Stupid “Reparations”

Stupid “Reparations”

© David Burton 2023

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     The Reverend Kevin Peterson of The New Democracy Coalition is no stranger to progressive causes, from pushing to rename Boston’s well-known historic Faneuil Hall to seeking reparations for Boston’s Blacks. His effort to rename Faneuil Hall arose because the wealthy Boston merchant, Peter Faneuil, after whom Faneuil Hall is named, was a slave owner. Faneuil lived in Boston in the early 1700’s, long before slavery became a major issue in America – in fact, long before America came into existence. Even America’s first president, George Washington, along with many other prominent early Americans was a slave owner.

     A significant portion of Faneuil’s prosperity came directly as well as indirectly from human enslavement. Faneuil himself owned enslaved people of African descent in his household, traded extensively in goods produced by enslaved labor, supplied materials that supported plantation economies, and his capital directly funded several voyages to purchase enslaved Africans off the coast of Sierra Leone.[1]

     Reverend Peterson found many supporters of the cause to rename Faneuil Hall in the current Boston City Council. In the final month of 2023, the City Council in Boston unanimously approved a task force that would spend the next two years exploring reparations for Black people. The council did this with an uncharacteristic lack of conflict, as no one really spoke against what’s a high-profile and societally controversial matter and councilors didn’t take even veiled shots at each other.
     This task force, if signed into law by the mayor, will create a five-person body to first research the history of the effects of American slavery and then other more recent discriminatory policies and then to assess what the city’s done since to address those “injustices” before coming up with yet-to-be-determined remedial steps.
     One City Councilor sponsor focused on how she believes there should be monetary reparations, particularly from the wealthy hospitals and colleges in the area. Relative to a previous resolution apologizing for the city’s role in the slave trade, she said, “As profound as it is, it doesn’t cost anyone a penny … it doesn’t put food on anyone’s table or pay a month’s rent.”
     The only City Councilor to say anything vaguely critical of the matter, said, “1783, the state of Massachusetts made slavery illegal. The city of Boston was not incorporated until 1822. And the 1790 census had no slaves living in Massachusetts.” Still, we have those clamoring to make reparations well after the alleged injustices were perpetrated!
     The proposed reparations will not be made to anyone harmed by the alleged injustices! The reparations, if approved, would be made more than two hundred years after the events occurred! The reparations, if approved, would be made to benefit persons not directly harmed by the events referred to! The reparations, if approved, would be made by people who did not perpetrate the harmful events alleged! [2]

     Will the task force determine who is qualified to receive reparations, and who is required to pay for them? How much money and/or land is in the mix? Who will handle the expected payoff – and how?
     These questions illustrate why Black people would never receive reparations from Boston. It would be futile for a commission studying the possibility of reparations to try to find workable, just solutions to these problems. But that doesn’t stop the academics, consultants, clergy, and other “leaders” who use these issues as meal tickets and reputation enhancers. If you’re a Black person in Boston, you shouldn’t waste your time or energy on reparations. Taking on crime, narcotics, the underperforming Boston Public School system, and the dangerous gang members terrorizing Boston should be priority political issues.
     But that’s not on the progressive agenda.
     Democrats, who helped the terrible conditions in Boston’s Black community thrive, know they can count on Black voters’ continued support by promising reparations that will never happen. Black leaders who seek power can keep this issue in the spotlight and utilize it to build support for future political ambitions.
     Reparations wouldn’t make life for Black Bostonians better. They won’t make neighborhoods safer, they won’t help the Boston Public Schools, and they won’t make gang members and drug traffickers loosen their grip on the community.
     White Bostonians, immigrants, and Black Bostonians who don’t qualify for the proposed reparations would be paying for the misdeeds of individuals who have been dead for hundreds of years. Black Bostonians should look to the example of other groups who have endured persecution and suffering in the city, such as the Italians, Chinese, and Irish. Those groups worked together to help each other financially and to build communities that are safe and decent places in which to live today.
     No ethnic group in the United States has been saved by the government – municipal, state or federal. Instead, each group has saved itself![3]

     Gearing up for the 2024 presidential elections, several Democratic presidential hopefuls are calling for Americans to make reparations for the slavery that ended here in these United States more than 250 years ago.

