10.7.19

WHAT WOULD A SUCCESSFUL POLICY LOOK LIKE?

Eric Zorn takes up the cause of restitution for slavery.
The best way to begin to repair the damage wrought by our nation’s troubled racial history is to dump the politically toxic word “reparations.”

Even casual students of history know that black Americans were first legally then systemically disadvantaged by slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination and segregation, and that those disadvantages resulted in a national wound that has yet to heal and seems unlikely to heal on its own.

We must — we should — use our resources to attempt to remediate the undeniable damage done by this uniquely awful legacy. Even those of us whose ancestors arrived here well after abolition and who have ourselves advocated for racial equality owe a debt to those from whose subjugation we benefited.
The case in equity seems straightforward enough: as a radio commentator put it a few weeks ago, the promise of forty acres and a mule after Emancipation never came to pass.  Between the murder of President Lincoln and the financial scandals affecting the Grant administration, Reconstruction came apart.  Among other things freedmen were not allowed to participate in homesteading the territories (imagine what that might have done to intersectionality narratives a century and a half on); then came the so-called progressives with their eugenics, and the Lost Cause myth, and redlining during the New Deal, and urban renewal and the War on Poverty, which should have given Mr Zorn pause.  "Such proposals are still vague and include Marshall Plan-style efforts to rebuild blighted inner-city neighborhoods, robust jobs programs for unemployed African Americans and significant targeted investment in education at all levels for African Americans."

There's a part of me that would treat June 19th as Tax Jubilee Day, as in any eligible claimant's income earned after June 19th of each year would be now and forever free of taxes, recognizing that Government, particularly Progressive and Activist Government, has been complicit in continuing the subjugation.  That despite, as Steve Chapman notes, private attitudes also mattering.  "Illinois was not a slave state. But African Americans endured bigotry and violence here even after emancipation."

Yes, there are plenty of pundits who wonder how we define eligibility.

Providing a vision for what such a policy would accomplish strikes me as more important.  I'm reminded of an observation General Eisenhower made sometime after V-E Day.  Not his brief "The mission of this Expeditionary Force was completed."  It wasn't over after the war crimes trials either.

Rather, the general observed something along the lines (the exact passage is at the end of Citizen Soldiers) of "If in fifty years, the Germans have a functioning, peaceful democracy, this Expeditionary Force will have succeeded."  It took a Berlin Airlift and the failure of the Warsaw Pact and the restructuring of Soviet Russia in the interim, and yet, as a long-term outcome, that is not bad.

Peter Van Buren suggests that compensation distracts from more serious challenges.
Talk about reparations that have no chance of happening is an excuse to avoid the much harder work of enforcing our anti-discrimination laws in employment and housing, making sure schools are not separate and unequal, and lifting millions of Americans of all races out of poverty. Those challenges will not go away with reparations. 
Walter Williams argues along similar lines.
The nation's most dangerous big cities are Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Memphis, Stockton, Birmingham, Baltimore, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The common characteristic of most of these cities is that they have predominantly black populations and blacks have considerable political power as mayors, city councilmen and chiefs of police. Energy spent on reparations should be used to solve those problems.
I'm not sure "Instead of" is the right terminology.

The Germans had the intellectual tradition of Kant and Beethoven and Schiller to draw on; there is the intellectual tradition of Douglass and Joplin and King to draw on, whether there are new policies in place or not.

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