Can you imagine if everyone who suffered an injustice were paid reparations?
How would we determine whether or not it was an injustice? And if we all agree it was an injustice (I mean, injustice happens all the time, but it’s still interpreted very differently from person to person), was it severe enough to warrant reparations? What is the statute of limitations on reparations?
I think we can all agree that slavery constitutes a grave injustice (that has been happening to people of all races and religions since the dawn of recorded human history). There’s slavery happening to this day. How far back to reparations go?
Can the Israelites get reparations from Egypt? What about the Barbary Coast pirates? Should they be paying up? How about in Africa? Slavery has been going on in Africa in several forms for centuries? Will reparations be paid there?
After all, only about 4% of the 10,700,000 slaves shipped from Africa were sent to the United States. How many of those other countries have paid reparations? Of how many is it even being demanded?
There’s been slavery all over the world. Where else are descendants of descendants of former slaves still demanding reparations?
How about the union soldiers who fought to end slavery in the United States? How about the 366,000 of those who died? Shouldn’t they, too, get reparations? If it weren’t for slavery, those families wouldn’t have lost their fathers and husbands as they fought against slavery?
And why stop with slavery? What about those who were burned or drowned because they were suspected of being witches? Of course slavery was horrific, but more horrific than being randomly determined to be a witch and subsequently burned at the stake? More horrific than being raped?
I am not suggesting we should turn a blind eye toward the horrors that humanity has inflicted upon others. But reparations are very subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. It becomes even more complicated when people who weren’t alive for the atrocities are being asked to pay other people who didn’t suffer the atrocities.
It sets the precedent that there’s no such thing as going back too far in time to claim hardship.
Plus, one could argue reparations have already been made. President Johnson’s Great Society, started in the late 1960s, has spent more than $22 trillion dollars on programs designed to help the black community. Who am I to say whether or not that is enough money, but it’s definitely a great deal.
How’d that go? Did it help? Are those people better off today?
Or did it create a permanent underclass that has become dependent on government welfare and unable to escape the poor neighborhoods it helped to create?
At some point, this country is going to have to collectively move on from slavery. For all intents and purposes, we’ve pretty much run out of people who think any kind of slavery is a good idea (except those capturing girls for the purposes of human trafficking). It’s hardly an idea anyone is promoting now.
The United States should never erase the memory of slavery, nor the lessons learned from it. But at some point, we have to let it heal and move on to a better chapter. If we continue to keep talk of slavery and racism alive and top of mind, no one will ever be able to move on from it, and this will slow, if not stop, our country’s ability to become a truly great nation for all.