Slave Reparations: Coming Next?

by | Jul 11, 2014

Why should present-day white Americans, who had nothing to do with slavery in the 19th Century, be forced to pay higher taxes and sacrifice their own well-being because of injustice never personally committed by them?

It’s finally happening. The movement for slave reparations is here. More than 150 years after slavery ended, the descendants of its deceased perpetrators will — if it passes Congress — be forced to pay subsidies to the descendants of its deceased victims.

It’s proposed in the name of justice. You’re not allowed to question it without being called “racist.” Those who threaten to call you racist will provide no justification for their claims. Simply to question them makes you racist, if not a proponent of slavery.

Actually, slavery takes different forms. One form is government protecting the ability of some human beings to own other human beings as property. It’s a monstrous injustice, to be sure.

However, it’s the same principle at work when some people are forced to pay for the livelihood of others. If you don’t pay this livelihood, you’ll not only be called racist — you’ll be put in jail.

Perhaps giving up another 10 or 20 percent of your earnings in taxes is not the same level of monstrosity as being owned as legal human property by another. But it’s precisely the same principle.

Slavery reparations are no longer on the fringe of the American political landscape. The respected Atlantic Monthly recently [5/21/14] published an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates entitled, “The Case for Reparations.” Coates claims,

The lives of black Americans are better than they were half a century ago. The humiliation of Whites Only signs are gone. Rates of black poverty have decreased. Black teen-pregnancy rates are at record lows—and the gap between black and white teen-pregnancy rates has shrunk significantly. But such progress rests on a shaky foundation, and fault lines are everywhere. The income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in 1970.

Why should present-day white Americans, who had nothing to do with slavery in the 19th Century, be forced to pay higher taxes and sacrifice their own well-being because of injustice never personally committed by them?

This is the question never asked or pursued. Racial collectivists like Ta-Nehisi Coates assume that we are not only our present day brother’s keepers; we are the keepers of generations who were born and died long before us.

If you’re white, then you’re collectively guilty for the sins of other white people in the past. Interestingly, you’re responsible for the sins of white people who condoned slavery, while you’re in no way credited for the virtue of all those whites (in the American North, and elsewhere) who fought slavery with everything they had.

Why is guilt collective and so selective, Ta-Nehisi Coates? I happen to be white, so I’ll be labeled racist for asking the question. But what happens when a black person asks it? I know for certain that some black thinkers — Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams come to mind — will ask it. What does it make them?

It seems that a concern for justice would factor in all sides of the equation. Now, a money and power grab — that’s another story. I’d expect a money and power grab to be one-sided. Slave reparations surely could not be a money and power grab, could it?

I recognize that slave reparations is unlikely to pass Congress in the near-term. But we might be closer to it than you think. The hated Tea Party element of the otherwise worthless, spineless Republican Party is about all that stands between us and such a bill becoming law. After all, politicians have rammed Obamacare, higher taxes, unprecedented interference in the private sector, and other destructive policies through Congress all on the premise of “not being racist,” particularly since these policies are promoted by a (half) black President. Since this tactic worked so well with everything else, why not slave reparations as well?

Obama is reportedly against slave reparations, but not on principle. He prefers to accomplish the same goal more quietly, via more government spending and higher taxes, along with greater wealth redistribution. In a way, we already have the socialism implied by slave reparations. But for some, we have to make it more explicit. We have to support wealth redistribution as a matter of moral principle, not merely in practice.

If we bow our heads and accept all this collective and selective guilt, then how are we to pay for it? Easy, says Coates:

It is obviously not practical to collect $1.38 trillion [the cost of this proposal] from individual white households. But more broadly, the issue is not individual acts of wrongdoing but a collective American legacy. The appropriate payor is the United States government which, conveniently, has the ability to print United States dollars in unlimited quantities.

The Federal Reserve Act would not, as written, allow the Fed to print $1.38 trillion and transfer it to individual African-Americans. But a reparations initiative could direct them to do so.

So there’s your answer. We’ll just raise the debt limit and print more money. Excuse me, “print more money” is an old-fashioned term. The chairperson of the Federal Reserve will simply press a button on the computer and — like magic — there the money is. (Economists used to call this inflating the currency. Some still do, but in Washington DC they now call it quantitative easing. What could be wrong with that?)

Even if we accept the insanity of the economic and moral claims in support of slave reparations, what will it do to the people who receive the money? Will it foster independence, self-reliance, self-esteem and genuine economic advancement? Is that what handouts by the government typically do? Obviously not, even when those handouts are given in the name of need or suffering. What happens to people when they’re given handouts merely for the color of their skin?

And what do you think this will do to race relations in this country?

I can’t help but wonder: Is it love of black people motivating this proposal? Or racial hatred of whites? Or perhaps — worse still — hatred of freedom and justice, rationally defined?

Laugh at the prospect, if you like. But the false assumptions and neurotic guilt required to make slave reparations a reality have already been swallowed by a majority of the American electorate.

The specifics are only a matter of time.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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