     While Slavery was a gross violation of human rights, justice would demand that all participants in the trans-Atlantic slave trade make compensatory reparation payments to slaves. But that’s not possible! All former slaves in America are long since deceased. Also, there is no way that Europeans could have captured all those Africans that were sent to America and enslaved.
     What that means is that compensation or reparations would have to be paid by Africans and Arabs who captured and sold slaves to Europeans in addition to the people who bought and used slaves.
     Since slaves, slave traders and owners are no longer with us, compensation is beyond our reach and it’s a matter that will have to be settled in hell or heaven.
     Let’s pretend for a moment that the reparations issue makes a modicum of sense. There’s the question of responsibility. More explicitly, should we compensate a black person of today by punishing a white person of today, by taking the white person’s money, for what a white person of yesteryear did to a black person of yesteryear? If we believe in individual accountability, we should find that doing so is unjust. In other words, are the tens of millions of Europeans, Asian, and Latin Americans who immigrated to the U.S. in the late 19th and 20th centuries responsible for slavery, and should they be forced to cough up reparations? What about descendants of Northern whites who fought and died in the name of freeing slaves? Should they pay reparations to black Americans? What about non-slave-owning Southern whites - who were a majority of Southern whites - should their descendants be made to pay reparations?
     The current reparations movement would be an amusing sideshow were it not for its damaging distractions. It grossly misallocates resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Energy spent on promoting the phony issue of reparations should be used to solve the real problems facing today’s American Blacks.[4]

     The proposals for reparations are not intended to mitigate evil. They are intended to make one of various Democrats the next president of the United States.
     Some years ago, the French completed paying out about $60 million to non-French victims of the Holocaust and their survivors in a program administered by the United States, a reminder that the United States’ central role in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of postwar Europe never quite came to a conclusion.
     This settlement, which is separate from the reparations paid to French victims of the Holocaust, recognized the French collaboration in transporting non-citizens to Nazi death camps on French trains. Most of those receiving the reparations were Americans or Israelis.
     The terms of the payments were specific, limiting the reparations to the survivors themselves, their spouses, their children, their grandchildren, or legal heirs.
     Here, across the Atlantic, the 2024 Democratic primary already is under way, as the contenders look not only to out-radical one another in 2023 and 2024 but also to out-radical that ultra-liberal Bernie Sanders’s 2016 performance on the theory that it did not establish the outermost bound of politically potent left-wing radicalism in today’s Democratic party. Senator Elizabeth Warren, formerly promoted by her employers as a woman of color, has ’fessed up to being as white as Rachel Dolezal waltzing with the ghost of George Plimpton and as white as the snow that falls gently on Vermont, has endorsed the payment of reparations to African Americans, a position held by Senator Kamala Harris but forsworn by other Democrats, Barack Obama notable among them, and rejected by Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn socialist who represented Vermont in the Senate and who was seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination even though he did not belong to the party.
     Reparations, needless to say, is just another case of symbolism-over-substance Democratic politics. Democrats who gave a good goddamn about the lives of Black Americans have had a great many years to do something about the schools in Philadelphia or the police department in Chicago, the so-called war on drugs, and a passel of economic policies that help to keep blacks poor. What have they actually accomplished???
     But doing the hard work of responsible governing doesn’t have the juice these hustlers are after.
     Slavery, and the systematic subjugation of African Americans that followed it officially until the day before yesterday, was evil.
     BUT, Reparations 250 years after the end of that evil is no way to compensate for it. One reason for that is that today’s reparations proposals are not intended to mitigate the evil of slavery in America. Instead, they are intended to make a Democratic candidate the next president of the United States.
     Unlike the case of the Holocaust, an American reparations program would necessarily be amorphous, there being few if any specific legal relationships by which eligibility and liability could be established. There is no Confederate treasury to seize or extant antebellum plantations to appropriate. The few corporate relationships that endure are now at many degrees of removal from slavery. There is the United States government, the record of which is not spotless on the question of slavery; the people represented by that government overwhelmingly oppose reparations (more than two-thirds report against in most polls), in part because many of them believe that their government justified itself at Gettysburg, and paid its debt.
     But it is more complicated than that. White Americans are the most strongly opposed to reparations, and not without reason. It is not obvious that an American whose ancestors arrived here from Ireland or Poland after the Civil War has sins of the father to bear and atone for on this score. And, without diminishing the evil of slavery, Americans of Jewish, Catholic, Irish, Asian, Southern European, Eastern European, and other historically denigrated ancestries can point to discrimination and exclusion, too. To ask white Americans with no personal connection to slavery to accept guilt for it by virtue of their being white is to ask them to accept an idea that is fundamentally alien to our political culture.
     Nor is it obvious that African Americans such as Barack Obama, who is not descended from slaves, has a valid claim. Indeed, the term “African American” is increasingly useless as a meaningful social signifier as well-to-do immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean slide easily into the upper ranks of American society while black citizens of more ancient American ancestry continue to founder. The American sense of fairness is prickly and defensive - and central to our political culture. To present reparations as a means to justice, from that point of view, is to beg the question.
     If America’s objective is the full integration of African Americans into the main stream of American society - meaning that slave ancestry correlates no more exactly with socioeconomic position than does Italian ancestry - then we owe it to ourselves and to our fellow citizens to admit that a program of simple cash transfers is not going to achieve that objective. It would almost certainly lead to an even uglier and bitterer species of racial politics than the one we already have. Reparations would likely prove to be as effective in incorporating African Americans as Indian reservations have been for incorporating Native Americans.[5]

