The Time for Reparations is Now

 

shutterstock_135245903There are certain times when windows open, allowing previously marginal ideas to flourish and the unthinkable to become possible. Gay marriage started out in the early ’90s as the pipe dream of a few cranky law professors; soon, it is going to be the law of the land throughout the country. The movement to have the US pay out reparations for slavery is in its early stages; it’s easy enough for us to write it off now, but expect this to be pushed with some urgency over the next 10 to 20 years. The reason is that this is one social movement that comes with a time limit.

The window for reparations is slowly closing because of demographic changes in this country. Any such scheme will depend on rich, white Baby Boomers who are receptive to appeals based on guilt. As those people die off over the next 20 years, they will be replaced by two main groups.

The first is white Gen Xers, who will be a less-than-optimal target for extraction. Productive people about my age (38) will be squeezed for as much tax revenue as possible as we move into our peak earning years — and our peak earning years will not be nearly as productive as our Boomer parents’ were. They came of age when America was still on an upward trajectory.

The other reason we won’t be a good target for an appeal for reparations is that none of us has any firsthand memories of the fire hoses, the dogs, the National Guard, and all those images that fed the narrative of black subjugation for our parents. Yes, we have had all that drilled into us in school, but the effect has been more to inoculate us against guilt than anything. If you’re under 45, have you ever seen black people treated with anything worse than just rudenness or dismissiveness? Especially by the government? Unless you’re a public defender, probably not.

The second group that Black America will have to contend with is Hispanics, particularly those who immigrated over the last 30 years or so. Their incomes, and thus their usefulness as a source of money, will lag white America for some decades to come. More and more, though, these people will be moving into leadership and decision-making positions in our society, essentially leapfrogging the African-Americans. They are not equipped with the same guilt receptors that white Baby Boomers have. They didn’t even have slave-holding ancestors. Those who have money will have have clawed their way up against the odds in this country and will be less likely to hand it over. Those who don’t have money are likewise nursing their own set of grievances against the fading gringo majority.

I think the best term we can apply to the next 50 years in American public life is “The Great Squabble.” African-Americans are a small and vulnerable minority, who will not fare well as scarcity becomes the rule and identity politics hardens in this country. They really have only one shot at getting reparations — and it has to start now. I suspect we are going to be hearing more and more about this.

 

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  1. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    Going to bed now. Thanks to all of you for making this A Very Special Thread for me.

    • #31
  2. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Jason Rudert:

    rico:

    Yes, the SSMwave moved suddenly and very rapidly, but reparations will not blind-side us in similar fashion. Passively accepting what many consider a lifestyle choice (SSM) is much easier for people than accepting reparations, which would carry a potentially limitless financial cost.

    People will understand that defining the scope of reparations and designing a legal method for implementation would be a thicket of very complex and difficult decisions, rendering any kind of a social consensus impossible.

    I see this reparations movement as the last gasp of what has come to be known as the Black Community–seriously, where do they go from here? As to the impracticality of this, yes it should be easy to dismiss by just asking, OK, so how do we know when we’re done?

    But you know, we passed the Great Society. To your last comment, I would point out that gay marriage was installed in this country with very little consensus at all.

    By “consensus” Imeant unified support among progressives sufficient to sell it to a substantial portion of the general public. SSMpassed by referendum here inWashington.

    I also have doubts that the reparations movement will gain much support amongBlacks.

    • #32
  3. Grimaud Inactive
    Grimaud
    @Grimaud

    What if we allowed, for reparations, lands set aside and we could call them reservations and make them sovereign land. We could allow special privileges like gambling and tax free status on the reservations. Surely that would improve their lot in the world and suffice as payment for perceived wrongs?

    • #33
  4. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    kylez:

    This shows you what all this race fixation is really about: the need for (mostly white) cultural elites to feel morally superior.

