Reparations Again.

Almost all of the Democratic Presidential wannabes are claiming that they support reparations for slavery. This is signature significance for shameless pandering and dishonesty, of course, and pretty redolent, in my assessment, of buying black votes. There are many, many things coming out of the mouths of the various demagogues, empty suits and crypto-socialists aspiring to unseat Donald Trump that are impossible–banning combustion engines, free college for all, ending the Electoral College, and many more—but reparations is a special species of fantasy, wrong in every way.

I have been periodically reading scholarly and not so scholarly debates about the feasibility  and justification for reparations for decades, and I have come to see this as less of a policy debate than a confession of defeat. Of course, every year that the timeline retreats from the end of slavery, the more logically untenable the mass hand-out of massive amounts of money that the nation cannot afford  to the descendants of slaves becomes. Ethically it was always untenable, and guaranteed, if such an irresponsible thing actually happened, to exacerbate racial divisions while creating endless demands for similar programs to benefit other groups, especially Native Americans. And why shouldn’t women receive reparations for all those centuries of forced labor and childbearing without civil rights, if the United States is going into the retroactive damages business?

Polling is a bad way to conduct a nation’s business, but sometimes the public can detect a true stinker when it sees one:. Reparations are unpopular with about 80% of the population, and I sense that even progressives just pretend to tolerate politicians who blather on about it because they know it’s all for show, and designed to harvest naive votes for more practical crazy leftist proposals.

Many of these proposals involve trying to somehow solve the gaps between black and white success and achievement in America, and mostly consist of rigging the system in various ways, especially now that Affirmative Action’s days are numbered, (and didn’t work that well anyway). Are a disproportionate number of blacks getting tossed out of school? Stop holding blacks to disciplinary standards—better yet, stop holding any students to disciplinary standards. Bad test scores making it more difficult to justify discriminating against Asian-Americans with better test scores? Eliminate testing as part of the college admission process!  Are too many African-Americans incarcerated? Legalize as many of the crimes as possible, and then  stop sending non-violent law-breakers to prison. These and other measures are no more fair of logical than reparations, just cheaper and easier to con or guilt Americans into accepting.

Back in March of 2016, I temporarily lost my mind in the wake of our first black President’s utter failure to address our race problems, despite his soaring rhetoric.  Charts from the Brookings Institution’s Social Mobility Memos blog were posted to the web, and starkly indicated that the  apparently intractable problems of American blacks that I studied in college had failed to improve in 50 years. I wrote this post, in which I  concluded, after a number of depressing observations,

“This is a Gordian Knot, and that means that it needs to be cut, not untied. Here is what I believe is the germ of a radical policy approach that might lead to more progress in the next 50 years… I believe that the disadvantages that black citizens have had to overcome were too serious and too extensive, from the end of slavery to this moment, for any group to overcome. All the billions spent at all levels of government in welfare and assistance programs, government grants and training, affirmative action and racial preferences, have been at best band-aids, and at worse have incentivized destructive cultural norms and individual conduct.”

I then proceeded to make no sense whatsoever. While again rejecting the concept of reparations (“the hell with that. [The idea is] to punish [whites] for the sins of slavery committed by their ancestors by arranging a massive transfer of wealth based on principles of tort law and damages. This has always been a pipe dream of civil rights extremists, couched in the language of revenge, as if the nation and the nation’s white citizens have made no efforts, sacrificed nothing, expended no resources or wealth, to try to undo the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. Reparations are not going to happen, as the concept itself is unjust….”), I proposed a solution….that was indistinguishable from reparations:

“The deep hole black America is mired in cannot be overcome unless there is significant narrowing of the racial wealth disparity. Addressing that isn’t reparations, it is social policy to fix a problem that undermines all of us, not just African-Americans. It would require a careful and difficult compromise: ending most of the programs that constitute those leaky bureaucratic, bloated, inefficient band-aids on the cultural maladies in the black community, and redirecting that money for a one time, five-figure grant to every black man, woman and child, regardless of prominence or class. The amount of the grants would depend upon how much could be accumulated from cuts elsewhere.

