No. of Recommendations: 11

I'm no big fan of David Horowitz, but he brings up some interesting points. For me, as a hispanic male, I've always felt that black America tried to usurp the title "minority". By no means am I talking about all of black America, just a decided majority. This opinion seemed to resonate well with friends of mine that were Asian and Spanish.

Some of my comments on Horowitz's writings:

I brought up the case of Oprah to highlight a problem with one of the central claims of the reparations' camp - that blacks alive today still suffer significant damage from a system of slavery that was ended 135 years ago, and from the regime of segregation that was brought to a close 35 years ago, and that other Americans should pay them compensation. Or, even if it could be proved that they do so suffer, that Americans should pay them more compensation than the trillions of dollars they have already provided in the form of welfare and other transfer payments and in special privileges afforded by the racial preference arrangements called affirmative action.

I'm inclined to believe that slavery 135 years ago has less to do with damage suffered by black America today than the trillions of dollars in welfare and transfer payments. In a sentence that looks strange as I write it: the majority of problems are faced by those on welfare, even as millions do fine that are not on welfare. This is not in any way proof that welfare doesn't work, but it is a statement I am making. How's that for dancing?

Ten Reasons Reparations are bad idea:
1. Assuming there is actually a debt, it is not at all clear who owes it. Tillman articulated the argument for the existence of the debt this way: "America owes blacks a debt because when we built this country on free labor ... wealth was handed down to the white community." Robinson reaches back in time even further: "Well before the birth of our country, Europe and the eventual United States perpetrated a heinous wrong against the peoples of Africa and benefited from the wrong through the continuing exploitation of Africa's human and material resources." To sustain this claim, Robinson's book devotes entire sections to the alleged depredations of whites against blacks hundreds and even thousands of years before the "eventual United States"—i.e., the government that is expected to pay the reparations—was even created. It is necessary to insert the qualifier "alleged" because, like so many who wave the bloody shirt, Robinson makes little effort to establish causal responsibilities, but invokes any suffering of blacks where whites were proximate as evidence that whites were to blame.

Slavery itself is the most obvious example. It was not whites but black Africans who first enslaved their brothers and sisters. They were abetted by dark-skinned Arabs (since Robinson and his allies force us into this unpleasant mode of racial discourse) who organized the slave trade. Are reparations going to be assessed against the descendants of Africans and Arabs for their role in slavery? There were also 3,000 black slave owners in the antebellum United States. Are reparations to be paid by their descendants too?

Mercedes used Jewish slave labor during WWII and now they have a liability to those people. Aetna insured (made money) slaves for owners in the 1800's. Is Aetna today liable? I'd say yes. Does the government owe? I'd say they are liable for not doing their job and protecting rights, but it would be interesting to tax Oprah to pay for reparations (or would she get exempt?). Is an estate possibly liable? Yes. Do we just write checks out to anyone who is black? No. I think a little burden of proof should be placed on anyone looking to cash a 135 year old check. I'd also like to see black leaders recognize that African countries were the ones who sold slaves the most earnestly... and it didn't work out too well for those countries.

2. The idea that only whites benefited from slavery is factually wrong and attitudinally racist. By accusing the U.S. government of crimes against black people in advance of its existence, Robinson reveals the ugly anti-white racism beneath the surface of many arguments for reparations, especially his. According to this line of reasoning, only white Americans are implicated in slavery, just as only whites are the presumed targets of the reparations payback. Both presumptions, however, are wrong.

If slave labor created wealth for all Americans, then obviously it created wealth for black Americans as well, including the descendants of slaves. Free blacks in the antebellum United States surely benefited from the free labor of slaves, along with whites. Are they to be exempted from payment of the debt just because they are black?

But if the "free labor" argument of the reparations claimants is correct, even the descendants of slaves have benefited from slavery. The GNP of black America (as black separatists constantly remind their followers) is so large that it makes the African-American community the 10th most prosperous "nation" in the world. To translate this into individual realities, American blacks on average enjoy per capita incomes in the range of 20 to 50 times those of blacks living in any of the African nations from which they were kidnapped.

What about this benefit of slavery? Are the reparations proponents going to make black descendants of slaves pay themselves for benefiting from the fruits of their ancestors' servitude?

I always loved this rationality. Even though black America is better off living in America than living in Africa (or elsewhere), that doesn't justify slavery. But it does make the case that I (as a first generation Mexican/German American) am no more responsible for reparations than a black American.