     Yes! And another, similar consideration is in this sentence that leaped out at me from Kevin D. Williamson’s response to Coates: “…programs run for the theoretical benefit of the poor, who are disproportionately black, are in fact run for the benefit of the largely white upper-middle-class bureaucrats who are employed by them [the programs].”

    • #34
  5. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Grimaud, of course that idea would work.   Honest Indian.

    • #35
  6. Patrickb63 Coolidge
    Patrickb63
    @Patrickb63

    What about the hundreds of thousands of white Unionists/Northerners who died in a war to free the slaves?  Are their lives worth nothing?  If we begin talking reperations, will the present value of the loss of these hundreds of thousands be considered and subtracted from the present value of reperations and then paid over to the descendants of these sodiers?  I thought the loss of life to free the slaves was reperations enough.   

    • #36
  7. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    Patrickb63: What about the hundreds of thousands of white Unionists/Northerners who died in a war to free the slaves?  Are their lives worth nothing?

     Not really, no. Remember that during the Gilded Age, a lot of money was paid out in benefits to Civil War veterans and survivors. Only honor demands that we attach any value to their sacrifice, and that will take a back seat to the grievance movement.

    I’m convinced that when this reparations thing gets rolling, slavery will be only a small part of what we’re being ordered to provide recompense for. 

    • #37
  8. user_1083060 Inactive
    user_1083060
    @dfp21

    I agree that the Democrat Party should pay reparations.

    • #38
  9. MikeHs Inactive
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    “Remember that during the Gilded Age, a lot of money was paid out in benefits to Civil War veterans and survivors.”

    None of my ancestors and relatives who fought for the Union cause, and their families, got “lots of money.”  I would venture to say neither did many other veterans from my town and the surrounding county, many of them who fought in the major battles of the War, especially from Chancellorsville on to the Appomattox courthouse.

    • #39
  10. george.tobin@yahoo.com Moderator
    george.tobin@yahoo.com
    @OldBathos

    We should start working out the details now.  To start with, the classically racist definition of “one drop of Negro blood” is not workable because (a) lighter skinned persons had advantages and (b) this kind of standard just encourages the Ward Churchills, Elizabeth Warrens and other race fraudsters to try to take advantage.

    Instead, The Federal Reparations Commission should revive the old Louisiana statutory race categories (Quadroon, Octoroon, Mustee, Mustefino,  etc) to establish the proportional base of entitlement.  There is lots of legislative and judicial history on disparate treatment based on the degree of blackness and what could possibly go wrong if we revisited that?

    Second, we need to apportion white liability for the special surtax to help fund the program.  Examaples: A Union ancestor died at Gettysburg? Discount!  Ancestor was an aide to Jefferson Davis? Penalty!  All ancestors arrived in the 20th century (discount!) but settled in segregated community (remove discount).  I think we could codify those consideration in less than 1,000 pages in the CFR and the docket management, hearings and litigation could be completed in well under 15 years.

    • #40
  11. george.tobin@yahoo.com Moderator
    george.tobin@yahoo.com
    @OldBathos

    (Continued from previous comment) Implementation would be complex but who better suited that federal employees to carry out such a task? (Continued)

    For example, what would my mixed race grandchildren be entitled to receive?  They are not quite 50% African American (a white great-great grandmother snuck in there).  Their other half is mostly Irish.  Some were wealthy antebellum Southerners (penalty), the rest Northerners (small bonus) but who resisted the Union draft in the riots (cancel bonus).  A great-grandfather was as a USDOJ Civil Rights Division attorney assigned to desegregation efforts in Mississippi and Tennessee. (Bonus)

    So what is the formula?  What is our net family entitlement/obligation?

    • #41
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Reparations for blacks in this country is a horrific idea, whether it’s because of slavery or Jim Crow.

    Logistically, it would be a nightmare!  Who would pay – the taxpayers?  That includes blacks!  Descendants that used to own slaves?  Hello, even some blacks owned slaves in the antebellum South.  Besides, how would you identify all the descendants of slaveowners?  Many blacks have immigrated to this country that were never slaves.  Will they be entitled to reparations too?

