In 2020. California established the California Reparations Task Force. A few weeks ago, the task force approved recommendations to be considered by the state’s legislature. Several of the recommendations are meant to address housing segregation and past housing decisions based on skin color. At the end of the day, the task force recommends fighting injustice with injustice.
According to Fox News,
the task force also proposes increasing home ownership among Black Californians by providing assistance through either direct financial aid or subsidized down payments, below-market-rate mortgages, and homeowner’s insurance.
In other words, to overcome the injustice of past policies that were based on skin color, the state should provide financial benefits to some Californians based on the color of their skin.
Much of the injustices that the task force is supposedly addressing was caused by zoning. To it’s credit, California has taken some steps to reform zoning laws in the state. The task force is not satisfied with simply repealing immoral laws. It believes that some form of restitution must be paid to the victims of those laws. This might seem like the just thing to do. But we cannot evaluate this issue, or any issue, without considering the full context.
To begin, neither the victims nor the actual responsible parties of past racism are easy to identify. Instead, we are told to look at the issue from the perspective of groups. Because many individual blacks were victims of government racism, the argument goes, then we must act as if all blacks were victims. Because many whites supported and implemented policies of racial discrimination, then we must act as if all whites were guilty of racism.
Even if something is true of a large percentage of the members of a group, it is seldom true of every member of that group. Many blacks were not victims of racism regarding zoning or home mortgages. Many whites did not support or implement racist policies.
Justice demands that the guilty be punished and they make restitution to the victim. To give restitution to those who were not victims is to grant unearned rewards. To punish those who did not participate in an injustice is to penalize the innocent. Neither is an act of justice. Neither restitution nor punishment should be dispensed simply because of skin color. Yet, this was what the task force wants to do.
An example of the proper way to pursue justice is “Bruce’s Beach.” In 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce bought land in Manhattan Beach, a suburb of Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean. They built a resort that catered to blacks, who were prohibited from other beaches. The resort flourished until the 1920s, when the city used eminent domain to seize the land for a park. The park was never built, and the land sat vacant for decades. Ownership was transferred to the state in 1948. In 2021, the land was returned to the Bruce family. In this instance, the victim could be identified, and restitution was made by the guilty party—the government.
Racism is a vile ideology. But the proper way to fight racism is through education and by ostracizing racists. We should not be fighting injustice with injustice.