Should the US pay racial reparations?
- A June 2020 Reuters/IPSOS poll found that “only one in five respondents agreed the United States should use ‘taxpayer money to pay damages to descendants of enslaved people in the United States.’”
- Out of the 10-12 million African slaves imported to the New World between the 16-19th centuries, only 388,000 were sold to the American colonies. Following England and France, America abolished slavery in 1865, nearly 90 years following her establishment as a nation, and now over 150 years ago.
- On January 31, 1865, following America’s bloodiest war (the Civil War), the House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which states, 'Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.'
- Human slave-owning societies have encompassed every empire and nation throughout history prior to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, including ancient Mesopotamia, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, India, China, and the Aztecs and Mayans.
- Nearly 10 million Africans are still enslaved throughout the eastern world today.
The Declaration of Independence laid down the promise of the American Dream, offering life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone. But throughout history, there have been plenty of examples of racial discrimination against Black Americans. Because of this, they absolutely deserve racial reparations to get an even chance at life, as for years, American society has operated in an inherently unequal way. For example, for every $100 that a white family has, an average black family has $5—a 95% gap in average wealth!
Incidents surrounding George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks paint a picture of a reckless police force that seems to target Blacks indiscriminately. The Washington Post has even recorded how despite making up less than 13% of the population, “Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate” being “killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans,” a worrisome statistic.
Black Americans have also not received any racial reparations despite the US government compensating other minority groups it has discriminated against. Native Americans receive billions in land, money, and welfare for their history of being forcibly exiled. Japanese Americans were paid $1.5 billion for what they suffered during World War II. The Marshall Plan ensured that Holocaust survivors were paid over time.
In 1860, African Americans were used as slaves to provide free labor and production, amounting to around $3 billion. Their modern-day descendants are yet to be compensated for it.
Economists William Darity and Darrick Hamilton say that reparation policy won't automatically erase racial wealth divides; African-Americans are still discriminated against, with their access to financial capital severely restricted. Even white high school dropouts made more than Black college graduates. To change for the better, America needs to chart a new course.
Identifying who has been directly impacted by slavery in America is extremely difficult. Since 1980, the Black immigrant population in America has quadrupled, sitting at 3.8 million Black immigrants living in the US today. Following the US Civil War—won by abolitionists and Republican President Lincoln’s Union soldiers—millions worldwide have immigrated to the 'land of the free.' By 2060, 16.5% of Black Americans are projected to be immigrants.
Because Blacks today have not been directly impacted by the slave trade, it would be a logistical nightmare to find where to draw the line, requiring extensive document tracing and DNA testing. Blanket distribution of money based on skin color would further inflame America's racial divide. It would mean American Blacks who are well off, such as LeBron James, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, would be eligible for 'reparation' payments from all Americans.
It is historical denial to insist slavery and injustice have only occurred between Blacks and Whites; throughout human history, oppression between people groups have existed. This idea that non-Black Americans should be held responsible for or have benefited from slavery is unfair to the nearly 45 million Americans who are immigrants, the Americans whose ancestors fought and died in the Civil War, and current Americans whose ancestors immigrated post-Civil-War and post-Civil-Rights-Movement.
Likewise, Democrat reparation proposals are just unfeasible. An estimated $97T would be owed to descendants of American slaves. There is only $40T in circulation; reparations would cost more than twice as much money as there exists on earth.
There are zero racist laws currently in effect impacting Blacks today. Because everyone is on a legal level playing field, policymakers should be directing our attention to tangible ways to close the income and education inequality gaps.