3. In terms of lineal responsibility for slavery, only a tiny minority of Americans ever owned slaves. This is true even for those who lived in the antebellum South, where only one white in five was a slaveholder. Why should the descendants of non-slaveholding whites owe a debt? What about the descendants of the 350,000 Union soldiers who died to free the slaves? They gave their lives. What possible morality would ask them to pay (through their descendants) again?

I never hear great speaches at Juneteenth celebrations about the terrible price paid by white Union soldiers or white Abolitionists in the South.

4. Most Americans living today (white and otherwise) are the descendants of post-Civil War immigrants, who have no lineal connection to slavery at all. The two great waves of American immigration occurred after 1880 and after 1960. Is there an argument worth considering that would, for example, make Jews (who were cowering in the ghettos of Europe at the time) or Mexicans and Cubans (who were suffering under the heel of Spain) responsible for this crime? What reason could there be that Vietnamese boat people, Russian refuseniks, Iranian refugees, Armenian victims of the Turks or Greek, Polish, Hungarian and Korean victims of communism should pay reparations to American blacks? There is no reason, and no proponent of reparations has even bothered to come up with one.

Exactly! I don't want to pay even more than the high taxes I already pay. I wasn't here even 40 years ago. Go after individuals if you must.

5. The historical precedents generally invoked to justify the reparations claim—that Jews and Japanese-Americans received reparations from Germany and the United States, respectively—are spurious. The circumstances involved bear no resemblance to the situation of American blacks, and are not really precedents at all. The Jews and Japanese who received reparations were individuals who actually suffered the hurt.

Jews do not receive reparations from Germany simply because they are Jews. Those who do were corralled into concentration camps and lost immediate family members or personal property. Nor have all Japanese-Americans received payments, but only those whom the government interned in camps and who had their property confiscated. The reparations claims being advanced by black leaders seem to imply that the only qualification required for reparations is the color of one's skin. Robinson's book is pointedly subtitled "What America Owes to Blacks." If this is not racism, what is?

I can get pretty dark. But imagine what proof "they" would want. Race is quickly becoming a non-issue. It should be taken off the racist census as a question. What is "black"?

6. Behind the reparations arguments lies the unfounded claim that all blacks in America suffer economically from the consequences of slavery and discrimination. It would seem a hard case to prove over a 150-year (or even 50-year) gap, and the only evidence really offered by the claimants is the existence of contemporary "income disparities" and "inequalities" between the races. No actual connection (as far as they're concerned) need be made. On the other hand, African-American success stories that contradict the conclusion are abruptly dismissed.

Thus, to take the most obvious case, Oprah Winfrey may have been a sharecropper's daughter in the most segregated of all Southern states, but—victim of slavery and segregation or no—she was still able to become one of the 400 richest individuals in America on the strength of her appeal to white consumers. This extraordinary achievement, which refutes the reparations argument, is echoed in millions of other, more modest success stories, including those of all the prominent promoters of the reparations claim, even the unhappy Robinson. No wonder the only argument against these obvious counterfacts is that all successes must be exceptions to the (politically correct) rule.

But the reality is that this black middle class—composed exclusively of descendants of slaves—is also a very prosperous middle class that is now larger in absolute terms than the black underclass, which is really the only segment of the black population that can be made to fit the case. Is this black middle-class majority—numbering millions of individuals—really just a collective exception of unusual people? Or does its existence not suggest that the failures of the black underclass are failures of individual character, hardly (if at all) impacted by the lingering aftereffects of racial discrimination, let alone a slave system that ceased to exist well over a century ago?

West Indian blacks in America are also descended from slaves, but their average incomes are equivalent to the average incomes of whites (and nearly 25 percent higher than the average incomes of American-born blacks of all classes). How is it that slavery adversely affected one large group of descendants but not the other? And how can government be expected to decide an issue that is so subjective—yet so critical—to the case? The fact is that nobody has demonstrated any clearly defined causal connection between slavery or discrimination and the "disparities" that are alleged to require restitution.

And how, by the way, are blue-collar whites and ethnics expected to understand their reparations payments to these African-American doctors, lawyers, executives and military officers who make up the black middle class?

Again, it's the welfare trap, not the past slavery. Worshipping the false idols of athletes, thug-life musicians, anti-education, rascist civic leaders, entitlement, and victimhood don't help either.