The objective of the program would be to close gaps that now appear too great to overcome, with the understanding that black citizens, in the true spirit of the nation, now had resources to control their fate. Now they would need to take advantage of a unique opportunity, making good choices and using the grants productively.”

The sad little man who is suing me for defamation on the blog argued in court  last year that I operate like a king on Ethics Alarms, and that the readers here routinely regard every word and ethics verdict to issue from my fevered mind as priceless jewels and the Absolute Truth. He obviously didn’t read the comments on THAT post. Over 237 comments, the Ethics Alarms regulars tore my reasoning to shreds, despite my efforts at rebutting them. They were right, I was wrong: as I said, the post seems to have been generated by despair rather than reason. However, a more thorough debunking of the Democrats 2020 likely reparations platform would be hard to find.

I’m better now. I am also, unfortunately, also back at Square One, my “Do something!” phase regarding race in America having accomplished nothing, as “Do something!’ arguments always do, and I still see no solution on the horizon.

The March, 2016 post is here.

39 thoughts on “Reparations Again.

  1. Whew…. I’m going back through those comments. I’m a jerk sometimes, sorry.

    I still think that something ought to be done there, and I still think that whatever we do has to at least make basic economic sense… But I still have no idea on what that thing is.

    Worse, I think that it’s only gotten more insurmountable: Throwing money at the problem is less effective now than it was three years ago, and will only continue to be less effective as the education and skills gap widens between the very poor and the very rich, and the last vestiges of poor communities who might remember what good economic habits even look like age out and die.

    And every year reparations become less and less viable, because the wealth disparity is only growing, the population base is only growing, and our ability to dole out reparation dollars in any kind of meaningful way degrades. That something has to be done is obvious, what that thing might be is less so, but whatever it is that America ends up doing, it obviously won’t be reparations, even if it calls it that.

    As something of a non sequitur, I’m goig to afflict your comments with Candace Owens, frankly, I loathe Owens, generally. She’s always hit me as an artificial conservative, trumpeting the parody of what progressives think conservatives believe in order to cash in on those sweet sweet conservadollars…. But I think she made a pretty good showing in her opening comments at the US House Hearing on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism (Which is, by the way, a stunning way for House Democrats to blow public dollars. Where are all those fiscal democrats who bemoaned the cost of a border wall when you need them?).

    • I hope this post is sarcasm. The wealth disparity per capita has changed little. The quintiles for households has changed much. Why? Because the war on poverty broke families into one earner households by incentivizing children out of wedlock and the GINI coefficient doesn’t count government payments to the single earner households it helped create. More low income households push lower earnings into the next higher quintile. Voila, government metric income inequality. Even worse the single earner households have fewer parental resources to raise educated and economically viable children.
      This is true regardless of race.

    • I have my mixed feelings on Candace Owens.

      I think her turn towards conservatism is genuine – or at least, she is definitely and genuinely rejecting the pro-reparations side of the argument.

      That said, from what I saw of her testimony, she is dead right on the Democrats’ motives for this hearing. Having failed in their soft slow-motion coup, they are now going to smear their opponents as white nationalists – if not violent white nationalists – and use it as a pretext to silence dissent.

      These days, I wonder if we are now at a point where we have to choose the least unethical option from a host of unethical choices. If we vote against Trump’s boorishness and character flaws, we empower an increasingly totalitarian Democratic party. If we oppose the totalitarian Democrats, we’re essentially giving the King’s Pass to Trump (or any of a host of other rationalizations).

      While Chidi Aganonye would agonize over it, for me, it’s very simple: I’d rather have the freedom to explain why I made the moral compromise of supporting Trump against the totalitarian Democrats than to lose the freedom to make the argument. I’ll deal with the morality of it after I beat back the threat to liberty and possibly my life (given what happened on a DC area baseball field, it’s not exactly out of the realm of possibility).

