There has been a lot of talk going around lately regarding reparations for slavery in the United States. I decided that since nobody asked, you obviously want to know what I think about it.
I am pro-reparations. I believe that if someone harms someone else or steals from them, they should pay a penalty. The Bible expresses the same principle over and over in the Law of Moses (Exodus 21:22, 28-36; 22:4-14; Leviticus 24:19-21). Now I’m not saying that the Law of Moses is in effect, but the principle of reparations for harm done is there. If I steal and eat my neighbor’s cow, I should have to replace the cow with a similar cow or other financial penalty. If I rob a bank, I should have to pay back what I have stolen. So the issue of reparations is a personal one.
But the problems with the current issue of reparations for slavery in the United States are legion. Should someone who wrongly enslaved another person pay them restitution for the years of their life that were taken from them? Absolutely. But there is not a single living American who has personally and legally owned slaves, and there is not a single living American who has personally and legally been enslaved by another American. The last American slave died in 1971.
There are people calling for reparations today. There is currently a bill being considered in Congress. I’m curious how they are going to handle this issue.
Just as an aside, the mantra of some politicians continues to be that “the government” will pay for this or that. Anytime you hear “The government will pay…” remember that the only source of income the government has is YOU and other Americans. So when someone says “the government will pay…” just substitute “YOU” for “the government”.
But are reparations even possible? I came up with a list of questions that need to be answered before any attempt at reparations can be made:
- What is the criteria that qualifies someone to receive reparations? Skin color alone? Not every black person was a slave.
- What about non-black slaves such as the Chinese? Do they get reparations? Because any reparations paid for one slave should be paid to all descendants.
- What about people who have immigrated to the United States and become citizens since 1863? Should they be required to pay restitution since they had nothing to do with slavery?
- What about black people living in the US that have no slave ancestors? Why should they get “reparations” if their family was not involved at all in slavery?
- How would a person prove that they are the descendant of a slave?
- What about black people who have white ancestry? Should their white side pay reparations to their black side, so it’s a wash?
- Who pays the reparations? Only white people? If a person is mostly genetically white but has black slave ancestors, what then?
- What about the black slave owners? Will their descendants have to pay reparations?
- How much should each person get? How do we determine what amount is sufficient? If we go off the average cost of a slave in 1860 was $800, which is $24,364 in today’s money, should that amount be split between all descendants or should each descendant get that much? Can the United States afford to pay this massive fee (looking at our debt and deficit, I already know the answer is no)?
- Is this a once for all reparation or an annual thing? Just like with the minimum wage discussion, when is enough enough?
- If all taxpayers pay into the fund, aren’t we asking the reparation recipients to partially pay for their own reparations?
These and many other questions are almost impossible to answer, and reveal the complete ludicrousness of attempting to penalize certain people for something their ancestors did 156-398 years ago. And that is why I am against this idea. People should be held responsible for their own transgressions, but not the transgressions of their ancestors, because where does it stop? Every ethnic group I’ve ever heard of has been oppressed in history by at least one other ethnic group. Where does it end?
Personally I believe this is an attempt by certain politicians to basically bribe their constituents into voting for them. “I got you that reparation money! Vote for me!” If you wanted to help black citizens of the United States better their lives, there are better ways to do it than simply giving them money.