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Slavery reparations are an immoral and illogical proposition

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Slavery reparations are an immoral and illogical proposition

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is back in the headlines. In an apparent attempt to bolster her dwindling prospects for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President, last month Warren called for a “full-conversation about reparations” according to Politico. Of course, Warren is referencing reparations for slavery, a proposition that would rip our nation apart at the seams and punish people who had nothing to do with the evil institution, an inherently anti-liberty and deeply immoral proposition.

The entire discussion of reparations for “American” slavery betrays the American notions of individual responsibility and individual repayment, proposing that Americans pay restitution for crimes they had no part in.

In the West, we believe that individuals, and individuals alone, should be prosecuted and punished for the crimes that they commit. In other words, we are not responsible for the sins of our fathers. For example, we believe Rose Bundy bears no burden for her father’s acts of depravity, neither does June Lee Oswald nor do the five children of Harvey Weinstein. Yet, when it comes to the sin of slavery, Warren and proponents of slavery reparations abandon this principle. This is cognitive dissonance of the highest order. 

Slavery was abolished nationwide 153 years ago. We, as a nation, are a full six generations removed from the institution of slavery. Why should anyone be held responsible for crimes they did not commit, let alone crimes that were committed over a century and a half ago?

Proponents of reparations may respond by saying that white Americans have benefitted from a system that was designed to oppress black people specifically, but this argument does not hold when closely examined as it is entirely illogical. Exactly how much of white Americans’ success today is attributable to slavery (which, many scholars have argued kept the Antebellum South in economic ruin for centuries)? 10 percent? 50 percent? 100 percent? 

Surely, immigrants who came to the U.S. after slavery was abolished and when de jure discrimination was contained to the Jim Crow south bear no responsibility. How much should Irish, Italian or Jewish immigrants pay for the sin of slavery? Do proponents of reparations propose we do a nationwide Ancestry DNA test to determine how much we’re responsible for our great-great-great-great grandparents? As you can see, there is no limiting principle in the idea. There is nothing to discern how much an individual today has benefited from slavery. 

The inverse also holds true. There is nothing to discern how much an African-American today is struggling due to slavery, if it all. It is simply untrue to say that the problems the black community faces today are attributable to slavery. For instance, according to Census Bureau statistics, unwed motherhood rates, an undeniable driver of poverty, were substantially lower (25 percent compared to about 75 percent today) during the period time blacks lived under Jim Crow laws, and were also lower during the period directly after the end of the Civil War. Violent crime rates in the black community also follow the same trend, with the homicide rate among blacks nearly quadrupling the national average in a little under 30 years, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics. Is slavery 20 percent responsible for the violent crime rate in 2019? What percentage is slavery responsible for unwed motherhood, gang violence and rampant drug abuse in the black community (the same way that drugs wreak havoc in all communities)?   

That is what makes reparations simply a political battering ram. Politicians like Warren can gin up anger from the African-American community for the terrible things they suffered through centuries ago and provide an easily understood villain to punish today — white people. If that is not racial pandering combined with the bigotry of the lowest expectations possible, I don’t know what is. 

Not only are reparations inconsistent with the tenants of Western Civilization and basic morality, but the implementation of such a policy would solve nothing for the African-American community today. If you believe, as Warren does, that blacks are currently marginalized due to “structural racism,” exactly how do reparations liberate blacks from the oppression of such a system? Reparations would give blacks a little extra cash, not make the “structural racism” that Warren believes in disappear.

In 1965, the same year that the Voting Rights Act was passed finally granting blacks in the South the same legal rights as whites, the rate at which black children were born to unwed mothers stood at 25 percent. Today, even 50 years removed from the end of de jure segregation and discrimination, the illegitimacy rate in the black community clocks in around an astounding 75 percent, according to the CDC. A reasonable person certainly would not believe that blacks are discriminated against anywhere near the amount they were in the 1960s. This evidence is proof positive that slavery and discrimination have nothing to do with the biggest problems black communities face now in America. It’s time politicians tell the American people, and black community specifically the truth-the only person responsible for the outcomes in your life is ultimately yourself. Embracing personal responsibility and not blaming your failures on the past, is the only true way to reach success. 