      • While reading your response, I came to the same conclusion, for the same reason. The left is nothing less than an existential threat to this country, and has amply revealed itself as such. I’m no longer impressed with the claim that “they mean well”, either. I’m sure that many of recent history’s most infamous bloodbaths and Hellish police-states found their motive force incubated in the hearts of people with the best of intentions. They must be opposed, and a boor who’s immune to their childish attempts at emotional blackmail is just the man for the job.

      • It’s AMAZING sometimes how two people can see the exact same video clip or read the exact same article, and process it through their internal biases and processes and come out with interpretations that are almost polar opposites of eachother.

        About a year ago, Owens made a really tone deaf and stupid comment about Hitler and nationalism, and she’s been running back from it ever since. Anyone who legitimately thinks Owens thinks Hitler was a swell guy really needs to do some deep soul-searching. A shick jock? Sure. Insinciere? Absolutely! Ready to jump into bed with Hitler? Step away from the Kool-Aid. But right now, because of those opening remarks, you’d hardly think that she ever did anything but espouse a deep affection for Hitler, at least if you tune into progressives.

        And I think it’s because they realize their narrative sucks. I mean, if you can’t beat them, call them Hitler’s whore, right? Owens said that Democrats were using white nationalism as a scare tactic going into 2020. What’s the response to that? I think the closest I’ve seen someone come to rebutting that was Anna Kasparian of TYT, who said that in 2018 80 of extremist killings were done by white nationalists, which is 40 out of the 50, and that meant that white nationalism was a serious deal…

        That’s all well and good, except we’re talking about national numbers here. There were 600 murders in the City of Chicago alone that year, and that was down significantly from the year before. Pretending that White Nationalism is some kind of pressing issue when nationally it doesn’t have even a fraction of the impact that gang violence does in a single American city is damn near the definition of fear mongering. They literally only care about this, we’re literally only hearing about this, because it serves their narrative. And Owens nails it when she said that social media took the narrative out of the hands of gatekeepers in journalism, and handed it off to anyone with a webcam and a little savvy.

      • These days, I wonder if we are now at a point where we have to choose the least unethical option from a host of unethical choices. If we vote against Trump’s boorishness and character flaws, we empower an increasingly totalitarian Democratic party. If we oppose the totalitarian Democrats, we’re essentially giving the King’s Pass to Trump (or any of a host of other rationalizations).

        that ship sailed when the King’s Pass was given to Bill Clinton by the likes of Nina Burleigh.

    • Humble Talent wrote: “I still think that something ought to be done there, and I still think that whatever we do has to at least make basic economic sense… But I still have no idea on what that thing is.

      Charles Green wrote: “I’m not sure your solution is the best one, or even practicable, but it has the great virtue of actually being serious and implementable. That alone sets it apart from the usual blah blah and finger-pointing. Good on you for an unflinching diagnosis and an honest suggestion.

      Black Africans were forced into the American reality against their will. They did not come here as an act of their will to achieve ‘the American dream’ or any such thing. They did not achieve their own freedom here, it was given to them by guilty whites (like Lincoln). And even then, behind that will (Lincoln’s will), there is a will that is not the genuine will of the Black people.

      The reality is that the fate of Black Africans, when they were removed from their own locale and destiny, became a possession of Whites and ‘European will’. This is what happens when you enslave a people and rip them out of their circumstance. If they remain your ‘wards’, if they do not themselves fight for and gain real and genuine self-determining freedom and sovereignty, they remain the subjects of your will. A will that is not their own.

      In order to understand fully the conditions of African Blacks in America, and the reason it and they are problematic, one has no choice but to face these facts. You can, if you will it so, hide behind sentimental and rhetorical hedges. What you say will amount to lying though.

      The will of Black Africans in America runs against the will of white Americans and those who came freely and by assent. Their will is, by and large, a rebellious, contrary will. This is obviously manifest. It is a will that undermines on many levels. I see this as absolutely normal. Very ‘psychological’, very human really.

