For those of y’all who don’t already know, I’m married to a Quora space called “It’s Okay to be White.” When I say “married,” I don’t mean like a regular marriage, where each spouse gets some alone time now and then. No, this marriage is different. My Quora-wife is with me all the time, constantly demanding my attention. Do I get paid for it? Only if you consider making the world a better place “payment.” Quora does have an arrangement with advertisers so that space admins/mods can get paid for their efforts – but, not surprisingly, our space has been denied this perk. The official reason is that “we promote our product too aggressively.” This is odd, because we HAVE NO product! Anyway, I spend a lot of time there, and I feel privileged to do so.
We accept submissions from people of any background; we’re inclusive.
One woman asked why her submission was rejected, and I followed up with a private message. Here is her response:
Hello Reuben, I responded to that insulting, kick in the stomach, posts completing disrespecting my ancestors, who did deserve to be paid for their labor. In their absence, the funds should go to their estates – such as humans do. It’s annoying to look at the posting, but it shows a rather typical attitude of people who do not see their compatriots as brothers.
First of all, she and I agree that the posted meme is offensive; it’s not fair to the KKK to compare it to Antifa or the Communists. Too many conservatives stoop to bashing the KKK just to show how righteous they are, as in, “We’re not like the KKK; we’re not RACISTS!” I’ve never seen an actual Klansman respond to any of those jabs – and the people who post them are probably aware of the fact that they’re attacking an easy target, one that’s unlikely to defend itself. It’s a low blow and a cheap shot. I say all this as a person who’s not even a fan of the KKK, though I’ve written about the original KKK before. Today’s KKK groups are not related to the original one.
But that’s not the primary point I’m here to make today. My point is that the lady has a point. I think that if a recent ancestor of yours was forced to work for an entity, for a number of years, without compensation, then it’s not unreasonable to demand that the entity compensate you for your ancestor’s lost wages – plus interest.
I’d add a few caveats to this though:
- The original entity that benefited from the slavery must still exist, and in such a way that there was continuity from the time of slavery until today.
- The compensation must be divorced from race, and limited to those who can actually document that their ancestors were slaves to an entity that fits the above description. If an individual identifies as “white,” appears white, and fills out the census as “white,” but one of his great-great-grandmothers was a slave, then he deserves compensation. I say this because if we view potential claimants by race, then we must face the fact that blacks (as a group) have been a net deficit to the United States for a long time. If we view people racially, then it’s blacks who owe white America reparations, not the other way around – but this is not the topic of my post. For the purpose of reparations, it makes more sense to look at the individual, and his family background.
- Now that we’re focused on the individual, and the specific entities that wronged his ancestors, we need to calculate how much, in extra taxes, the targeted entity paid in order to provide any state subsidies, welfare, or food-stamps etc. to the claimant’s family since the end of slavery. There’s no way to reach an exact figure, but it’s probably possible to arrive at an approximate value.
- Did the targeted entity lose revenue due to the the death of Union soldiers during the Civil War? Was the entity required to hire black employees (of the claimant’s family) due to Affirmative Action mandates? Was the entity sued for “disparate impact” or other bogus claims of “racism?” All this should be taken into account, because reparations shouldn’t have to be paid twice.
- Did the entity suffer from crime committed by members of the claimant’s family or ancestors? Did the entity have to pay higher taxes, or insurance premiums, due to this crime?
I’m not saying that ALL of the above scenarios necessarily apply, only that if they do, they should be taken into consideration.
All of the above applies only to reparations for slavery. What about other injustices, that may have occurred more recently? The City of Evanston, ILL, recently enacted a reparations bill to compensate its black residents for past housing discrimination. I would apply similar standards to the ones listed above:
- Was there actual injustice committed against the ancestors/family of the claimant? I wouldn’t count racial segregation, by itself, as an “injustice,” because communities have a right to be segregated if they so choose. Being forced to live among other blacks should not be considered a crime, because white people have the right to their own communities. But this doesn’t mean that injustices, associated with housing, could not have occurred. If they did, and we know who the victims are, then it’s reasonable for the victims to demand compensation – with interest. I don’t know enough about Evanston’s history, or the details of the bill, to have an opinion as to whether the bill is justified. Given today’s political climate, I’m skeptical.
- Have the Evanston victims benefited from other, race-based, government programs? If so, then any compensation should be reduced by that amount.
- Did the family/ancestors of the claimants cost the City of Evanston money due to their criminal behavior? If so, then this amount should also be taken into consideration.
As a general rule, I don’t believe that people should be punished for the crimes of their ancestors, but if we’re considering any sort of reparations, then there’s no way to avoid it; somebody needs to pay for those reparations; that alone is “punishing people for the crimes of their ancestors.” Subtracting the costs of past crimes from any compensation is not “punishment” in my opinion; it’s simply part of the equation.
One other issue I wanted to put out there is that for every individual who can document that his ancestors were slaves, or suffered from a specific racist policy, there would be countless others who, though they’re descended from victims, are unable to document it. In essence, what we’d end up with is many undocumented victims subsidizing the documented ones.
I’ll conclude by saying that, though I can see specific situations where reparations might make sense, the affair get so messy that it’s best if we simply forget about the whole thing and focus on the future instead.