    How does one justify punishing the descendants of slaveowners for the sins of their ancestors?  It’s morally repulsive.

    Finally, what would be the ultimate purpose of reparations?  Buy off guilt?  Electing the first black president has done squat for race relations.  Race pimps like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will still ply their trade, even after reparations – think of the Danegeld . . .

    No, we need to kill the idea of reparations for past sins once and for all.  If not, then I demand reparations for all the land the “dang Yankees” stole from my family during reconstruction.  Yes, it really happened, but it doesn’t affect my life today.  Blacks should do the same and let go of the past.

    • #42
  13. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    Stad, remember that to plenty of people on the left, the following equation applies:

    MORALLY REPULSIVE +
    PRACTICALLY UNWORKABLE+
    FEELS GOOD, IF YOU DON’T THINK ABOUT IT TOO HARD=
    *R*O*M*A*N*C*E*

    Also, the arguments for reparations are going to hinge on a lot of things that blacks have endured since the civil war: Jim Crow, lynchings, redlining, subprime mortgages. They have a list.

    • #43
  14. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Stad: No, we need to kill the idea of reparations for past sins once and for all.

    The primary purpose of the whole reparations exercise is to demonstrate the “moral superiority” of progressives and the”eeevil” nature of conservatives. I say shrug your shoulders and call their bluff. As Old Bathos demonstrates (above) the entire scheme is unworkable. Let the progressives try to push Reid/Schumer to come up with legislation. They won’t. Reparations legislation would be political poison. Let the Dems fight it out among themselves, that is, if anyone in DC is silly enough to even brings up the subject.

    • #44
  15. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    Patrickb63:

    What about the hundreds of thousands of white Unionists/Northerners who died in a war to free the slaves? Are their lives worth nothing? If we begin talking reperations, will the present value of the loss of these hundreds of thousands be considered and subtracted from the present value of reperations and then paid over to the descendants of these sodiers? I thought the loss of life to free the slaves was reperations enough.

     Or did the civil war charge us all with a debt, including blacks?

    “It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”  ~ Gettysburg Address

    • #45
  16. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    dfp21:

    I agree that the Democrat Party should pay reparations.

     The Republican Party was formed in 1854 to combat the Kansas-Nebraska Act that threatened expanding slavery into the territories.

    • #46
  17. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    rico:

    Stad: No, we need to kill the idea of reparations for past sins once and for all.

    The primary purpose of the whole reparations exercise is to demonstrate the “moral superiority” of progressives and the”eeevil” nature of conservatives. I say shrug your shoulders and call their bluff. As Old Bathos demonstrates (above) the entire scheme is unworkable. Let the progressives try to push Reid/Schumer to come up with legislation. They won’t. Reparations legislation would be political poison. Let the Dems fight it out among themselves, that is, if anyone in DC is silly enough to even brings up the subject.

     We, whether as conservatives, Republicans or libertarians, have nothing to fear from this debate. We should encourage the so-called Progressives to bring it on, whenever and wherever they want to talk about it.

    • #47
  18. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Jason Rudert:

    Rico, Quinn and Al, These are all very rational, solid arguments as to why this won’t happen. But again, they sound a lot like the solid, rational arguments that appeared early in the gay marriage debate. And where are we now? Utah (!) is a couple of months away from gay marriage.

     In the summer of ’12, driving through Utah on the way to Yellowstone, I saw a pick-up truck with Utah plates and one of those equals sign bumper stickers. I thought there’s something you don’t see everyday. 