      But, their will is not *your* will. But where does *your will* actually stand? Tell me about your will. When you begin to tell me about your will, you will begin to reveal to me your most basic and essential predicates about life, about governing structures, about what you want to achieve and what you can achieve. Is your will whole? or is it ‘contaminated’?

      Now, today, a new Brown Demographic is coming onto the scene and it is showing you its will. Is the will that you see the same as your will? Hmmm? Do these people, taken as a mass, have the same will as yours? I suggest that if you examine the issue, with truth and honesty as objects, you will see that this is not the case. And understanding America today must involve — can only involve — discerning the different ‘wills’ and toward what they are directed.

      The word ‘divisive’ has been coming up. A ‘divided nation’. Divisive rhetoric, blah blah blah. The essence of the division must be clearly seen. The nation has been trying to force the issue of uniting the varied and incommensurate people of this country through tactics of force. The whole plan is based on an impossible foundation! As are egalitarian social and economic projects. The post-Sixties ‘America’ is a hippy-Marxist’s sentimental dream. It never should have come about. It now reveals itself in its true colors, and the rhetorical sentimentalism turns into teeth & claws.

      At the congressional hearings — mark this — there were no representatives of any of the people who articulate the position of white nationalism. There are many who could have presented a case. Who could have presented some of the ideas that are sound and considerable. So, what went on there is a farce:

      Synonyms: absurdity, mockery, travesty, sham, pretense, masquerade, charade, piece of futility, joke, waste of time.

      Farce: early 16th century: from French, literally ‘stuffing’, from farcir ‘to stuff’, from Latin farcire . An earlier sense of ‘forcemeat stuffing’ became used metaphorically for comic interludes ‘stuffed’ into the texts of religious plays, which led to the current usage.

      Now is the time to plan the eventual political and social separation that is taking shape by necessity. Once you get used to the idea, once you have understood it as a necessary eventuality, so much of the ‘farce’ can be laid to the side.

      • ”white Americans and those who came freely and by assent.”

        Many “white Europeans” did NOT come freely and by assent, a fact that is (IMO) superbly chronicled in Nancy Isenberg’s WHITE TRASH: The 400 Year Untold History Of Class In America.

        • That is a false-start of some sort of counter-argument, I take it? Yes, there were white indentured servants. So what? Very very different from coming from a primitive African village, a totally different language, and an utterly different cultural trajectory.

          Maybe you can ‘superbly craft’ some sort of statements of your own that have any relation to what I wrote. 🙂

          • Very very different from coming from a primitive (slave owning) African village, a totally different language (imposed by those Africans who enslaved you), and an utterly different cultural trajectory (that did not involve warring tribes taking slaves as a matter of course).

            Fixed it for ya.

            As for me, the stipulation for reparations is that you take your money, renounce your citizenship in our country, and go join the African shit show you would have been born into had your tribe never been enslaved by fellow african tribes.

            Reparations stink on ice… because these people are FAR better off today than where they might have been born.

            • I do not disagree that we are headed to social separation, instigated by the Black community. I am just tired of the whining from entitled race baiters about how BAD they have it in the land of the free.

              I mean, they are invited to try any other country on Earth. Of course, most of those would not put up with their bullshit.

          • Believing all white European imports were indentured servants is intellectually prepubescent.

            Indentured servants were, in many cases, treated worse than their African slave counterparts. Slave owners had a monetary investment in their chattel, ergo, it wouldn’t be prudent to work their investment to death; that would render that investment “nonperforming.”

            Indentured servitude was not the same. Holders of an indenture could work that servant to death and not lose their investment because until the sum total of the debt was retired (often pushed well beyond the originally agreed upon time-frame), the indenture would be “passed on” to the progeny/next of kin; “inherited,” if you prefer.