Forcing Americans in 2019 to pay reparations for slavery would not only fail to solve any problem African-Americans face today, but such an immoral proposition would undoubtedly rip the U.S. apart.

Connect with Nick on Twitter @nsamm41.

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One Response to “Slavery reparations are an immoral and illogical proposition”

  1. Caroline Long on April 3rd, 2019 6:33 pm

    When reading this, I had really hoped it was an April Fools prank, but sadly it was written today. I understand your points, but they are untrue. This whole country was built on enslaved people and the hierarchy of white males making all the laws of this country to benefit them. “In 1965, the same year that the Voting Rights Act was passed finally granting blacks in the South the same legal rights as whites…” <– You said this and it is factual on the surface, but a stretch. Black people were granted the same legal rights, but the racism that is already ingrained in the south (I'm from there, I would know)and the rest of the United States, will not disappear and be fixed because of one law. Before that, black people weren't even considered whole humans, they couldn't even vote until the year 1965, meaning until that time their voices weren't even heard or valued for the making of the laws of the country that is just as much theirs as the people writing the laws. We are not responsible for our ancestor's actions, but how we take advantage of the system they created. 153 years ago, although it may seem like a lot is more than half of how long our country has been around. Our country was founded in 1776, which was 243 years ago, meaning slavery was around for more than the first third of our nation. And even after slavery was "abolished", the United States still found ways to make African Americans do the jobs they did not want to do. "Whites who did not own slaves were primarily yeoman farmers. Practically speaking, the institution of slavery did not help these people. And yet most non-slaveholding white Southerners identified with and defended the institution of slavery." (Conditions of Antebellum Slavery PBS). You are right, enslaving people did not benefit all the white people in the antebellum south and it affected the south economically. But why did it affect the south negatively? Was it because the white farmers who couldn't afford to own slaves had to do their own farming, so their products were more expensive because they were not made in bulk and with free labor like the larger plantation owners who did not have to pay the slaves, so it was cheaper to make the products. After enslaving people was abolished, landowners had to start paying farmers for their work so they were not getting as much of a profit for the same products they were selling before slavery was abolished, so the price for the same products and same amount had to go up. I don't have a problem with your argument that white people whose ancestors were slave owners should not pay African Americans whose ancestors were slaves. I do have a problem with using the corruption in the black communities as an excuse to not care about the racism and effects that happen to the people whose ancestors were stolen from their land, stripped of everything they owned, their possessions, professions, families and forced to work for free.
    Structural Racism will not go away because of a little compensation, it will take a lot more than that, breaking down walls and barriers that the small population benefits from, but the majority are negatively affected by. Why do you bring up illegitimate pregnancies? Bringing that up belittles the African American women population, they are only mentioned to prove your point that the community doesn't deserve help and they have done this to themselves.
    "Proponents of reparations may respond by saying that white Americans have benefitted from a system that was designed to oppress black people specifically, but this argument does not hold when closely examined as it is entirely illogical."
    White people benefit from this system still today. The racism that was brought to the United States in the 1700s portrayed as slavery is now still racism but played out in the judicial system, professional world, and credibility. If both a white man and black man were in court for the same crime, the only difference is between them is the color of their skin and where they are from, who do you think would get the lesser sentence? Answer: the white man. Better yet, some black men aren't even able to go to court to defend themselves because they are shot in their car or their neighborhoods, even when they are innocent.
    "It’s time politicians tell the American people, and black community specifically the truth-the only person responsible for the outcomes in your life is ultimately yourself." I do believe this to a certain extent, but then if this is the only truth, were the enslaved people responsible for being forced on a boat, being sold and forced to work for free? If this is the only truth then would the African Americans fighting for freedom and escaping on the underground railroad, and then getting killed or recaptured their fault?
    I would love to hear what you think about what I have said and to have a further discussion. Let us not forget that things are not so simple, but it includes peoples lives, genetics and freedom. We need to fight for this country, so that "all men are created equal" can finally be true. It might look like it on paper, but if you look at our country it is very obvious that is not the case.

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Slavery reparations are an immoral and illogical proposition