wants at least $100 billion paid out over 10 years for various projects, for example. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro has been pushing reparations for years.
Latter-day reparations enthusiasts are careful to portray the concept as money pumped into government programs for the benefit of black Americans, rather than cash handouts to those putatively disadvantaged for generations by slavery in the 19th century..
The passive wing of conservatism is beginning to make its peace with reparations, deeming it yet another in the long series of hills that aren’t worth dying on while the left relentlessly advances. David Brooks wrote a piece called “The Case for Reparations” for the New York Times in March, abandoning his previous opposition and deciding he now agrees with the landmark 2014 Atlantic essay of the same name by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is one of the expert witnesses scheduled to testify at the House hearing on reparations next week.
Brooks conceded he still has some misgivings about how reparations would be implemented, but he has come to accept the moral case for paying them as an inevitable step toward achieving racial harmony.
“What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices – more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal,” he wrote.
This is absolutely delusional. Reparations are not in any way intended as a means of achieving spiritual cleansing, racial harmony, or national unity. They are a weapon of racial war, among the sharpest instruments of divisiveness ever conceived. No one pushing reparations has the slightest interest in reducing racial strife.
Quite the contrary – their obvious political and financial interest lies in exacerbating it. How can anyone be foolish enough to think a single Democrat politician would support a program that could significantly reduce the racial strife they rely upon for their very survival in office? They would all but cease to exist as a party if minority voting patterns remotely resembled those of white Americans.
Even now, most of the Democrats pushing for reparations do not believe it will actually happen. They’re pushing the issue because they know it’s divisive. They’re virtue-signaling to selected constituencies and hoping to provoke Republicans into speaking out against the idea so they can be savaged as racists.
Democrats expect that one of their media shills will stephanopoulize President Donald Trump during a debate by asking why he doesn’t want to cleanse the stain of white supremacy from his campaign and exorcise the ghost of Robert E. Lee by supporting fair and wonderful reparations for the African-American community.
No amount of reparations could ever be enough to satisfy the left. Brooks was quickly needled for his insufficient devotion to the cause, earning at best a polite pat on the head from left-wingers for at least conceding their moral supremacy.
If $100 billion is earmarked for reparations, another $100 billion will quickly be demanded. The most detailed proposal in the Democrat field to date comes from Williamson, and even she stipulates her $10 billion per year for a decade figure is merely a floor with no firm ceiling at all. She casually admits it could end up costing $200 billion, $500 billion, or “whatever it takes.”
Other grievance groups will quickly demand reparations of their own, bristling with rage at any suggestion their history of suffering is any less worthy of respect and monetary compensation than black Americans. Senator Warren is already floating the idea of reparations for homosexuals to compensate them for the extra taxes they paid when same-sex marriage was illegal:
For years, legally married same-sex couples couldn’t file joint taxes & often paid more. I’m reintroducing my Refund Equality Act with 39 other senators to right that wrong. https://t.co/TkuzkyFdJv
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 20, 2019
If reparations did not rapidly escalate in cost, far beyond the projections and solemn promises of advocates, it would be the first socialist program in history not to do so. The intended beneficiaries will be lucky if they receive pennies on the dollar, given how Big Government spending tends to vanish into sinkholes of corruption and inefficiency.
This will anger and alienate the beneficiaries, creating opportunities for the Democrat Party’s race hustlers to demand even more money and power. Democrats always demand at least a dollar in new spending for every dollar they waste.
If you enjoy watching the Democrats who ruined health care with a party-line midnight vote on Obamacare claiming they need even more power and money to “fix” the system they won’t admit to screwing up, just wait until you see what they do with reparations. Republicans will be blamed for everything that goes wrong. Democrats will make sure plenty goes wrong to blame them for.
The quest to figure out who should receive reparations, and who should pay for them, would be an incredibly divisive process, grinding on for agonizing months. As economist Walter Williams explained in April:
So which white Americans owe which black Americans how much? Reparations advocates don’t want that question asked, but let’s you and I ask it. Are the millions of European, Asian and Latin Americans who immigrated to the U.S. in the 20th century responsible for slavery? What about descendants of Northern whites who fought and died in the War of 1861 in the name of freeing slaves? Should they cough up money for black Americans? What about non-slave-owning Southern whites, who were a majority of Southern whites — should their descendants be made to pay reparations?
On black people’s side of the ledger, thorny questions arise. Some blacks purchased other blacks as a means to free family members. But other blacks owned slaves for the same reason whites owned slaves — to work farms or plantations. Would descendants of these blacks be eligible for reparations?
