July 30, 2008

Obama wants slavery reparations?

A political non-winner if there ever was one:

Sen. Barack Obama, speaking to a gathering of minority journalists yesterday, stopped short of endorsing an official U.S. apology to American Indians but said the country should acknowledge its history of poor treatment of certain ethnic groups.

"There's no doubt that when it comes to our treatment of Native Americans as well as other persons of color in this country, we've got some very sad and difficult things to account for," Obama told hundreds of attendees of UNITY '08, a convention of four minority journalism associations.

"I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged," the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

"I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."

Y'think it might be a good idea for the McCain camp to highlight this statement? Perhaps. But it must be done in a delicate manner, certainly. Obama pushing this idea would be a total loser (especially judging by the comments following the linked article). Most [white] folks don't think their money should go to pay for something that began approx. 400 yrs. ago; 230+ yrs. officially in the U.S. (and ended about 150 yrs. ago).

But consider: Say the government did pay reparations to African-Americans, Native Americans (and whoever else). Would this then be considered "payment in full?" Would affirmative action be put into the dust bin? "Holistic" entrance determinations for college entrance? "Critical Mass" for "needed" diversity in higher (and lower) education? Minority business set-asides like that which WDEL's Al Mascitti is talking about right now?

Years ago, I was staunchly opposed to any sort of reparations. Now, however, I can see, if not necessarily totally agree with, the argument for them. But my question(s) would be like those noted above. In addition, do you really think folks like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like really want reparations to be paid? Because if they are, their entire reason for, well, living goes out the window if you think about it.

Then, obviously, there's the issue of race relations. Paying reparations (which would have to be, minimally, billions of dollars) would peeve many white Americans. Continuing to not pay them will miff many African-Americans. Perhaps a middle-ground approach might work.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Soccer Dad points me to a Charles Krauthammer column on reparations from 2001. You might be surprised at the conservative writer's view:

In the American case, one can make both a symbolic gesture and a real one by giving, say, every African-American family a substantial sum in the tens of thousands. For example, $50,000 per family of four would cost about $440 billion--a considerable sum but manageable. (It amounts to about one-thirteenth of the projected 10-year surplus.) Expensive, yes. But far less expensive than the corrosive, corrupt and corrupting alternative of affirmative action. Reparations should become the cornerstone of a Grand Compromise. The endless partial payment of affirmative action -- with all its destructiveness -- is ended. Yet the debt of the past is neither denied nor ignored. In one grand gesture, an acknowledgment is made not of collective guilt, but of collective responsibility. Reparations are paid. We then end the affirmative action experiment that has been disastrous both for African-Americans and for America as a whole. And we return to the original vision of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement: color-blindness. I doubt that anyone on either side of this debate is prepared to accept this deal. But I defy anyone to present one that more cleanly--and fairly--cuts the Gordian knot.
Posted by Hube at July 30, 2008 10:25 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Let's see -- Part of my family did not arrive in this country until the 1880s. The rest arrived earlier, and lived in the North. My great, great grandfather was a Union volunteer who served freeing the slaved during the Civil War.

What, exactly, do I have an obligation to repair?

Unless Obama wants to judge us by the color of our skin and not the content of our characters.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at July 30, 2008 03:21 PM

I'd accept Krauthammer's trade-off.

Now, if only that "projected 10-year-surplus" had lasted more than 10 minutes...

Posted by: Regis at July 30, 2008 04:54 PM

I'd accept that trade off as well, but I don't think that the agreement would be held to. Appeals would be made that the reparations weren't enough and so more money, or more minority set-aside, etc. are needed. The grievance industry isn't going to give up just because of some deal we made with them. They'll be back.

Posted by: Paul Smith at July 30, 2008 05:35 PM

I agree, Paul. Jackson, Sharpton, et. al. wouldn't have it.

Posted by: Hube at July 30, 2008 05:43 PM

I don't think there is a fair and equitable way to give reparations without creating a deep schism between the non-black middle class and the black middle class for the next 100 years.

Can you see Obama getting the majority of the Hispanic vote or the so-called Appalachian vote if he supports reparations?

Btw,the MSM better pin Obama down on this issue in the 1st debate.

Posted by: AJ Lynch at July 30, 2008 10:13 PM

Wouldn't Obama have to pay himself 1/2 reparations?

Or would he not be entitled to any since he is not the decendant of an african american slave.

Posted by: anoni at August 2, 2008 11:26 PM

I see this issue as another promise of a free lunch. How exactly do you formulate the amount of money to be paid? If you have distant relatives that were slaves do you get some some for the percentage of your dna that comes from these ancestors? How about taxing the population. Do you tax all the Irish, Italian, and East European groups that are white but came to this country in the 19th century? How do you pay those descendants of white immigrants who fought for the Union and died in the civil war. Lets say you are a descendant of slave owners and slaves; how do you determine the reparations to be paid. I have had black friends who feel that they are owed something for being "black", and essentially see this issue as a promise to be paid. There are many people who are pissed at the world. Think of the unibomber for example; are we making a case for paying off people who feel slighted at this world?

Posted by: anon101 at August 6, 2008 03:32 PM

I think this is all wrong. The famous Dr. Martain Luter King, Jr. wanted every race to be together. Having a check to be given out to any kind of race is tainted. As for me, I have to agree...i'm white. If I say I disagree and if I say that every race should be created equal...I'm racist. I'm not a racsit, thought....I ahve many friends of all races and I treat them as if I treat myself. I'm only 14 years old and I know that this is worng. If Obamma dose this...it will start something very bad. People need to stop giving Negro College Funds and ect. We all need to have the same oppurtunies and the same treatment. remeber what your ancestors went threw and respect it! SOme went threw deaths and tourture just to get what most of the people take for a advange to day....Dr. King wanted equallity not the one race to be better.

Posted by: Becca Burgess at September 6, 2008 08:27 PM

I have 3 ancestors that fought and died in the civil war, fighting for slave's rights... So aside from my family fighting and dieing for blacks, YES I SAID BLACKS, I have to pay what little I have while I struggle...? This makes no sense. You know, chineese were used as slaves back then too. Where's their money?? Oh and horses were ridden back then and forced to work long days with no pay, when do they get noticed and paid? Oh, while we're at it, I think we should pay mother nature some kind of money. I mean after all, we're killing her with global warming right?

Forget the bullshit in our past and look to the future.

Posted by: Alix at September 17, 2008 09:56 PM

Are we freakin serious???

Repay prejudice with prejudice??

What is this... ?? the freakin FIRST grade or what??

Come on SIMPLE minded people of the now elected Obamastan ...... Count them .... your blessings!

Now that is repayment we only need to accept to receive.

Posted by: Retsof at November 23, 2008 10:21 PM

Mocomba we we... Give me money white man..

Posted by: Ricky Ticky at June 19, 2009 06:45 PM