    • #48
  19. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    Jason Rudert:

    Stad, remember that to plenty of people on the left, the following equation applies:

    MORALLY REPULSIVE + PRACTICALLY UNWORKABLE+ FEELS GOOD, IF YOU DON’T THINK ABOUT IT TOO HARD= *R*O*M*A*N*C*E*

    Also, the arguments for reparations are going to hinge on a lot of things that blacks have endured since the civil war: Jim Crow, lynchings, redlining, subprime mortgages. They have a list.

    rico:

    Stad: No, we need to kill the idea of reparations for past sins once and for all.

    The primary purpose of the whole reparations exercise is to demonstrate the “moral superiority” of progressives and the”eeevil” nature of conservatives. I say shrug your shoulders and call their bluff. As Old Bathos demonstrates (above) the entire scheme is unworkable. 

     I think both sides of the debate here are correct.  The entire thing is completely unworkable and would set citizens against each other as described.  As Jason says, however, there is a list of grievances that just keeps growing because they are knock on effects from past “transgressions”.  

    During the 2008 campaign the “kook right” was commenting on the Chicago political swamp and it’s proponents of radical redistributionism  – folks like Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger.  Ignored then, and ignored now, they continue to beat the drum.  In short, everything anyone has worked for has come from a position of privilege (hmmm, where have I heard that lately) and so even the recent immigrant (legal) who built something built it because “the disadvantaged” were kept down since this country’s founding and he profited from it.  No one is immune.

    • #49
  20. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    kylez:

    Jason Rudert:

    Rico, Quinn and Al, These are all very rational, solid arguments as to why this won’t happen. But again, they sound a lot like the solid, rational arguments that appeared early in the gay marriage debate. And where are we now? Utah (!) is a couple of months away from gay marriage.

    In the summer of ’12, driving through Utah on the way to Yellowstone, I saw a pick-up truck with Utah plates and one of those equals sign bumper stickers. I thought there’s something you don’t see everyday.

    More than you might think. Salt Lake City is basically The City That Wants to be Portland When it Grows Up. It’s the suburbs and rural areas that make us a deep red state.

    • #50
  21. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    Since a majority of slave traders were Muslims, shouldn’t the Middle East Oil countries be pitching in. Also, what about those poor white southern men and women who suffered the economic backlash of a slave-owning society that didn’t advance technical innovation in the agricultural domain? Do they get money? Slavery also held down wages for white southerners and kept land prices artificially high (like corn subsidies today), making economic advancement nearly impossible. They suffered. Last, do we subtract out the trillions of dollars spent on welfare transfer payments. Shouldn’t the Democratic party be responsible for some of this too?

    • #51
  22. neutral observer Thatcher
    neutral observer
    @neutralobserver

    Owl of Minerva:

    I have to disagree strongly with this piece. Coates is responding to a few things. First, he is responding to the tremendous disappointment African Americans have experienced during Obama’s presidency. They have been disproportionately hit by economic stagnation and decline. It has been so bad that he has to make sense of it within his intellectual framework.

    Second, that framework is part of a long conversation about reparations among academics, such as Laurie Balfour, who see reparations not in terms of economic renewal (alone, at least) but in terms of redeeming or redefining post-racial America. Coates clearly regards the “post-racial” issue as a dead-end, as he interprets continued inequality among African Americans as an indication that America is white supremacist at its core.

    Third, Coates wrote this piece partly as a response to Jonathan Chait’s sense that we are in a post-racial America. He wanted to make sure that white liberals at least felt bad for leaving African Americans behind, though he isn’t surprised they have.

     Owl,

    Thanks for the terrific and  educational post!  Have any of the academics proposed a workable scheme for reparations?  For example, who would have to pay reparations and who would be eligible to receive them?  Would President Obama have to pay reparations on behalf of his white ancestors, and would he be eligible to receive reparations, since he is not descended from American slaves?  Or would the reparations come from general taxation and go to groups rather than individuals?

    • #52
  23. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Neutral: 

    Didn’t you hear: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/30/13036039-ancestry-website-obamas-mother-descended-from-first-us-slave

    • #53
  24. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    Jason Rudert: There was just an enormous amount of wealth created during my parents’ lifetime, some as a result of economic conditions, some as a result of their willingness to spend so many hours at work that they forgot their childrens’ names. That just isn’t going to happen anymore in this country. 

