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Op-Ed

Larry Elder: My Final Case Against Reparations for Slavery

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How would reparations be funded?

Conservative writer Michael Medved estimates that only 5 percent of white people in America “bear any authentic sort of generational guilt for the exploitation of slave labor.”

Why should anyone but Democrats pay?

Pundit Dinesh D’Souza notes that all but a “handful” of slave owners were Democrats. The Ku Klux Klan, at its height of power and popularity, was known by the NAACP as the “terror wing” of the Democratic Party.

The KKK was founded by Democrats; I did not say by the Democratic Party, but by Democrats. As a percentage of their party, more House Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did House Democrats. As a percentage of their party, more Senate Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did Senate Democrats.

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I recently reread Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he takes fellow clergymen to task for asking him to wait. King wrote:

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters. … When you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’ — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

We no longer live in that America.

In 1964, King gave an interview to the BBC in which he predicted there could be a black president in “less than 40 years. I would think that this can come in 25 years or less.” Just about right on the 40-year schedule, America elected Barack Obama.

Do you think reparations for slavery make any sense?

King did not say that in less than 40 years’ time, there will have been a black female president of an Ivy League college — which we have had. He did not say in 40 years, there will be a black CEO of a Fortune 500 company; there have been several, including the former CEO of McDonald’s. King didn’t say that in 40 years, there will be a black governor of a state like Virginia, the capital state of the Confederacy — which has happened. He didn’t say when 80 percent of black people will no longer be poor, which is now the case.

No, King suggested that we will have reached the promised land when America elects a black president. Why?

Because in the privacy of the voting booth or the mail-in ballot, one can vote however one wants. If a voter is racist, he or she can vote accordingly.

King felt when Americans became fair-minded enough to elect a black person who they felt qualified for the presidency, we then have reached a point where we are evaluating others based on the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, to the fullest degree realistically possible.

Far more important than the issue of reparations is this: Why has the rate of out-of-wedlock births in the black community nearly tripled from 1965 until now, when America is clearly less racist now than 56 years ago?

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Even during slavery, a black child was more likely to live under a roof with his or her biological mother and biological father than today. This makes linking today’s problems to slavery and Jim Crow all the more difficult.

In 1965, 24 percent of black children were born outside of wedlock. In 2018 — the latest year for which statistics are available — that number was 69 percent. On Father’s Day in 2008, Barack Obama said: “We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

Finally, Obama, when asked about reparations in 2016, said:

“It is easy to make that theoretical argument. But as a practical matter, it is hard to think of any society in human history in which a majority population has said that as a consequence of historic wrongs, we are now going to take a big chunk of the nation’s resources over a long period of time to make that right.”

He was right.

©  2021 LAURENCE A. ELDER

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