True, there really is no middle ground. Some of us believe race-based reparations are ethically repugnant because they entail using skin color as a basis for taking money from people who did no wrong and turning it over to people who suffered no harm. Reparations based on just principles are done with the intent of compensating damage unfairly done to the injured party by the party who has caused the harm. What is an amazing omission in this article about reparations is that it skirts the moral questions entirely.
Even more amazing is that it declines to get into any specifics about the fundamental questions of who pays and who gets paid. That is what it comes down to in the end. Answers are needed and they ought to be based on fundamental principles of right and wrong, not statistics on income disparity. The principles should lead to clear-cut answers. Do people with light skin whose ancestors never owned slaves have to pay anything? Do people with dark skin whose ancestors were never slaves get any payment? What about mixed race people: do they pay themselves? How do you prove your ancestor was a slave? Do people whose ancestors include Union soldiers have to pay? They fought to end slavery. What defines whether a person is Black enough to qualify for payment? How do you set up criteria that don’t invite wholesale corruption and gaming of the reparations system and reducing it to a scam? Even if she is sincere, does Rachel Dolezal get a cut?
We’ve had 60 years of affirmative action. Many descendants of former slaves have prospered and have a record of exemplary achievement. This article ignored all the accomplishments of Black Americans. Why was there no mention that America elected Barak Obama twice? Does that fact undercut the whole rationale for reparations? Black Americans have been able to succeed in many endeavors despite discrimination. Over the last 50 years they have been the beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. Couldn’t Affirmative Action be considered a form of reparations? The economic disparities of Americans have narrowed significantly under Trump’s economic program. Black unemployment is the lowest ever and Black employment is the highest ever. There are still many problems — we have not reached utopia. But the trend for Black Americans is undeniably positive.
This gets to the final point that even if reparations had some moral or justification, they may ultimately provide the wrong lesson and not be of much help to the intended beneficiaries. Over the last 150 years, dirt poor immigrants from a long list of countries arrived and suffered terrible discrimination, but eventually overcame the barriers against them and largely succeeded in assimilating and obtaining some part of the American Dream. None of the successful groups received reparations for wrongs they suffered generations ago. There is no precedent for prosperity arising from reparations. Focusing on how to milk the system for a few bucks is ultimately a diversion in learning how to succeed in it.