7. The renewed sense of grievance—which is what the claim for reparations will inevitably create—is neither a constructive nor a helpful message for black leaders to be sending to their communities. Virtually every group that has sought refuge in America has grievances to remember. For millions of recent immigrants the suffering is only years behind them, and can be as serious as ethnic cleansing or genocide.

How are these people going to receive the payment claims from African-Americans whose comparable suffering lies in the distant past? Won't they see this demand as just another claim for special treatment, for a rather extravagant new handout that is only necessary because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others, many of whom are even less privileged than they are? Why can a penniless Mexican, who is here illegally and unable even to speak English, find work in America's inner cities while blacks cannot?

I worked construction in Texas for a white foreman. He hired only Mexicans for his concrete and form work. He said whites and blacks didn't want to do the back-breaking work. Rascist? Sure. The next summer I worked for another crew and after 2 days the white and black guys quit and left me and 2 Mexicans alone to do the work. There are jobs out there, but not if you have an attitude of entitlement and won't do whatever work is available. I admit this is a rascist story. But whitey sure can be lazy.

Can 19th century slavery or even the segregation of 50 years ago really explain this?

To focus the social passions of African-Americans on what some Americans did to their ancestors 50 or 150 years ago is to burden this community with a crippling sense of victimhood. It is also to create a new source of conflict with other communities.

Poor civic "leadership".

A young black intellectual wrote the following comments about reparations: "I think the reparations issue will be healthy. It will show all Americans (white, Hispanic, Asian) how much blacks contributed to helping build this country." Actually, as Robinson's book makes clear, what it will accomplish is just the opposite. It will provide black leaders with a platform from which to complain about all the negative aspects of black life -- to emphasize inner-city pathologies and failures, and to blame whites, Hispanics and Asians for causing them.

How is this going to impress other communities? It's really just a prescription for sowing more racial resentment and creating even greater antagonism.

My Asian roommate about flipped her lid when I talked to her about this. 20 years in this country and she's no fan of the special treatment she sees. Didn't black American leaders talk to civic leaders of other groups to test this out?

8. This raises a point that has previously remained off the radar screen, but will surely be part of the debate to come: What about the "reparations" to blacks that have already been paid? 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 historical racial grievances.

In fact, reparations advocates already have an answer to this argument, and it is a revealing one. Here is how Robinson refers to this massive gesture of generosity and contrition on the part of the white political majority in America during the past 35 years: "It was only in 1965 ... that the United States enacted the Voting Rights Act. Virtually simultaneously, however, it began to walk away from the social wreckage that centuries of white hegemony had wrought." Take that, white, Hispanic and Asian America! If a trillion-dollar restitution and a wholesale rewriting of American law and fundamental American principle in order to accommodate racial preferences and redress injustice are nothing, then what will fill the claimants' bill?

9. And this raises another question that black leaders might do well to reflect on: What about the debt blacks owe to America—to white Americans—for liberating them from slavery? This may not seem like a serious question to some, but that only reveals their ignorance of the history of slavery and its fate. Slavery existed for thousands of years before the Atlantic slave trade was born, in virtually all societies. But in the 1,000 years of its existence, there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Englishmen and Americans created one. If not for the anti-slavery attitudes and military power of white Englishmen and Americans, the slave trade would not have ended. If not for the sacrifices of white soldiers and a white American president who gave his life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would have remained slaves indefinitely.

If not for the dedication of Americans of all ethnicities and colors to a society based on the principle that all men are created equal, blacks in America would not enjoy the highest standard of living of blacks anywhere in the world, and indeed one of the highest standards of living of any people in the world. They would not enjoy the greatest freedoms and the most thoroughly protected individual rights. Where is the gratitude of black America and its leaders for those gifts?

10. The final and summary reason for rejecting any reparations claim is recognition of the enormous privileges black Americans enjoy as Americans, and therefore of their own stake in America's history, slavery and all.

Blacks were here before the Mayflower. Who is more American than the descendants of African slaves? For the African-American community to isolate itself even further from America would be to embark on a course whose consequences are troublesome even to contemplate. Yet the black community has had a long-running flirtation with separatists and nationalists in its ranks, who must be called what they are: racists who want African-Americans to have no part of America's multiethnic social contract. This separatist strain in black America's consciousness has now been joined with the anti-Americanism of the political left to form the animating force behind the reparations movement.

If black Americans get reparations, we'd all hate to see the bill due the folks here before Columbus landed. Black Americans would have to chip in on that one and they might be better off to drop this whole issue pretty damn quick.


Print the post  


When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.