Are there any more ridiculous and divisive notions in the country than those harbored by the California Reparations Task Force?
The nine-member task force is tasked with creating proposals for how the state could provide reparations to Black Americans, what form those reparations might take, and who would be eligible to receive them. The law does not limit reparations to slavery, although it requires the task force to give special consideration for Black people who are descendants of slaves. I have seen numbers being bandied about that range between $230,000 and $800,000 for every black Californian.
First of all, the whole issue is misplaced, there never was legal slavery in California. Blacks in America have admittedly had a tough time, slavery was absolutely abhorrent. But the fact of the matter is that many ethnic groups in California had a tough time, the anti Chinese laws were especially pernicious and anti minority real estate covenants affected all non white ethnic groups, including blacks, hispanics, jews and asians.
Why single out African Americans?
If any group deserves reparations in California it is the indigenous natives, who had their land stolen and in some cases their feet cut off by the missionaries. But any reparations talk for any specific group will only inflame delicate racial sensitivities and pour salt on bitter ethnic wounds.
Many years ago I wrote about Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, the African king who was enslaved and ended up on a plantation in Mississippi. There was a documentary about him produced in 2007, Prince among slaves. In 1788 the twenty six year old King of Fouta Djallon was kidnapped by a warring fiefdom and sent to America. His extraordinary story climaxed when he was recognized by a British doctor named Cox who he had once saved, it is a fascinating tale.
It is always difficult to speak honestly about race but I must note that Sori was initially enslaved by blacks. Much of the slave trade was promulgated by fellow blacks, Berbers and Tauregs. Should they not also be held liable for redress?
My father came on a third class steamer to America from Palestine in 1939, my mother's parents fled Moldova and landed here in 1922. Exactly why should I be asked to subsidize reparations?
I get that a lot of liberals are wracked by collective guilt. If they want to donate to assuage their anguish, have at it. I don't think it is a very good idea, this picking and choosing about who has been more hurt in our state's past. There is plenty to go around. This will just inflame things and reinforce popular and unfair stereotypes that so many hard working minorities have fought and worked so hard to change. It is patronizing, it is selective and it will only piss people off.
If I am wrong on this I would love to hear dissenting opinions.
Many years ago when I was a builder, I built a subdivision that featured FHA and VA loans. Because of this I had to join the Federal HOW program demonstrating my racial sensitivity, which would allow me to put the HOW logo on my signage. I remember being called in to an office downtown for my meeting. Older black woman, short cropped hair.
I was asked what I was doing to provide a good ethnic mix in the community I was building. You must understand, money was tight, I had a bank loan to pay off. I looked the person in the eye and said this:
"I tell you what. The first person who gives me money for a house, I will take it, whether they be white, black, yellow or green. How's that?"
No, no, Mr. Sommers. You need to hold some houses back and ensure that we have a great ethnic mix in your community and she gave me the prospective percentages they were hoping to achieve.
She wanted me to not sell to certain people based on their ethnicity. The reality is that she had no idea what it took to survive in business. There was no way I could not take any willing person's offer on one of my houses in my financial position. I thought that colorblind was enough, unfortunately she did not agree.
I took a different tack.
"Let me ask you something. What is the current percentage of blacks in California? (I believe it was around 8% at the time.)" She threw out a number.
"Just for the sake of conversation, what are the percentages of jews in California?" (I think it was about 2 & 1/2% at the time.) "Why aren't we in the equation?"
The answer startled me and was something I will never forget my entire life.
Because you have all the money.
Racism goes both ways and sometimes it is institutionalized.