There are lots of problems with reparations for slavery. There’s little justice to be found in punishing the descendants of slave-holders and rewarding the descendants of slaves 150 years after the fact. The fact that race is always the proposed proxy for the highly impractical task of determining slave/owner status removes whatever minuscule justice there might have been. There’s no appropriate dollar value to specify as recompense for something like slavery. Neither is there an appropriate dollar value to specify for the lives of non-slaves that were lost ending slavery to offset the first cost. Since slavery has been ubiquitous in most civilizations, nearly everyone has had both enslaved and slave-holding ancestors at some point. And also because slavery has been ubiquitous, the most unique aspect of slavery in the West was ending the practice–making it a really odd thing to try and punish. I could go on, but my point is that from beginning to end, the entire enterprise is a futile attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube on a mammoth scale.
But even apart from that long list of problems, there is one key reason that I would never in a million years endorse reparations of any kind: As a father, I would never willingly and deliberately make slaves of my own children.
Take an honest look at the current civil rights moment and ask yourself: Do you or anyone else really imagine that the first round of reparations will be enough? Do you think that you can pay into the grievance industry sufficiently that they will never seek any more from you? For that matter, was there ever a human being other than Jesus Christ who didn’t feel entitled to at least a little bit more than what he already had?
The entire grievance industry now thinks in terms of nebulous concepts like privilege and microaggressions that are perceived absolutely everywhere. No amount of reparations will do anything to change that, and there will always be more “sins” to discover which will inevitably require more recompense. It’s not as though there is any correct amount for reparations in the first place–this isn’t a mortgage with an objective “paid in full” status. Once any amount is paid, it will be almost immediately followed by cries of “not good enough.” If reparations are ever granted, they will inevitably be granted in perpetuity.
One would also have to be a fool to think that reparations will be limited to the subject of slavery. The civil rights movement already has any number of other parasitical identity-groups trying to get a slice of its cultural power and significance–and many have been pretty successful as a result. They will, without doubt, continue their practice with reparations. One doesn’t even have to hypothesize about this anymore. Elizabeth Warren has already called for reparations for LGBT people due to lost tax benefits associated with marriage. Every last identity group with its own grievance studies departments will ultimately demand reparations of some kind or another. And in every case, they will be demanded from the one group without its own grievance studies department: white Christian men.
I am a white Christian man. I have white Christian sons. What kind of monster would I have to be to deliberately subject my own flesh and blood to an unending cavalcade of the perpetually aggrieved constantly demanding their resources because they happen to have been born with a low intersectionality score? Would becoming such a monster somehow make the world more just? There’s neither honor nor justice in paying for slavery by subjecting your own children to it. It might be an historical irony that the descendants of slave-holders would eventually become slaves themselves, but how bad of a parent would you have to be to sacrifice your own children on the altar of historical irony?
I was under the impression that the US had already paid for slavery 150 years ago – with 600,000 lives.
I’m inclined to agree, but that’s part of my point here. What exactly is the correct value for reparations? Whether you count dollars or lives, at exactly what point are we square? When there’s no objective answer to the question, the answer given by those who demand reparations always ends up being “more than what you’ve given so far.”