            Look, you’re a self-made gal that worships her Creator and thus FAR too astute to accept my craftsmanship (superb or otherwise), so let’s toss it over to the talented Frederick Olmsted and see what he had to say:

            “In 1855, Frederic Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, was in Alabama on a pleasure trip and saw bales of cotton being thrown from a considerable height into a cargo ship’s hold. The men tossing the bales somewhat recklessly into the hold were Negroes, the men in the hold were Irish. Olmsted inquired about this to a shipworker.

            “ ‘Oh,’ said the worker, ‘the niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything.’ ”

            Black slaves tossing cotton bales (which weighed ~ 500 pounds/226.796 kilos) down to Irish; that what you’d call “cultural trajectory?”

    • Candace Owens and her Grandfather are the living result of the correct interpretation of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Far too many in the black community and in the political left have been morphing King’s dream speech from “I Have A Dream” into an “I Am Entitled”, it’s an immoral and unethical societal cancer.

      I’m convinced that the progressives want the black community to remain poor, ignorant, and feeling oppressed indefinitely so they can be easily manipulated by the left’s immoral attack propaganda; they openly lie to all the ignorant tribes they create and tell them that they are all victims of Republican/Conservative oppression. Progressives regularly show us their Principles of Progressive Goebbbelism.

  2. Jack,
    I agree with you, but you’ve already lost this one. A critical mass in America has already shifted the other way. The farther away from slavery we march, the more younger people feel the “time has come.” As the current generation ventures further into voting age, it has become more of a “when” question than an “if.” Some form of reparations is coming, even if only in tax credits or special access to pork programs.

    Your ethical and rational arguments will only fall on deaf ears, as the supporters of reparations fight from a place of passion not policy. Consider doing your sanity a favor and letting this one go.

    • A critical mass in America has already shifted the other way.

      I think you have no idea how the heartland feels, Neil. You listen to the coastal elites, and do not hear from those there who know they would be persecuted if they dissent, but indeed do dissent. Whites who are told that nothing they can do will redeem them from actions they never took, all in the name of power.
      An election showed that many common Americans, tired of the constant bullshit, quietly voted privately (even lying if asked how they voted, to escape that persecution) and we got Trump.

      I think that telling common American to pay more taxes so couch potatoes can sit around and make more couch potatoes is a terribly naive political move. Put aside the impossible logistics of determining ‘who’ and ‘how’ and you still have an insurmountable problem.

      The welfare safety net is too wide and deep. Americans are already questioning “how much is enough?” and realizing the answer is ‘nothing.’ Make no mistake, once money for nothing is given away, those who got the money will be back for more, having wasted the opportunity to join society as productive members. People whose ancestors never owned a slave, and were not even in this country when slaves existed, are going to pay those who cannot prove their ancestors were ever slaves, and those who came later whose ancestors enslaved those who were shipped here?

      Not as easy a sell as you think. Never underestimate the common American instinct to tell oppressors ‘fuck you.’

  3. From one of my posts in 2016:

    “The solution…has to be voluntary in nature. To inspire enough of these voluntary acts to be effective, an ethic has to be developed and spread. The ethic will have to inspire people of means to move into inner cities (and not to classic gentrifying areas). People of means will literally have to ‘adopt’ families, including everything from teaching how to study effectively to going to see a lawyer if a kid gets into trouble. And people of means will have to commit to share their financial resources, including a portion of the wealth they were planning to pass on to their own children. The birth and spread of this ethic is the goal to be sought.”

    I’ve also posted here that I could see the establishment of voluntary funds, not just regarding slavery reparations but for the whole array of cultural grievances. If you’re of British descent and think that the oppression of the Irish provided you with an unfair privilege, then contribute to the fund. On the other end, if you’re Irish and you think that oppression handicaps you, sign up for the fund. At the end of the year they divide up the money and you get a check.

    I don’t have much of an expectation that these ideas would gain any traction. As I’ve aged, my view of history has moved from the heroic to economic to psychological. Now it’s moved on again, to genetics. People want to make a display of prosperity. One of the ways to do that is to own a lot of stuff. Another way is to provide stuff to others. In campfire culture, those two actions come into conflict, because what you give up you don’t keep. Our modern world has created a short cut past that conflict. You keep all of your stuff, but still make a display of providing to others. You do that by asserting leadership in forcing “us” to give to “them.” You’re revered by “them,” you’re better than the rest of “us,” and you get to keep your stuff.

