Updated: Jul 13, 2019
Today the House of Representatives held a hearing about reparations for slavery. Never mind that not a single slave or slave owner is alive today to pay these reparations. Forget that one of the speakers was Danny Glover who said that he was the great-grandson of a slave and he is 72 years old himself. Let us assume that Senator Cory Booker is right and reparations for slavery is the right thing to do. How would the government figure out who gets paid and who pays?
If the government decided that all black people get reparation payments that would be just plain racist. Not all black people were slaves and not all slaves were black. In fact, the first slaves to arrive in the American Colonies were white people from Ireland. Not to mention, there were black people who owned black slaves. What about families like mine, that immigrated during the Italian influx of the early 1900s? We weren't in the country during slavery. Millions of black people have come to America since slavery was abolished too. So skin color obviously can't be the only requirement to receive reparations.
What if the government did a geological study of every citizen of our country to determine which families were once slaves and which families once owned slaves? This is the only way that reparations could be equitably collected and distributed. That idea raises another long list of questions. Should we allow the government to have that much power? After the surveillance problems created by the Patriot Act, do we want the feds digging even further? How much would all of that research cost? How would the reparations be collected from the families that owned slaves and distributed to the families that were slaves? It wouldn't be fair to collect from any family that was not involved with slavery. It also wouldn't be fair to make reparation payments to a family that doesn't have a slave in their family tree.
Another option that our government might choose would be to consider the debt paid in full. In 1860, at the high of slavery in the US, 1.6% of Americans owned slaves. Over the next five years 600,000 Americans died during the civil war which ended slavery. 600,000 dead Americans and decades of affirmative action programs could be considered reparation enough for the sins of 1.6% of the population over 150 years ago.
History is not always pleasant. Slavery was wrong. There is no doubt that, slavery was a horrible chapter in American history, however slavery is not and was not an American problem - it still is much bigger than our republic. Slavery has existed since the beginning of recorded history. Some of the indigenous people of North America would enslave people from other tribes after battles. The Dutch who brought the African slave trade to the American Colonies noted that the Africans were enslaving each other at that time. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Chinese, and Romans had slaves thousands of years ago. Even if the first European to set foot in North America brought a slave then America was involved with slavery for less than 400 years of the 5,000 year documented history of slavery. Even now, there are still 160 countries in the world where there are 40 million legally owned slaves, according to Global Slavery index. It was a horrible atrocity in America and still is a horrible atrocity around the world.
If reparations are paid with tax dollars it will ignite civil war. The people of our great nation are already disgusted by government spending. We are tired of congress spending our money with absolutely no regard to how hard we work to pay the already too high taxes. No one in the United States of America is going to be "delighted" to pay higher taxes for this or any other reason, Senator Bernie Sanders. Frankly, the only reparation that might make taxpayers willing to open their wallets would be a one-way plane ticket out of the country for anyone so hurt by their great-great-grandfather's enslavement that they don't feel proud to be American.