(Published as Op-Ed in Florida Today, July 8, 2019.)
Several Democratic candidates for president are supporting studies to award reparation dollars to descendants of slaves. Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are among them. Various news reports have suggested the taxpayers’ tab might run anywhere from $10 billion to $100 billion. In the journal Social Science Quarterly, University of Connecticut researcher Thomas Craemer estimated that it would cost between $5.9 trillion and $14.2 trillion.
No one would argue that the era of slavery in America that ended 154 years ago was a horrific travesty. The very thought of what human beings endured at the hands of other human beings is beyond sickening. That was then, this is now. Doling out free taxpayer money to millions of people in 2019 because they happen to be distantly related to ancestors prior to 1865 sets the stage for renewed breakdowns in race relations across America.
This is like Harris or Booker saying, “You owe me millions in tax dollars because I was born black.”
The thought of how that would be divvied up, if passed, is mind-boggling. There are many blacks who had no distant slave relatives. A lot of whites, Hispanics and Asians in America have no connection to American slavery. They are products of family immigration from the late 19th century. My grandparents on both sides emigrated from Europe in the 1890s, long after slavery ended. Why should I, and millions like me, be held accountable?
And how do we arrive at arbitrary payments to blacks who claim entitlement? There are blacks whose ancestry comes from other countries, not the United States. Are they eligible? There are multi-millions of bi-racial people, many of whom predominantly Caucasian. Are they entitled to reparations? The 2010 Census declared some 9 million Americans are of mixed race. Should today’s taxpayers be penalized for the sins of southern whites of 154 years ago? What about descendants of blacks who were slave owners as well?
We better watch out for that slippery slope.
Perhaps I, and others, should seek reparations from Germans for what some of them did to Jewish relatives during the Holocaust. Better yet, we should go after those relatives of slave-mongering Egyptians from 3,000 years ago. Should Muslims and other African and Asian cultures be penalized for engaging in mass slavery over the centuries?
At age 80, I’ve lived through huge transitions in the racial dilemma, from segregated South Florida in the post-war era, then a cop on the beat, through the civil rights struggles, to a point whereby blacks hold many powerful positions including president. Corporate America has awakened. So has political America. The wealthiest of entertainment and sports figures are black. They are the new role models. Meanwhile, black unemployment numbers are at an all-time low.
Race relations today are at positive levels compared to days of yore, edging closer to that color blind society. Why embark on a hurtful and likely futile exercise that will do more to set race relations back than any time in the last 50 years?
If reparation advocates believe that pandering to a racial constituency will inflate the voter drive, they under-estimate the intelligence and integrity of the black population. My experience shows me that more and more minorities are interested in education and opportunities as opposed to receiving handouts.
Other demographic segments could cash in on past atrocities, including women, whose role throughout past centuries was tantamount to slave status. There’s another 100 million-plus potential recipients.
The very thought of “reparations” meets the definition of the race card. In America, we don’t award or punish people for what others did more than a century past.
Let’s be honest. The political motive for supporting reparations is the same as sanctuary cities: Votes and power.