    • And people of means will have to commit to share their financial resources, including a portion of the wealth they were planning to pass on to their own children.

      You are counting on progressives to actually have to sacrifice themselves. This is rarely the case. (a simple look at charity supported by leftists proves that) You will notice (as you said later in this post) that they have found a way around having to live what they preach: they tell others what to do, and count it righteousness.

      Conservatives tend to actually give… and are the evil ones.

  4. After watching a 2016 rerun of PBS’s Finding Your Roots, the Reparations-Go-Round best save a seat for Ty Burrell (Phil Dunphy in Modern Family), whose GGreat, GGGreat, & GGGGreat Grandmothers were all Blacks born into slavery.

    But he’s most likely an infinitesimal outlier which shouldn’t muck up what would surely be an easily administered program, am I right?

    It gets worse.

    Don’t put those guilt-sodden checkbooks away just yet, yours truly may have a claim. From my Father’s Mother’s Purscell/Purcell/Persall, et al, side, I happen to be a 14th cousin of MLK, Jr. AND 15th cousin of Barack H. Obama.

    Anyone believing windfalls falling a certain way are very soon lost, I will assure you that were a tidy sum were to find its way to me, I would share nearly all of it…with realtors, travel agents, car dealerships, haberdashers, etc., etc. etc.!

  5. I would say that it would be better to do nothing. What has been done is much worse than nothing. I would suggest that the current outcome was the objective of the government programs. Every government program to ‘help take care of’ blacks seemingly had the goal of reinforcing the slave mentality. Once equality of the law came, blacks were free to have families, to make choices about their lives. Men were allowed to be men, women to be women, and families free to make their own choices. Then the government came and told them to get rid of their families and their independence in return for someone to take care of them. Stop treating black men like men and fathers, thrown them out and get free housing and a check every month. Let the government destroy your schools with union teachers and Marxism to make sure your kids won’t have good jobs. Let’s tolerate gangs and crime too. Lets make it so that 80% of the murders in the US are gang related in minority neighborhoods and do nothing about it. The other 90% of America can make do with only 2000 murders/year, making it one of the safest places to be in the world.

    I remember reading one of Mary Chestnut’s journals from the Civil War. All the white men had gone, it was just small children, women, and slaves. Mary Chestnut observed that the slaves continued to work the fields and in the house. They all knew that the union lines were just a few miles away. There were only a few women and some small children to hold them there. They knew that all slaves that walked those few miles were granted freedom, yet they didn’t go. Why didn’t they? Freedom is scary. After the war, many slaves came back to work for their old masters. It was all they knew, it was familiar, and there was no risk like their was in freedom. Freedom to succeed is also the freedom to fail. There is no risk in slavery. Slaves are given all the education they need, all the healthcare they need, all the housing they need, and all the food they need. Sounds like the Democratic Socialist utopia Bernie Sanders is selling today, doesn’t it? Sounds like the government system we set up for black Americans, doesn’t it? We didn’t have any programs to teach them how to be free, to teach them about responsibility, how to improve their children’s schools and education. We didn’t even have the decency to let them try to figure it out for themselves. We dangled the slave lifestyle in front of them and they took it. Reparations are just more of the same. Look everyone! New chains! Prettier, 25% lighter, and 100% stronger. Now padded for extra comfort. Come get your new chains!

    • “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
      Frederick Douglass

      https://americanvision.org/5276/booker-t-washington-on-black-victimhood/

        • “Everybody has asked the question. . .”What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”

    • They knew that all slaves that walked those few miles were granted freedom, yet they didn’t go. Why didn’t they? Freedom is scary [emphasis added]. After the war, many slaves came back to work for their old masters. It was all they knew, it was familiar, and there was no risk [emphasis added] like their was in freedom. Freedom to succeed is also the freedom to fail [emphasis added]. There is no risk in slavery.

