Reparations incognito

If someone were to ask me what the United States of America's greatest mistake was, I would answer without hesitation: slavery.  The legacy of slavery is a cloud that hangs over our nation much like clouds of genocide that hang over China, Germany, and Russia.  One of the solutions proposed by people who want to move beyond the shadow of slavery is to pay reparations to those who were hurt by slavery. 

Opponents of the idea of reparations claim that both the people who carried out slavery and the people who suffered under slavery are dead.  It is hard to argue that point.  Nevertheless, the left ensures that the cloud of slavery remains, and today, there are people who vigorously lobby that the 21st-century descendants of slaves in America receive compensation for the horrors of slavery their ancestors suffered in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.  They do not acknowledge that uncounted numbers of Americans are descended from people who arrived in America long after slavery had ended.

On June 1, 2020, a well known black businessman, Robert Johnson, called for the United States to pay 14 trillion dollars in reparations to living descendants of African-American slaves.  In his proposal, each living descendant of a slave would receive $350,000 in reparations.

I would urge the advocates of reparations like Robert Johnson to consider some deductions in the amount demanded.  The bloodiest war in American history was fought over the question of slavery.  Over 620,000 men and women died in the war that ended the institution of slavery.  After the war, three amendments to our Constitution were added to end the discrimination caused by slavery.

Lyndon Johnson's Great Society added welfare and Head Start to help blacks in America.  Affirmative action laws were instituted to help blacks in education and employment.  Since then, we have added Black History Month, the African-American Museum at the Smithsonian, and a national holiday remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a retired public school teacher, I can assure you that American public education is not focused on being the best public education system in the world, as evidenced by the fact that our schools rank 38th in math, 19th in science, and 14th in reading compared with other developed nations.  Rather, American public education is focused on narrowing the gaps between African-American student performance and all other racial groups.  All the initiatives just mentioned could be called reparations incognito.

The USA does not have a rainy-day fund.  At this writing, we are 28 trillion dollars in debt.  That works out to $84,000 per person in the USA.  Are we as a nation going to continue our self-flagellation over slavery, or are we going to look at the clock and realize that slavery ended nearly two centuries ago and move on to the many challenges facing us in 2021?

Image: The image for this post is the Emancipation Memorial, the Boston statute that freed slaves paid for to honor Abraham Lincoln's and the Union's sacrifices to free slaves.  (Public Domain image.)

Image: Because some people expressed concern that the Emancipation Memorial picture could be taken as a slight against slaves, I've replaced it with a vintage postcard showing the cemetery at Gettysburg.