     Many who claim to support reparations for slavery say it will help foster racial harmony in a divided nation. But the unequal distribution of funds to one race would light a fire across the nation. And, most importantly, It won’t solve the problems facing today’s Black Americans.
     Ten years ago, the idea of “reparations” sat on the political fringes in America. The question of whether or not compensation should once have been paid to former slaves had died out. Not least because by the start of the 21st century, no one in America had actually suffered from slavery. The country was a century and a half away from the bloody civil war it had fought over the issue.
     But there’s a tendency in our own age which does not allow wounds to mend or heal. Indeed, there is a movement that locates long-healed wounds in order to rip them open again. And then complain about the hurt caused by them.
     In 2014, the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an essay in The Atlantic making “The Case for Reparations.” In recent times, few articles have had more impact. The issue of reparations began to be picked up by the radical left and then made its way to the political center. By the time of the Democratic primaries in 2020 all of the party’s candidates were willing to talk about the issue. Some, including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, expressed support for some form of reparations.
     Once the Democrats were in power, one of the first things they did in Congress was apply pressure on President Biden to set up a commission to study reparations for black Americans both for slavery and for “systemic racism” - a guilty verdict that was already in.
     In recent years, the claim of systemic racism has become an all-encompassing explanation for everything the radical left wants done. This movement looks at complex problems and presents a simple answer: racism because of white supremacy.
     The transatlantic slave trade, like the far larger Arab slave trade of the same period, was only made possible because black Africans kidnapped and sold their brothers and sisters into slavery. Some people at the time noted that the only thing worse than the treatment of some Africans by some Europeans was the behavior of some Africans to their fellow Africans.
     Activists and academics often look to Israel and German payments for Holocaust crimes as a model for reparations in the US. But German compensation came almost immediately after the Holocaust, not centuries later. There was a precedent for American reparations in the money paid to Israel after the Holocaust by Germany. But this was a payment made immediately after a genocide, not two centuries after a barbaric trade.
     The people who push for reparations in America today claim to be doing so in the name of racial harmony. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything more likely to put a bomb under race relations in this country. It has become just another tool of vengeance in the fevered anti-Western, anti-American spirit of our age.[6]

  1. Faneuil Hall, Walter E. Williams,, Accessed 18 December 2022.
  2. REPARATIONS TASK FORCE BACKED, Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald: Pge 7 , 15 December 2022.
  3. Reparations not what Boston’s Black communities need, Rasheed Walters, Boston Herald: Pge 15 , 17 December 2022.
  4. Forget Reparations. Money Won’t Solve Black Community’s Problems., Walter E. Williams, The Daily Signal , 26 June 2019.
  5. Reparations for Slavery: Just More Symbolism over Substance, Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, 22 February 2019.
  6. Reparations aren’t about justice. They’re an act of revenge, Douglas Murray, New York Post, 30 April 2022.


  12 January 2023 {ARTICLE 560; UNDECIDED_73}    
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