Reparations: paying for the sins of our fathers

Ezekiel 18:19-20

Ezekiel 18:20 / Jeremiah 31:30.

Ezekiel 18:20

On June 19, 2019, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee convened a hearing on H.R. 40, a bill that would study the feasibility of and proposals for reparations for descendants of slaves in America.

That was also Juneteenth, a day celebrating the emancipation of black people and “reminding the country of its original debt, and the debts it has since accrued,” Vann R. Newkirk II wrote in The Atlantic.

What, exactly, do current and future generations of Americans owe for the long past transgressions of others against blacks? Have we all inherited our fathers’ guilt?

In Germany, the descendents of a Nazi sympathizer have been gtrappling with a similar question.

Acknowledging their father’s anti-Semitism, his Nazi sympathies and the abuses that took place at a business he owned in Germany during the Nazi era (that is now a multi-billion dollar holding company), Albert Reimann Jr’s children  concluded they needed to make amends.

The New York Times recently reported that the Reimann children are donating to institutions that assist former forced laborers under the Nazis and doubling the budget of the family foundation to fund projects that “honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and of Nazi terror.”

“I have to do something,” said Martin Reimann, one of Albert Reimann Jr’s grandchildren.

Do Americans need to “do something,” to make amends for slavery and its ugly aftermath and, if so, should it take the form of reparations?

What should we do because of the sins of our fathers? How much culpability do living Americans have for the persistence of slavery in their country for so many years, for allowing the ideals of reconstruction to be undermined and tolerating racist practices to persist?

negroesforsale

As far back as 1964, Whitney Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League, called for reparations of sorts, “a domestic Marshall Plan” for blacks comparable to America’s massive aid to Western Europe after WWII. “Disadvantaged for three centuries,” Young wrote, “American Negroes require compensatory benefits . . . “

Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, has argued, “To oppose reparations is to be racist. To support reparations is to be anti-racist. The middle ground is racist ground.”

Dr. Ibram Kendi speaks during Morning Meeting

“To oppose reparations is to be racist.”  – Ibram X. Kendi

 

“Only an expansive and expensive compensation policy for the descendants of the enslaved and relegated of the scale Lincoln proposed for the enslavers and subsidized could prevent the racial wealth gap from compounding and being passed onto another generation,” Kendi wrote.

There’s no question that the evils of slavery left a deep stain on America and that reconstruction and subsequent racist policies have done damage to American blacks. It’s also clear that this country must come to terms with its legacy of slavery.

But as Lance Morrow, a senior Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, has said, a full-throated reparations debate in the United States will not be conflated with a positive and healing gesture; all it will do is “push the country to angrier extremes on either side, stimulating fresh antagonisms.”

Coleman Hughes, a black Quillette columnist, took a similar approach in testimony before the House subcommittee on June 19:

“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today; we would insult many black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors; and we would turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction—from a union between citizens into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-NH, has already taken a similar position.”First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil.,” he said in 2016. “Second of all, I think it would be very divisive.”

Even Barack Obama has questioned the feasibility and advisability of reparations.

“Theoretically, you can make, obviously, a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps,” President Obama said to Ta-Nehisi Coates in an Oct. 19, 2016 interview for The Atlantic. “That those were wrongs done to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment, even if it’s not in the form of individual reparations checks, but in the form of a Marshall Plan, in order to close those gaps.”

“It is easy to make that theoretical argument,” Obama said. “But as a practical matter, it is hard to think of any society in human history in which a majority population has said that as a consequence of historic wrongs, we are now going to take a big chunk of the nation’s resources over a long period of time to make that right.”

An attempt to decide on the specifics of a reparations program would also be a nightmare. Who would even be eligible? If it’s individuals, who alive today has suffered as a direct result of slavery?

Coleman Hughes accepts the merit of reparations paid to Holocaust survivors, victims of internment during World War II, and victims of the Tuskegee experiments, for example, “but not reparations for “poorly-defined groups containing millions of people whose relationship to the initial crime is several generations removed.”

It’s unfortunate that so many of those competing for the Democratic presidential nomination have chosen to embrace reparations. It may enhance their appeal to the left wing of their party, but it likely alienates many more people. And now that the reparations cat is out of the box, everybody and their brother may demand reparations for past injustices.

An April 2019 Rasmussen poll found that just 21 percent of likely voters think taxpayers should pay reparations to black Americans who can prove they are descended from slaves.

Fox News poll that same month found that 60 percent of Americans oppose paying cash reparations to descendants of slaves and only 32 percent support it.  Even a July 2018 poll by Data For Progress, a progressive think tank, found that 68 percent were opposed.

But some of the Democratic candidates endorsing billions in reparations must figure that African-Americans will embrace the concept, and African-Americans are a good share of likely voters in South Carolina, one of the early primaries, and on Super Tuesday, March 3..

Frankly, buying votes was much cheaper and made more sense when they only handed out free beer at the polls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danger ahead: the dismal performance of some minorities on the SAT

The College Board recently reported the results for SAT test-takers in the class of 2015…and the news isn’t good.

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On average, high school graduates in the class of 2015 had lower scores in all three subject areas (critical reading, math and writing) than in 2014 and overall the lowest performance since the 2,400-point scale was developed about a decade ago.

The mainstream media covered this pretty well, but most ignored or said little about a more disturbing aspect of the report: the results for Native American, African American and Hispanic students were appalling.

Just 41.9% of SAT takers in the class of 2015 (712,000 students) met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark. That means they have a 65% probability of obtaining a first-year GPA of B- or higher at a four-year college. It indicates a student’s readiness to enter college or career-training programs and to succeed in credit-bearing, entry-level college courses.

But look at the percent of U.S. test-takers who met the benchmark broken down by race/ethnicity:

  • Asian: 61.3%
  • White: 52.8%
  • Native American: 32.7%
  • Hispanic: 22.7%
  • African American: 16.1%

The numbers for native Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans in Oregon who met the College and Career Readiness Benchmark were pretty dismal, too: 

  • Native American: 31%
  • Hispanic: 22.6%
  • African American: 24.9%

Some argue that the averages for minority students are low because the number of them taking the test is expanding: 32.5% were underrepresented minority students in the class of 2015, compared to 31.3% in the class of 2014 and 29.0% in the class of 2011.

Others argue that this is avoiding the real issue, that too many minority students are not getting a good education. “Without access to challenging courses and assessments that measure their progress, students will not be able to get the most out of their opportunities to prepare for college and careers.” The College Board said in its report.

The College Board noted that there continue to be striking differences in academic preparation between white and Asian students and African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics that affect college readiness. White and Asian students taking the SAT, for example, are more likely to have taken AP and Honors courses. They are also more likely to have completed a full “core curriculum,” which includes four or more years of English, three or more years of mathematics, three or more years of natural science, and three or more years of social science and history.

“Nowhere is there more of a need to expand access to more rigorous coursework than among low-income and minority students,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, Chief of Assessment at the College Board.

The U.S. Census projects that racial and ethnic minorities will represent more than half of all children in the United States by 2023, and that the U.S. population will be 54 percent minority by 2050. As noted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, “Youth from these communities need full preparation for and access to higher education. It would be both immoral and impractical to ignore the disparities facing these young people, as a brighter future for them means a brighter future for all.”