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What is the Deal?

October 13, 2002

What is the deal with the city of Chicago?

By Jan A. Larson

According to a FOX News report, a new law passed in Chicago requires that any company that does business with the government of Chicago to file a report detailing that company's past linkages, if any, to the slave trade.  The disclosure of past connections with slavery does not disqualify a company from doing business in Chicago, but rather provides a basis for a lawsuit demanding reparations to decendants of slaves.

While some might use the term "reparations," the fact of the matter is that a more descriptive term would be "money grab."  The ones doing the grabbing will the the lawyers and the ones paying will be you and me, black, white, Hispanic, Asian or whatever other type of American you may be.  The benefit of such reparations?  None.  None of the people "harmed" by the slave trade in America nearly 150 years ago will benefit by one thin dime.  Why?  Because all of them are long since dead.  No one, repeat no one, in the United States today has been harmed one iota by the slavery that existed in this country prior to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

Not to say there aren't racial problems and discrimination in America.  However, virtually every group of people has been the "victim" of some sort of discrimination at one time or another, not just African Americans.  Asians, Irish, Italians, Jews, Arabs, Catholics, Native Americans.  You name it.  It is simply a fact of life that some people won't like other people for some arbitrary and illogical reason and will act accordingly.  In years past, discrimination and prejudice prevented African Americans from enjoying the same opportunities as others, but as a result of the civil rights actions in the 60's, today there are numerous laws on the books to protect people from such practices.  If any individual or group is faced with discrimination, the courts provide the mechanism for redress.

The fact of the matter, and the politically correct crowd will howl to hear it, is that virtually every African American person in the United States today was helped by slavery.  If not for the slave trade, the decendants of the Africans brought to America and forced into slavery would be living in a third world country today, with the exception of those that may have emigrated to the United States in the intervening years.  African Americans enjoy a better standard of life today than ever before.  Many of the problems facing African Americans today are serious, such as the high rate of out-of-wedlock births, drug abuse and poor education, but none are the result of slavery.

If, we take the position that reparations are called for, then there is the whole matter of what form reparations would take.  Who gets a share?  What do they get?  Who pays?  I can answer the last question.  All of us would pay in one form or another.  What about fairness?  My ancestors did not come to this country until well after slavery was abolished.  Why should I pay?  What about immigrants from Latin America, the Middle East and Asia?  Why should they pay?  What about the hard-working African Americans raising their children and making our society better?  Why should they pay?  If someone is, say 25 or 50% African American, would they get a proportional share?  Do the incarcerated get a share?  How about all of the multi-millionaire African American entertainers and professional athletes?  What about African Americans that aren't decendants of slaves?

How much should we pay?  If we use round numbers and assume that 13% of the population of 280 million in the United States is African-American, there would be 36,400,000 eligible recipients.  If each were to receive, say $100, the monetary cost would be $3.6 billion.  Of course the activists that are calling for reparations would be insulted if all the "suffering" endured by all the generations of African Americans was worth just $100 per person.  I'm sure they would prefer something much greater than that.  Let's, for the sake of discussion, assume that the award is $10,000 to every African American man, woman and child in the United State. That increases the bill to $360 billion.  $360 billion?!?!!  This is more than the 2002 budgets for the U. S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Housing & Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation and Treasury, combined.  (See http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2003/budget.html).  Such an expenditure would destroy the already fragile U. S. economy resulting in massive unemployment and real suffering by many, many people, African Americans included.  And remember, even if such a plan could be implemented, the lawyers' would get at least a third of this total, or 120 billion dollars.

Maybe instead of a cash handout reparations could take the form of reduced or free college tuition, discounts at food and clothing stores, 50% off a new car or some other benefit.  Nothing could be more unfair and impossible to administer.

If today's slave descendants, as a group, have been truly harmed as a result of the slave trade a century and a half ago, there would not be so many African Americans that have become successful members of our society.   The opportunities for African Americans have never been more plentiful.  I'm confident that most level-headed African Americans cringe at the thought that some misguided "leaders" in the African American community think that extorting money from businesses and/or the taxpayers will actually help anyone other than the lawyers.  Reparations for slavery are nothing more than an ill-advised, idiotic, devisive money grab that will ultimately benefit few at a tremendous cost to many.

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The opinions expressed in "What is the Deal?" guest columns reflect those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Pie of Knowledge.  The owner and staff of the Pie of Knowledge accept no responsibility for the content or accuracy of submitted commentary.  (c) Copyright 2002 - The Pie of Knowledge (Jan A. Larson).  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.