    Jason, good article and great discussion. 

    I was born in the late 60’s so that would make me one of the older Gen X’ers. I think you raise another point worthy of a new post: The lifestyle we grew up with gradually improved as our parents benefited from free market policies created in the ’80’s.  The 70’s were not as kind. 

    With that said, the extremist fringe (Sharpton, Toure, etc) get attention with their reparation talk, but as a society we already provide reparations. Lawmakers called it something different: “The Great Society”.

    • #54
  25. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Randy Weivoda:

    I agree that the case for reparations will be harder to make in the future. Young Americans of all races tend to much more racially integrated than the middle-aged and elderly.

    I disagree. The black population in this country is becoming more virulently separatist than ever before. One prime example is the recently elected mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka who cited Marion Barry as a role model, criticized his opponent Shavar Jeffries and Newark’s former mayor Corey Booker as “not black enough” and declared there is a “master-slave” relationship between corporate America and blacks.

    • #55
  26. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    David Sussman: With that said, the extremist fringe (Sharpton, Toure, etc) get attention with their reparation talk, but as a society we already provide reparations. Lawmakers called it something different: “The Great Society”.

     Thanks, DS. There have been a lot of objections raised here, which, being the products of conservatives, will probably find their greatest traction on the right. To me, though, the one question which should be posed to anyone sympathetic to this is : How do we know when we’re done?

    • #56
  27. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    EThompson:

    Randy Weivoda:

    I agree that the case for reparations will be harder to make in the future. Young Americans of all races tend to much more racially integrated than the middle-aged and elderly.

    I disagree. The black population in this country is becoming more virulently separatist than ever before. One prime example is the recently elected mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka who cited Marion Barry as a role model, criticized his opponent Shavar Jeffries and Newark’s former mayor Corey Booker as “not black enough” and declared there is a “master-slave” relationship between corporate America and blacks.

    These comments suggest that a national “Black community” doesn’t exist. Attitudes vary regionally. One benefit of living in the “progressive” greater Seattle area is that racialism is largely absent, especially relative to other parts of the country that have long histories of segregation. Perhaps Randy shares a similar experience in his part of the country.

    • #57
  28. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    EThompson:

    I disagree. The black population in this country is becoming more virulently separatist than ever before. One prime example is the recently elected mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka who cited Marion Barry as a role model, criticized his opponent Shavar Jeffries and Newark’s former mayor Corey Booker as “not black enough” and declared there is a “master-slave” relationship between corporate America and blacks.

    OK, that’s one example.  There are white racists, too, listing an example of such wouldn’t prove that the white population in general is trending towards more racism.  Are you aware of how many more inter-racial marriages there are compared to previous decades?  If black people are becoming more virulently separatist, why are they marrying outside their race more than ever?

    • #58
  29. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Jason Rudert: To me, though, the one question which should be posed to anyone sympathetic to this is : How do we know when we’re done?

     …an excellent rejoinder to any serious person who would entertain the notion of reparations.

    • #59
  30. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    rico:

    These comments suggest that a national “Black community” doesn’t exist. Attitudes vary regionally. One benefit of living in the “progressive” greater Seattle area is that racialism is largely absent, especially relative to other parts of the country that have long histories of segregation. Perhaps Randy shares a similar experience in his part of the country.

    Actually, where I live the population is probably 95% white, so I’m not basing my viewpoint on personal experience.  I’ve just noticed surveys that show that each generation tends to be less racist than the previous one.  My only personal experience has been witnessing the change in attitudes in some white people I now.  Some men who used to express hatred and disgust of black people 20 years ago have voted for a black president, and have told me that they’ve decided that they wouldn’t freak out if their daughter dated or even married a black man.

    • #60
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