Reparations are all the rage again. A lot of people reckon we taxpayers should shell out reparations. To descendants of American slaves. And to Native Americans. (Some of our candidates for the White House call for these reparations.) This presents a few problems.
Problem: The average African-American has from 20 to 30 percent white blood. Native Americans on average have lots of white blood. So, should we pay less blood money to those with high white content? Elizabeth Warren would collect 25 cents.
Problem: Native Americans savagely mistreated each other. Tribes attacked tribes. They raped, pillaged, scalped each other.
So, should the descendants of the most vicious Native American turn over some of the reparations they collect? To descendants of the most peaceful?
Problem: Will reparations do much good? Let’s say you are white. Your neighbor is black. Suppose you visit him tonight. “Hey, my ancestors probably abused your ancestors. Here’s a thousand bucks. I hope you feel better now. Let’s let bygones be bygones, okay?” If he felt abused before, do you suppose he won’t now?
Problem: Do we pay reparations to Chinese-Americans too? Whites brutalized them during the Gold Rush. And in the building of the railroads in the Wild West. And how about the Japanese? Those whose parents and grandparents the U.S. held in containment camps during WWII. Do we pay them too?
Problem: Let’s hear it for the Irish. (And Italians.) Read the details of how non-Irish treated Irish immigrants in the 1800s. They are ugly, despicable details.
If we pay the Irish, we should hit up the English for the same amount. They savaged, neglected and starved the Irish while they ruled Ireland. Which is why the Irish fled to America.
Problem: Suppose we taxpayers get dunned for reparations. Should we then demand billions from the Dutch, Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, etc? To compensate us? After all, they shipped Africans to the New World as slaves. They began in 1664. A century before the villainous U.S. became a country.
Problem: Africans captured Africans for the slave trade. They made fortunes. Should we demand their descendants, still in Africa, cough up?
Problem: Should Hispanics among us pay taxes that would
go to African-Americans?
After all, their ancestors were often victims of Spain’s barbaric conquests in the
Problem: The ancestors of millions of Americans came to this country after the slave trade ended. Suppose your Italian great-grandfather came here in 1909? Why should you pay for something he had no part of? The reality is that most Americans have little or no connection to slave-owners of old.
Problem: Don’t Jews deserve reparations? From all over the world? As well as from Americans? Did we enslave them? Or humiliate them under Jim Crow? Or lynch them? No. But we sure as hell mistreated them for a few hundred years.
We banned them from clubs, communities and schools. We belittled and humiliated them. We maligned them for only one reason: They were Jews. We turned a blind eye to their abominable mistreatment in Europe. In a hundred ways we, on the sidelines, fed the slow-burning fires of bigotry. Fires that ultimately roared into a holocaust.
Should we, as a society, pay reparations to club-foots and hunchbacks? To hare-lipped and deformed? Should we pay for our cruelty in even labeling them with such terms? And for denying them equal treatment by way of our prejudices?
Seems to me we could do a lot more good than pay reparations. We could promote equal and fair treatment of all, by all. We could concentrate on and celebrate our progress along these lines.
A good start would be to recognize the magnificent progress under our noses. Millions in the world blast the U.S. as a hotbed of racism. You can halt their criticisms with a simple question. African-Americans are 15 percent of us. So, if we are so racist, how is it we elected an African-American to lead us? Twice.
Show me a European nation that will elect a black as their leader. Or an African nation that will elect a white leader. Maybe we should drop this dream of paying reparations. Maybe we should put some money into fighting slavery today. After all, about 40 million people in this world live under some type of slavery.
a retired investment adviser
in Oneonta and nationally syndicated
business columnist, resides in Franklin.