What do reparations repair?

In 1619, when the first African slaves arrived in North America, and were classified under law as property devoid of human rights, a sequence of events was set in motion that include the Civil War of 1861–65 and its aftermath, such as Jim Crow laws.  The consequences also include the racial tensions that exist today and the numerous political movements exploiting those tensions.

It is pointless to dwell upon topics which have been chronicled in encyclopedic detail by endless studies and commentaries.  The question is, what to do?

Step One is to recognize that race itself is not the problem.  My experiences with black Americans have been closely comparable to those with all other races.  Some white people are obnoxious, insufferable, and even dangerous.  Likewise with black people, Asians, and others.  For the most part, however, Americans outside the major cities are polite, pleasant, and helpful, without regard to race.  In my travels through the rural Deep South, I have been greatly impressed by that.

Step Two is to recognize that fact, and to give it as much weight (actually, more) as the news coverage involving riots and proposed racial reparations.

Where racial tensions do exist, they usually involve political opportunism.  A generation of young Americans has been carefully trained to look for any hint of offense from others.  Race-related offenses are only a part of the dynamic.  There is a plethora of factions, including the highly active alphabetized identities of sexual proclivities, ethnicities, and ideologies.  Political opportunists are quick to insert themselves into any and every abrasive incident, no matter how minor, that could otherwise be settled by the principals.  Their intervention prevents amicable (or at least acceptable) resolutions, the kind we see every day among ordinary individuals.

Those interventions have become a sophisticated methodology, inventing such terms as "micro-aggression," to ensure that even when there is no slight, the perception of one can be manufactured and perpetuated.  Numerous other "reparations" include racial quotas in higher education, and the practice of selective law enforcement, embodied in a stated policy of Barack Obama that no crime should be prosecuted when the perpetrator is black and the victim is white.  Such statements create resentments and inflame emotions.

Step Three is yours.  It is to reject the hyperbole that aims to set us against each other, and to look to such figures as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy of regarding each person on his merits.  It is to do your best, in your personal life, to help repair the defects in our culture, to do so constructively, while emphasizing what is good in that culture.

That step is neither easy nor passive.  It may not require political activism, but it does require personal commitment.  You know, better than I do, what that means in your personal life.  Each of us needs to be informed.  It needs each of us to participate, however prominently or obscurely, in our communities.  At the very least, it means that we must do no harm.

Racial reparations, in the form of taking money from one race of people and giving it to another, will repair nothing.  It will do the opposite.  It will create a class of ungrateful recipients and resentful donors.  On the other hand, cultural reparation will be fruitful if it means such things as promoting true equality — equality of opportunity, not outcome; equality of responsibility; and equality of freedom, including the freedom of speech.

Nothing worthwhile comes easily.  Our culture has become so thoroughly contaminated by corruption, debauchery, and deception that its reparation will be a monumental effort, no less demanding than the suffering of those who struggled through four years of civil war.

We cannot go back to the year 1619 and prevent the institution slavery on our continent, but at least we can prevent the destructive ideology of the "1619 Project" from making the problems worse.

Image via Pxhere.

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