Candidate Joe Biden promised to “unite” the nation. Judging from his executive orders and proposed legislation so far, it appears that was just campaign BS and that his real intention is to impose one-party rule and the progressive left-wing agenda. When he calls for “bold” measures, bold is simply a euphemism for radical.
For example, as president, Biden recently stated he supports a Democrat bill in the House to create a commission to study the history of slavery as a pathway to giving cash reparations to black Americans for the enslavement of their ancestors. That’s hardly a uniting issue in light of an Associated Press-NORC Center poll showing only 29% of Americans support reparations, with 74% of blacks in favor and 85% of whites opposed.
An unsuccessful attempt at this in 1989 was led by Democrat Rep. John Conyers, a congressman and founder of the Congressional Black Caucus who represented a two-thirds black district in Detroit. On board was Kwame Afo, vice president of New Africa, who demanded a payment of $133,000 to every African-American man, woman and child in the country. The tab for that was $4 trillion, which was four times the total of federal spending in that year, and would have cost each U.S. non-black family about $60,000. Adjusting for inflation, that would be twice as much in today’s dollars.
In 2002, Washington lawyer, Robert Brock, filed a class action lawsuit demanding $250,000 in gold bullion for each of the nation’s 35 million blacks, plus payments to an unnamed county in Africa where they could resettle. The price tag for that was $10 trillion. (Total federal spending in that year the $3.5 trillion.)
There is a precedent for reparations but it’s not analogous. In 1988, Congress spent $1.2 billion to pay $20,000 to each of 60,000 Japanese-Americans who were forcibly relocated to internment camps during WWII. However, that money went to those still living who had actually been confined in those camps. A living, former African-American slave today would be over 150 years old.
A cousin to the reparations movement is a scheme called “weighted voting” for blacks. Its advocates argue that because the Constitution originally “valued” slaves as only 3/5 of a person, we should now invert that fraction and award blacks 5/3 of a vote. This absurd notion reveals a fundamental ignorance of history. When the Constitution was crafted, slaves couldn’t vote, of course, so the 3/5 of a person rule was only about determining how many seats each state would get in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ironically, the southern states wanted slaves to be counted as whole persons, thereby giving those states even more seats. The northern states, where black freemen could vote, wanted slavery abolished. But that wasn’t doable then or slave states would never have ratified the Constitution. So, the 3/5 rule was a temporary bargain, later erased by the 14th Amendment after the Civil War.
In the midst of last year’s protests, riots and looting in Chicago, Ariel Atkins, a militant organizer for the Black Lives Matter group, incited a violent mob to loot, justifying it as “reparations.” She claimed their looting wasn’t a criminal act because, “The whole idea of criminality is based on racism anyway.” Reasoning with such people is fruitless.
Not only are reparations unwarranted, they’re impractical and unworkable. Who would qualify and who wouldn’t? A Somali-born refugee like America-hating Rep. Ilhan Omar who came here only 25 years ago, long after slavery? People of mixed race like Barack Obama? Black millionaires like LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West and Jay-Z? Would tax increases to fund this be levied on whites only? Or just add another $10 trillion to the national debt?
The history of the world, and all its nations, is replete with oppression and injustice. The past can’t be changed nor every wrong be righted retroactively. Slavery was a worldwide abomination that still exists in some places today, notably in Africa. Activists call it America’s “original sin.” But today’s Americans aren’t responsible for what others did as far back as the 1600’s, even before our nation’s founding. As Walter Williams put it, “What moral principle justifies punishing a white of today to compensate a black of today for what a white of yesterday did to a black of yesterday.”
In the last half-century, blacks have benefited from a cornucopia of civil rights laws, affirmative-action hiring, college admissions quotas, and trillions of dollars in government assistance programs and subsides. Suppose we call that ample reparations and move on.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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