Won’t reparations divide us? Not any more than we are already divided. The wealth gap merely puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution. What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt.
What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.
Some people who comment on this article consider reparations a great idea, but complain that it is politically impossible. Of course that is nonsense, because it is totally possible politically. However, it wouldn’t fit the narrative of reconciliation, since it would have to be implemented by force or trickery.
Since the writer is intent on starting a “national reckoning,” I propose an acceptable model: Let all African Americans apply in their local family courts for “support payments” that will be secured as wage garnishments from the EuroAmericans in that locality. Then the African Americans will become lifetime legal dependents who can be cited on the EuroAmericans’ tax returns for a tax deduction. To get even more money, people could hire themselves out as 24/7 onsite laborers.
Sounds a lot like being a bond-slave. But, really, that is the nature of the whole reparations argument. It’s an attempt to assign to the existing federal government the responsibility of representing EuroAmericans in a legal arrangement that would permanently infantilize African Americans.
A reparations plan would permanently enshrine racial distinctions, erasing any ambiguities that have developed over the years, genetically or financially. It would eventually lead to a rigid social and economic, maybe even geographic, separation of those officially designated “African American victims of slavery” and “EuroAmerican beneficiaries of slavery.” It would obliterate the peculiarly American idealistic notion of the American citizen as a new being without any pre-existing cultural or ethnic distinctions. It would create more similarity between African Americans and Africans than between African Americans and EuroAmericans.
In short, reparations would fulfill all the dreams of the seething Angry White Men, all the ambitions they have pondered since Obama got elected. It would also fulfill all the dreams of the 1960s Black Power activists, to assert the primacy of Black genetic heritage as defining an unbridgeable cultural difference between Black and White.
Maybe, as reparations advocates claim, this is already true today, and reparations would enable everyone to just “get past it.” But aside from the resentment in both Whites and Blacks that would be perpetuated, there would also be created a permanent difference in tribal interests, and thus national interests.
American exceptionalism now suggests a kind of imperialistic self-righteousness, a status akin to that of ancient Israel as a nation selected by God to fulfill a special providential function, such that by faulty inference all of its actions are infallibly good. Although that notion was implied in the fuzzy Calvinistic fantasies of the Puritans, a more characteristically 18th-century American exceptionalism begins with a sociological uniqueness more than a political uniqueness. It suggests a newly born, ethnically neutered cultural identity rather than an arrogant dominionism. The political uniqueness of America was supposed to arise from the cultural uniqueness.
That American cultural idealism has, for example, led to Irish, Germans, Poles, Italians, and Jews seeming to be monolithically “White.” It has also led to Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Tibetans, and Mongolians seeming to be monolithically “Oriental.” It has led to Hutus, Tutsis, Shona, Zulus, Hausa, and Luos seeming to be monolithically “Black.” It has led to Iroquois, Navajo, Miami, Cherokee, and Inuit seeming to be monolithically “Indian.” It has led to Pakistanis, Iranians, Afghans, Qataris, Egyptians, Turks, Iraqis, and Indians seeming to be monolithically “Arab.” (Yes, I know that last one is particularly stupid, but that’s how stupid Americans are.) I could go on and on with Slavic, Mediterranean, German, Scandinavian, and other stereotypes.
All of those general categories are preposterous as predictors of individual behavior, politics, culture, religion, or even genetic similarity. They do illustrate the limits of idealistic American identity, limits imposed by morphology and skin color. But those limits are explicitly perceived and not actual. That means that the perception reinforces an instinctive tribalistic attitude that, lacking any genuine cultural or familial basis, begins to generate new customs and rationalizations.
Ironically enough, that rationalization process yields not a single new American identity, but rather a collection of new American identities. They are initially defined by ethnic boundaries, but over time they bleed over and re-form into geographic, cultural, linguistic, political, religious, and musical groups, except in cases where racial purity is explicitly enforced along with cultural norms.
A reparations proposal would explicitly enact in law an economic incentive to maintain Black racial purity. That kind of Black exceptionalism fulfills the political objectives of Black Power, Black Muslim, and Democratic Party identity politics, which include creating a faction self-identifying as “Black” and following the designated political leaders. Ironically, by defining racially pure Blacks, regardless of heritage, as de facto victims, as permanently disabled financially and intellectually, a reparations proposal also fulfills the political objectives of White Supremacy, White Southern Heritage, neo-Nazi, “human biodiversity”, and Tea Party identity politics. It’s a Win-Win proposal!
But for me, it simply represents the corruption of the “ideas have consequences” morons. Their corruption bleeds over and mixes with the corruption of irrational idealism. An irrational idealist wants to take an ideal construct and brute-force a concrete representation of it on society, thereby creating social consequences that fulfill their perverted fantasies. It’s all idolatrous and shameful.