Obama and reparations

Obama was caught during his speech to minority journalists making noises that sounded remarkably like reparations talk:

“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

“I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”

There was immediate speculation about whether he really meant to have the US pay reparations, not to still-living former slaves (since there are none), but to the descendants by several generations of former slaves.

Unwittingly, the New York Times has provided further insight into the answer to that question.  In a long article describing Obama’s years teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, this little bit leaped out at me (and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if I hadn’t first seen this story about the reparations talk):

Mr. Obama was especially eager for his charges to understand the horrors of the past, students say. He assigned a 1919 catalog of lynching victims, including some who were first raped or stripped of their ears and fingers, others who were pregnant or lynched with their children, and some whose charred bodies were sold off, bone fragment by bone fragment, to gawkers.

“Are there legal remedies that alleviate not just existing racism, but racism from the past?” Adam Gross, now a public interest lawyer in Chicago, wrote in his class notes in April 1994.

If Obama had raised that as a hypothetical legal question in the context of an abstract talk about race relations in America, I could conceive of it being a truly open-ended discussion.  However, given that he paired it with requiring his students to read about the horrors African-Americans suffered generations ago, it’s easy to see that, lawyer-like, he is pushing his impressionable students to an affirmative answer to the question he asked of them.

James Taranto gives a good run-down of why reparations are a bad idea:

The idea of reparations is highly unpopular, and with good reason. Unlike the Japanese-Americans who in 1988 received compensation for their internment by a Democratic administration in the grips of wartime hysteria, no one alive today has ever been a slave. The idea of the government cutting checks to compensate people for a wrong that they did not personally suffer is unlikely to appeal to anyone except perhaps those who stand to receive those checks.

Taranto goes on to wonder why Obama would be making reparations an issue anyway?  African-Americans will vote for him regardless, and reparations are unpopular with anyone else.  What Taranto misses is that he provided the answer in the material I quoted above:  it’s about receiving checks.

To the extent that Obama seeks to raise taxes, not to fund the government (whether for popular or unpopular initatives), but instead to redistribute wealth a la the Communists, reparation is yet another tool in that arsenal.  That is, it’s not about race qua race, it’s about painting a sympathetic victim face on a socialist wealth grab.

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  • rockdalian

    After the reparations are paid, should the families that lost relatives during the war between the states then be entitled to bill the recipients for services rendered?

  • Ymarsakar

    The reparations are for Michelle, not blacks, Book.

  • Ellie2

    I am actually in favor of reparations for “blacks,” in the form of a one-way ticket to the African country of their choice. By any other formula, how do you deal with millionaire/billionaire “blacks”?

    Do they have to pay the US Treasury back for the difference between the income they have here vs what they would have had if they had never come?

  • Deana

    I’m so glad someone else noticed this. I read the article today and the first thing that came to mind was reparations. I couldn’t believe it!!!

    It doesn’t seem like a good idea to bring this up because it can only lose him votes. But I’m starting to think that Obama is so convinced in his mind that he is going to win that he isn’t being careful enough with what he says.

    And that can only be a good thing.

    Deana

  • http://helenl.wordpress.com/ Helen Losse

    Ellie2,

    RE: “I am actually in favor of reparations for “blacks,” in the form of a one-way ticket to the African country of their choice.”

    That’s a racist statement. Blacks are US citizens with as much right to be here as any other citizen. No African country is their home.

    As far as how you deal with “millionaire/billionaire blacks,” with an apology or with scholarships, given in their name to a historically black college. They obviously don’t need money.

    RE: “Do they have to pay the US Treasury back for the difference between the income they have here vs what they would have had if they had never come?”

    No.

  • BrianE

    RE: “I am actually in favor of reparations for “blacks,” in the form of a one-way ticket to the African country of their choice.”

    That’s a racist statement. Blacks are US citizens with as much right to be here as any other citizen. No African country is their home.

    I’m kind of a simple guy. How is that statement racist?

    Reparations are a bad idea, just a means of perpetuating false guilt.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    Hi Helen,

    You said, “Blacks are US citizens with as much right to be here as any other citizen. No African country is their home.”

    I agree with you completely. That is why I am so infuriated when they insist on being called African-Americans. They are no more African than I am. They are Americans, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of all Americans, no more and no less. They can’t and shouldn’t try to have it both ways.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Thank you, DQ. That’s what I would have written if I’d been intelligent enough to assemble those thoughts.

  • Ymarsakar

    No African country is their home

    That’s not entirely accurate, since a lot of blacks have come directly from Ghana and other Afrikan nations. Not just generations ago, but now.

    If pro-reparation people were honest and fair, they would also demand that blacks that vote Democrat pay reparations to the families of the North that fought tool and nail to destroy the Democrat’s hold on slaves and the KKK in the South.

  • BrianE

    And Y, don’t forget Kenya.

  • Ellie2

    To clarify: reparations are meant to compensate victims for their losses, right?

    OK, you are on the jury. How do you value the damages suffered by “blacks”? (I use the quotes because I find the term inaccurate and offensive, btw.)

    Since their ancestors were snatched by their black neighbors and sold to Muslim slavers and sent against their will to the New World generations ago, how do you now compensate their decendents for that crime?

    Even the Biblical term of punishment term of “7 generations” has expired for most who have slaver holders in their ancestry. Since we are a nation of mixed races, do we allocate damages based on the percent “black” we might be?

    And how do we handle the idea that coming to America — even as a slave — may have been the best thing that ever happened to the victims? I offered “send them back” as an option if they don’t like it here. I never said they are not native born Americans. But which is it: victim or citizen?