Recently I have heard the issue of the reparations come back up. Now, on the one hand you certainly can argue that slavery, institutional, legal, and systemic racism has held people the defendants of slaves back…but it is just as unjust to demand that those who never engaged in slavery to pay for those past mistakes. You don’t make things better by just adding to a number of wrongs and punishing the people who are not responsible.
So how do you make it so that only those who are to blame pay the price?
Further, the logical problem comes up with how long do you go back? Some of my ancestors came from Ireland, they were treated with bigotry when they came to these shores, they were certainly treated with outright hatred from the rest of Europe for over a millennia…but no sane person thinks that Britain should pay for the suffering my Irish ancestors endured. I mean, if you want to get crazy some of my ancestors came from France…should Italy pay reparations for their invasion of my ancestral homelands under Julius Caesar? That last line is preposterous but it makes the point at what point in history do you just say the past is the past and get over it?
Luckily there is a rational answer to both.
The first comes from the joys of genetics where we find that epigenetics is beginning to answer a lot of questions about why genes behave the way they do. Epigenetics is the study of which genes get turned on which ones don’t. For instance, that low metabolism you have, it might be because your parent or grandparent suffered from a period of great want in their life and certain triggers turned on in their DNA to ensure that their offspring process nutrients in a much more efficient way and store tons of it in fat because as far as their metabolism can tell the food is scarce and thus their offspring will need to have a metabolism that can store lots of food because there will be times it needs to run off only that fat…so one 10 year Great Depression ends in two generations of obesity and heart disease. And as far as science can find out, these triggers usually only go back to grandparents. And this affects numerous issues, such as IQ, metabolism, health, and personality, which in turn can have a massive effect on your life now. So from a very science-based way of looking at things, systemic racism against your grandparents is something that likely had an effect on you personally. So we will go back two generations. That is not going to address every wrong ever done, but it will address the wrongs that have a direct effect on an individual. And that is just, because it is not saying you should suffer or benefit from what your ancestors did, only from the very real environmental factors that had a direct effect on you.
The next question is who should pay for this? Because putting a tax burden on people now who were never born doesn’t make sense. It is the idea that the child should pay for the sins of the father (now it might be tempting to throw the whole Trump clan in Chateau d’If and throw away the key, but let’s be honest the kids have committed crimes on their own and can be tried and locked away for their own crimes and humanity is just as safe). So we should only make those who had a hand in these forms of racism pay. Luckily, due to the fact that corporations and governments are immortal, there are some very attractive targets to actually payout on this one.
First off, as anyone who has read Richard Rothestein’s excellent book The Color of Law knows that the entire housing market for the last century has been a racist mess (you should read it, it will make you unspeakably angry at the government for engaging in racist evil well into most of our lives, and then angry at liberals for not presenting these facts years ago…seriously if courts are ruling that segregation is only de facto and not de jure when it most certainly is de jure, a reasonable person is not going to get upset until they see the evidence that it is de jure…this book should have been published no later than 1990…and yet…). And we all know about the government’s last attempt to solve this problem: the subprime loan! Yeah, they not only encourage racism but helped to tank the whole system. But the government through the FHA made racism the de jure law of the land, and FHA’s inheritors Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac still have the blood on their hands. But in addition to blood, Fannie and Freddie have money and a lot of notes on house loans. Make them payout to everyone who can even suggest – that they, their parents, or their grandparents were prevented from owning a home get paid out from the complete, total, and irreversible liquidation of everything Fannie and Freddy own. Their total assets are around $5.5 Trillion but you’d probably have to fire sale that, so that’s only about $550 Billion…so that’s only a payment of about $13,000 for every single African American in the US. And the added advantage is that by killing Fannie and Freddy as they should have been eliminated a decade ago will do three things (1) make the banking system stronger as they will be able to acquire lots of mortgages at a fraction of the list price and less likely to fail again (2) lower the price of houses which in the long run is a much better system and (3) make that payout worth more in purchasing power as compared to today. Oh, government control over the economy would also be radically lowered. So actually paying out reparations in this way wouldn’t be hurting people who never engaged in these evils, but actually helping them. Yes people who over invested in real-estate will be hurt in the short-run…but if you did that after the 2008 crash you deserve to pay for your foolishness.
But $13,000 isn’t going to make up for everything. After all the government engaged in contracts that prevent non-whites from getting jobs, police have harassed non-whites in ways ranging from annoyance to unjust fines to outright murder, and schools have systematically ensured that certain communities get lower education. No soft bigotry of low expectations here, this is outright evil. And you know who was behind those evils? Labor unions preventing non-whites from getting jobs, police unions keeping the racists on the street and preventing reform, and teachers unions making sure that the inept stay in their jobs. And you know what unions have, be they public or private? They have nice fat pensions accounts. Yeah, I’m suggesting taxpayers cease all contributions to those funds (because not everyone is to blame for this and doesn’t need to be punished further by continuing to fund this evil) and that those accounts be raided for every last cent. Yeah, some racist cops and some racist teachers will now be broke in their old age. I don’t care. (Please keep in mind I am a teacher and I do have some skin in the game when it comes to this proposal…not a lot, but money is money, and this is still the right thing to do even though I will be taking a loss.) Let’s throw in the pensions for every elected official in the country because their votes allowed all this evil to continue and they can pay for that. It is better that the people who had a hand in this evil pay, rather than a whole nation which would only lead to more animosity thus giving more fodder for the nationalists and populists to use against those who have already been abused. I couldn’t begin to calculate how much money that will be, but it probably will not be small. And we’ll see how much the nationalists believe Blue lives matter…if they take care of the aging racists then they’ve put their money where their mouth is, but we all know that their support goes only as far as it hurts non-whites.
After that, we can certainly sue every cop, teacher, union rep, and legislator who you can show actively continued these policies, but that will only be pennies on the dollar compared to those pension funds…but those responsible must suffer.
Now, I’m sure there are companies and specific funds that can be gone after with the same logic. But this is the point, only those responsible and only going back two generations. This holds to justice and doesn’t allow people to think that they’re being abused.
Will this solve every problem in every minority community. Hardly. But it is a start and maybe if we’re lucky it’s a start that hastens the justice we yearn for actually getting here.