by Dr. Scott Lively (Offered with a slight overtone of sarcasm)
The reparations movement may seem like nothing more than the mother of all shake-down operations in the tradition of the BLM riot-backed corporate extortion scheme of 2020 (raking in $83 billion), but many modern Democrats (of the rank and file) do genuinely seem wracked by guilt over black slavery, and rightly so, since their predecessors in the party were its chief orchestrators and defenders. So, to the extent that it IS motivated by genuine repentance, it is understandable — even laudable — that paying reparations for slavery is now high on their political agenda. However, in typical Democrat fashion, they want somebody else to pony up the money: specifically the American taxpayers — instead of paying for their own mistakes, which suggests they aren’t sincere at all.
But just for the sake of argument, lets assume they’re ready to repent and just need a little reminder about what reparations really are and who should pay them.
High on the list of those who should not pay them are Republicans. The Republican Party was created in large part to end slavery, and after the Civil War finally did end what Christian abolitionists had been trying to ban since the days of John and John Quincy Adams, the first two dozen or so black legislators in America were Republicans. While not every 19th Century Republican was an abolitionist (they had their RINOs too), the unquestionable political home of the slavery abolitionist movement was the Republican Party – much like it is the home of the abortion abolitionist movement today. So when Republicans express sympathy for the historic plight of black slaves they are aligning with their own ideological heritage. When Democrats do so it represents at best a mea culpa recanting of their heritage and at worst mere diversionary virtue signaling and cynical blame-shifting.
The City of San Francisco, California is leading the way on creating a blame-shifting model for taxpayer funded reparations. In the case of San Fran itself, the model isn’t completely off base since most of its taxpayers are Democrats who – collectively – should (arguably) be paying whatever reparations are deemed appropriate. But if their model were imposed on the whole nation it would unfairly punish a majority of citizens – including especially the heirs of abolitionist Republicans – who are not at all culpable even by the most liberal reading of the facts of American history. And even in San Francisco there are many taxpayers who should NOT be required to pay restitution under its false theory of vicarious collective guilt.
So how can we as a nation maneuver through the reparations minefield to a just and equitable solution on an issue that is certainly not going away because it is paying huge political dividends to the very culprits doing the blame-shifting?
First, let’s not over-react to the issue itself as if it has no merit. Generally speaking, “reparations” is a common factor in judicial proceedings, going to the questions of justice and restitution for wrongs done. It is addressed in myriad contexts every day in courts of law and equity. Whatever was stolen from someone must be restored by the thief, and those who have done harm to others have a duty to make them whole to the extent possible. That is the most foundational principle in Torts (private harms adjudicated in civil lawsuits) and Crimes (harms that injure not just the specific victims but society as a whole). It is the role of government to administer courts to ensure justice is done.
That said, on the question of reparations for black slavery prior to the 13th Amendment, I would argue that at least some reparations have already been paid, starting with the Union dispensation of “40 acres and a mule” to former slaves in the south, and through many other guilt-based social policies that have shown special favor to blacks for past wrongs done, including “Affirmative Action.” Frankly, I think those reparations may not have been adequate compensation in many cases and some things that might seem to fall in the category of “reparations” have in fact done more harm than good — in large part because of corrupt motives of the key architects of the “entitlement” system that spawned them: the worst of these bad actors being Lyndon Baines Johnson who used the theme of “social justice“ to create an entirely new system of inner-city black enslavement… to the Democrat Party. In fact, I believe the harm done to black families and inner city communities by modern Democrats is in some ways worse than the original form of enslavement.
Critically, notwithstanding the relentless grievance-mongering propaganda of the hard left, reparations is NOT a black vs white issue, but an “actual victim” vs “actual perpetrator” matter. The simple truth which kills that malicious narrative is that neither blacks nor whites are victims or perps based on the color of their skin, but on their actual provable conduct/experiences (for example, some slaves were white and some slave-holders were black). Neither is any person guilty of the sins of their parents or ancestors.
Now, if the original slave-holders were enriched by the (often decades-long) theft of the labor of others, and those riches lie at the foundation of an unbroken stream of accumulated wealth held by their modern descendants, the actual descendants of those slaves would seem to have a strong claim against the actual descendants of the slave holders. Other than that there is no legal or moral justification for holding any living person accountable.
However, there is one class of legal “persons” whose life and thus culpability is perpetual: corporations — which are considered fictitious persons under the law. Many of the slave-holders were not families but corporations, whose history can be traced through their and their successor’s mandatory government filings all the way back to the years at issue. Companies whose wealth includes income from slavery would seem to be legitimate, indeed prime targets for reparations.
But, importantly, political parties are another type of fictitious persons created and maintained by government filings, and thus should fall within the scope of culpability for the purpose of reparations. So if I were a reparations activist, that would be my priority: identifying and prosecuting the guilty, starting with the Democrat Party.
Now, if governments ever do decide to pay reparations (like the British government did incrementally from 1807 to 2015) they should be conditional on the equivalent of a “full satisfaction of claims” sign-off by the recipients and their lobbyists/activists, guaranteeing a total cessation of both grievance-based politics and public tolerance for thuggery — both of which have been intentionally driven by the “Woke” political left for their own selfish ends.
But we all know that condition would never be honored, just as we know from long experience with the liberals, that the “reparations” movement (especially for those setting its agenda at the top) really IS just the mother of all shakedown operations – with taxpayers as the patsy who would, once again, pay the bill.