      Almost certainly that was not what motivated them, but rather a well founded fear that they lacked subsistence resources, i.e., it was not “freedom to fail” but certain and locked in failure for all but a few who were in the prime of life. We have a number of “natural experiments” that support that:-

      – There were slave revolts against emancipation in the British West Indies, admittedly for this reason, which were only abated once the authorities made it clear that there would be a transition period to set the slaves up.

      – There was no such benefit given to the indentured labourers who were used there later, when that system was ended abruptly. V.S.Naipaul records the suffering of the last of those.

      – Missionaries in French Guiana described the suffering of former convicts, even greater than that of current convicts, who could not leave even after their sentences ended.

      – In a footnote to “The Tale of the First Eunuch”, if I remember correctly which of a few linked stories it was, Burton clarifies a cultural feature that drives a plot point: Islamic law in many places forbade freeing slaves against their will. The teller recounts how, when he misbehaved and his master threatened to free him*, he refused to accept it, citing that law in his favour (so the master beat him unconscious and then had the barber castrate him, both of which were legal). Burton clarifies that the law was there to prevent slaves being turned out to starve, and backs it up with a description of the slaves’ complaints in Sind after the British conquered it and freed them. I have heard that some U.S. slave states had similar measures.

      – Ottoman Janissaries’ uniforms incorporated a soup spoon or ladle in their headgear, to symbolise that they would never starve (in contrast to free but oppressed peasants – but with those, it was a risk rather than a certainty).

      The thing is, at most stages of life, survival let alone freedom is impossible without a support network, and in many times and places even those in the prime of life have trouble unless they have either suitable skills or private resources like commercially useful property or tenancies. But see the works of Henry George or Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural speech for some insight into how that difficulty could be avoided – by some – when conditions allowed that. In fact, whenever and wherever those conditions obtained near slave owners and also offered natural defences, communities of runaway slaves usually sprang up, e.g. in Spanish Florida and Jamaica’s “cockpit country”. But that usually wasn’t an option.

      * The court case that ended slavery in England arose out of similar circumstances, when a turned out, sick slave was helped to recover only to have his master attempt to reclaim him once he was better – in both health and value.

  6. “The sad little man who is suing me for defamation on the blog argued in court last year that I operate like a king on Ethics Alarms, and that the readers here routinely regard every word and ethics verdict to issue from my fevered mind as priceless jewels and the Absolute Truth. ”

    Oh balls! I just narrowed down who your tormentor is to one of two people who come to mind. I vividly recall being told “Jack is not a king!” by one of them, and both are no longer counted among your courtesans.

    • And for what it’s worth; I’ve seen you dispense lots of priceless jewels on here that weren’t necessarily the Absolute Truth.

  7. I oppose reparations. It’s no better than the lottery or a medical settlement.

    In the Black Community, the concept of “Giving Back to the Community” is huge. It’s expected that, if you run a business in the neighborhood, you will use your largess to help your neighbors. This is, in part, why Asian-owned businesses that tend to be family run get flack because they don’t hire within the community. A wealthy resident or a business owner is made to feel obligated to fund a community center or food pantry (though this is really just making the lottery winner a forced charitable organization or even an extension of government). But, in many cases, “Giving Back to Community” means that you just hand over money to people as loans that are, in actuality, gifts.

    I remember attending a sci-fi convention a few years ago with a notable black actor who spent many years working at his trade before becoming famous. At his Q&A session, he talked about a charitable organization he is involved with that sends minority children out into a type of summer camp in open places like Montana so they can be exposed to nature and a different environment. Halfway through the panel, an African-American fellow walked in, sat down, raised his hand and asked what the actor had done to “Give back to the community”. The actor then repeated his earlier description of his charitable work. After that, the newcomer left…probably to go into other Q&A sessions to determine if other black actors were pulling their weight.