The bottom line is because blacks are doing well in the economic arena under the Trump administration, Democrats fear losing a significant portion of the black vote. Their call for reparations is another attempt to use the promise of handouts to insure that the black vote remains in their pocket. Reparations talk is simply another insulting Democratic rope-a-dope strategy.
Former NFL football player Burgess Owens touched on this problem in his remarks to the House hearing when he remarked that if anyone ought to be paying reparations to black Americans, it should be the Democrat Party.
“I used to be a Democrat until I did my history and found out the misery that that party brought to my race. I do believe in restitution. Let’s point to the party that was part of slavery, KKK, Jim Crow, that has killed over 40 percent of our black babies, 20 million of them,” Owens said.
This makes as much logical sense as any Democrat scheme to tax innocent Americans for a reparations payoff scheme. The finger-pointing contest that would commence with a serious push for reparations would be epic in scope and incredibly vicious in character. The blame game would never end, which is exactly what the divide-and-conquer left wants.
Walter Williams and Burgess Owens are black, as is writer Coleman Hughes, who perceptively noted at the House hearing that imposing a reparations scheme would permanently define black Americans as victims, which is the last thing they need.
“Not just that, you’ve made one-third of black Americans who poll against reparations into victims without their consent, and black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner,” said Hughes.
For his troubles, Hughes was promptly labeled a “coon” by HBO writer and alleged comedian Rae Sanni. Does anyone really want to see how much more bitter and divisive this ridiculous debate will get if Democrats keep pushing for reparations?
Conservatives should fiercely oppose reparations on the principle of justice, a concept they should never have allowed the left to hijack. There is nothing remotely just about penalizing innocent people for the actions of their long-dead ancestors. Many of the people penalized by reparations would have no ancestors remotely connected to slavery at all. They would be forced to pay the bill because their skin is the wrong color.
This is a hideous perversion of justice that should not be tolerated in any civilized society. It will make racial tensions worse, not better. Those unjustly taxed to provide reparations will bitterly resent the assumption of guilt forced upon them and the unfair seizure of their wealth. Those who receive the reparations will learn another dreary lesson from the Democrat Party in how they are helpless victims of white privilege who cannot hope to get ahead without maternal Big Government holding their hands.
Leaving racial politics aside, reparations would reinforce the poisonous concept of presumed guilt.
The left hates the American ideal of presumed innocence because it restrains the power of the State. People tend to think only criminals – people who did something wrong – should feel the iron hand of compulsive government power. The left, therefore, needs to teach all citizens to think of themselves as criminals, so they will accept the massive expansion of State power into their lives.
This is explicit in the Democrat Party’s racial politics, which constantly hector white people to see themselves as wrongdoers – wicked beneficiaries of “white privilege” who steal their prosperity from downtrodden minorities. The noxious theory of “implicit racism” tells white people they are guilty of racism even when they don’t realize it.
Guilty, guilty, guilty… that word echoes through the politics of the left. Reparations would be a hammer blow of guilt dealt onto the heads of law-abiding American citizens, a fine slapped on them without due process for crimes committed by other people centuries ago. It would establish the presumption of guilt more firmly as a bedrock principle of the new, twisted America – the First Amendment to an antimatter Bill of Rights attached to a shadow Constitution that was never debated openly or ratified by the people.
The reparations issue is a potent example of how individual justice is corrupted by the Left into collective guilt. There is no question slavery was an abomination and the discrimination prevalent during the first half of the Twentieth Century was reprehensible. It does not automatically follow from acknowledging those truths that a collectivist “solution” that holds roughly two-thirds of the American people “guilty” and treats the other third as “victims” is morally acceptable or logistically feasible.
Individual claims of damage dating back to slavery or the Jim Crow era, some of which were discussed in last week’s hearings, can be resolved through the courts without damage to society. Collective reparations for slavery must discard due process and the presumption of innocence as Step One in a process that will surely make racial tensions in modern America worse, not better.
Reparations are not another minor hill we can allow passive conservatives to retreat from after declaring themselves the losers of a battle they never fought. Important principles of justice and fairness are at stake. The toxic effect of reparations on both white and black Americans would be the exact opposite of the spiritual cleansing and reconciliation promised by proponents.
It should be painfully obvious to any conservative worthy of the name that nobody pushing reparations is interested in putting themselves out of political business by reconciling anything. When self-described “progressives” tell us they cannot get past the events of the 1860s, we should heed the dangerous warning signal about the future they truly have in mind for us.
We must respond with full appreciation for what slavery and the struggle for civil rights mean to black Americans, giving the left no opportunity to claim that resistance to reparations flows from callous indifference or contempt for any group. Justice is color-blind. It will not be found through policies that institutionalize prejudice and lock oppressor-victim narratives in place for generations to come.