Saturday, December 17, 2022

Reparations Task Force

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.


Anonymous said...

Spot on, 100%. I agree…. Jhciacb

Jon Harwood said...

If one was to do a reparations program it would be incredibly difficult to figure out how to run it. What are we compensating contemporary people for? Slavery, the after effects of reconstruction, civil rights harms? Who should benefit, the recent Angolan immigrant?

I understand the desire to fix the many institutionalized forms of discrimination that harmed Black people in this country but I don't know if such an effort would do more harm than good by inflaming resentments.

My perspective is rooted in classical liberalism that aimed for a more or less playing field. I think efforts to reduce racial inequities make sense. There is enough to do there to keep everyone busy for quite a while.

It is quite complex and I don't have that many answers.

Scrota said...

Just for starters...ain't no slaves, ex-slaves, or slaveholders, ex-slaveholders extant.

Indigenous natives of California had a bounty on their heads in the 1840s. The California holocaust.

Let's track down the descendants of Pio Pico and give them back the huge acreage they took from him. Or take his name off the boulevard so christened.

Strange isn't it that all of the members of the 'Reparations Committee' were African American and Democrat [that's redundant] save for one Japanese/American who was and
is all in for Japanese internment reparations. Like asking the 13 year old in the family if he would like to have unlimited access to the family credit cards and get his trust fund real early.

My great grandparents lost their farm in Minnesota back in the 1890s when the bank wouldn't extend their loan during the drought. Where's my ticket to ride, huh?

Wise adage...give everyone the same amount tomorrow, in ten years it'll look like it
did yesterday...

J. Paul Getty

Kerr A. Lott said...

We need to fix America's caste culture, it's nearly as bad as India's.

In America W.A.S.P.s are on top, black people are on the bottom, other groups are somewhere in between.

It would take a lot more than reparations to fix caste divisions in this country.

A good start would be to pool property taxes to support public education broadly, instead of allowing affluent mostly white communities' to hoard property taxes for the benefit of their children.

We need practical solutions, blood money for black citizens wouldn't change a thing.

Blue Heron said...

I agree with you on public education, unfortunately now, in some states your tax dollars are funding religious education. Like Oklahoma - https://www.politico.com/news/2022/12/12/oklahoma-takes-momentous-step-to-allow-taxpayer-funded-religious-schools-00073515

Anonymous said...

California. Always innovative when it comes to “Who has been done wrong?”
Historically we know in California it was the Native tribes.
I’m over it. Give the Natives money if you want to make reparations to someone deserving.
They are the only ones who deserve it here in the land of the poppy.


Anonymous said...

I think a great form for reparations is to improve the education system so everyone gets an excellent education. All students from low-income families should get subsidized higher education imo This alone will be hard to do. Cash pay-out is the wrong way to go certainly.