    In other words, the few have to pick up the slack for the many that lack ambition and the willingness to change their lives.

    Someone who has worked hard to build a career or a business rarely blows through money freely without an income to replace it. And a wise person carefully assesses any charitable organizations first before becoming involved.

    A lottery winner is just given money suddenly, publicly and, because they’re playing the lottery, generally has no idea how to handle it. This is usually true regardless of the race of the winner. The money gets spent frivolously, loaned out in bad investments, grifted by criminals and con artists or just plain stolen. People who are known to come into a lot of money become targets in more ways than one.

    We can expect no less to happen with reparations than happens with welfare payments.. The Black Community is generally in the position it’s in for failing to take education seriously (the quality of neighborhood schools is an issue, yes, but a separate one that I’ll not address here), having children too soon and struggling to maintain consistent employment. This will not change with reparations. The problem will still be there after the last dollar is gone.

  8. The only way reparations could be distributed would be to have a whole lot of people give their DNA to the government to determine how African they are. Then the issue of how much money/benefits one would get based on their “blackness” would only devolve into more division among this demographic. I have had in the past involvement with the reparations construct, and every time it’s turned into a Most Oppressed pissing contest. Reparations will never work without total invasion of privacy and a complete shit show for the black community.

  9. This is signature significance for shameless pandering and dishonesty, of course, and pretty redolent, in my assessment, of buying black votes.

    And “medicare for all” is not an attempt to buy, well, everybody’s vote?

    And why shouldn’t women receive reparations for all those centuries of forced labor and childbearing without civil rights, if the United States is going into the retroactive damages business?

    This is the real crux of the biscuit, isn’t it? With every non- cis white male in America having some kind of grievance against white men, how could reparations end with slavery? Were not women oppressed, and isn’t that what “women’s suffrage” means? Were not gays oppressed? The indigenous? Trans? Muslims? Jews? Asians (remember the railroads) The list seems endless, and many of these wrongs were materially indistinguishable from chattel slavery as practiced by most US slaveholders.

    Why is redressing the historic wrong of slavery more important than the other grievance groups, especially the ones so much more recent? Nobody ever asks, because we assume that slavery is the ultimate evil, and justifiably so.

    But isn’t murderous oppression actually more egregious? The indigenous might think so.

    I’m better now. I am also, unfortunately, also back at Square One, my “Do something!” phase regarding race in America having accomplished nothing, as “Do something!’ arguments always do, and I still see no solution on the horizon.

    That’s because doing something requires participation from the community we would be trying to help, something they, as a group, have steadfastly rejected. Unlike virtually any other race in America, African-Americans vote in a lock step so bulletproof for Democrat politicians that an outsider unfamiliar with scientific evidence debunking the idea might conclude some kind of group insanity or mental deficiency.

    Their 90%+ rejection of anything but handouts is so profound as to make any sort of other idea a non-starter. No matter how innovative and effective it is, no matter if God himself with Jesus Christ at his side appeared in the heavens and lauded a proposed solution with Archangel trumpets ablaze, the African-American community in America would probably reject it.

    This problem is as intractable and insoluble as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This may be the Gordian knot in the form of holy writ, the universal immovable object.

    • Imagine if there was some sort of concrete way of attaching a monetary value on institutionalized oppression. As horrible and inexcusable as slavery was (and is to this day, in some parts of the World), it wasn’t the Holocaust, or the Armenian , or Rwandan genocide. If you had to make proportionate compensation to their descendants, based on the suffering of those poor souls, and you could probably bankrupt the whole planet.

      • As horrible and inexcusable as slavery was (and is to this day, in some parts of the World), it wasn’t the Holocaust, or the Armenian , or Rwandan genocide.

        I’m confident Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would not agree.

        But I do.

  10. I wonder how much of the supposed wealth created from slavery was destroyed when Sherman and other Union generals basically employed scortched earth tactics after Gettysburg.

    If it was destroyed there is nothing to distribute.

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