Red, White, Blue, baseball, hot dogs, fireworks and… “reparations”?
Perhaps it’s fitting that on the eve of Independence Day, 2023, Americans can look back to the distant past to discover new ways to not only understand history, but also make amends for the wrongs of ancestors long dead in order to move forward and make the country – and world – a better place. Or not. The liberals’ mumbo jumbo is a fraud.
It goes without saying that the subject of slavery reparations is a controversial one, just as the institution of slavery was widely disputed and hashed over all those centuries ago. Ever since a ship containing about 20 Africans landed at Old Point Comfort (in Hampton, Virginia) in 1619 and thus established a foothold for Africans on the North American continent, there’s been a debate raging about how to treat the topic for succeeding generations.
It's common knowledge that the Englishman who “discovered” and inhabited Jamestown Island in 1607 didn’t look to establish a new civilization fueled by slavery. Those greed-driven adventurers simply wanted to get rich, but they found the conditions on the ground in the New World to be inhospitable to the dream of easy wealth. Simply put, somebody had to do the work to survive, and the Native populations of the region were too strong militarily to force into involuntary servitude. Plus, Indian women performed the laborious portion of the chores in Native culture, and the hunter/warrior men weren’t inclined to toil for the English.
It's a little known fact, but most of the Africans who were brought to Old Point Comfort didn’t stay there, as the majority of Africans taken from the continent were instead transported to Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean at the time. The vast majority of those (white and black) brought to North America were considered Indentured Servants rather than technically being “owned” by the English. Permanent African slavery wasn’t codified into law until the 1660’s, at least in Virginia.
Nevertheless, by the time the Declaration of Independence was authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 (the product of a committee that included John Adams and Benjamin Franklin), slavery was ingrained into the law of the English Colonies. All 13 Colonies that were associated with the Declaration permitted legalized slavery. Further, it was illegal for owners to free their slaves in a good number of states, and only a comparative few Africans were freed by other means. (Note: Full Manumission wasn’t legalized in many states until after the American Revolution.)
The people I know, black and white, view slavery as an unfortunate stain on the American experiment, a circumstance that only time, wars and eventually a Civil Rights movement stood to correct. Despite racial relations having evolved and improved over the decades – at least until Barack Obama and Joe Biden -- there are still those who seek “reparations” for certain classes of individuals to receive recompense for the past policies, no matter how attenuated they may be from the present.
It's ironic that some in my native state of California are taking the lead. In an article titled “California reparations: What to know about the proposal being sent to the legislature”, Jack Birle reported at the Washington Examiner recently:
“The California reparations task force [submitted] its final report to the Golden State legislature [last] week after years of deliberation…
“The proposed reparations payments are divided into categories detailing various alleged harms the committee seeks to atone for on behalf of the state of California and vary depending on the time spent in the Golden State. Some of the categories include alleged health-related harms and alleged housing discrimination.
“Those who have suffered from health-related harms would receive $13,619 for each year spent in California, with descendants eligible for the payments. Payments for those who were victims of alleged over-policing from 1971 through 2020 would be entitled to $2,352 for each year living in California during that time, with a maximum amount of $115,260. For housing discrimination from 1933 to 1977, eligible people would receive up to $148,099, or $3,366 for each year a person was a resident of the state during that time. The payments can total up to $1.4 million per person, according to estimates.”
Yup. The Golden State’s liberal government has run up a $31.5 billion deficit, and the kooks are still proposing to hand out more free money. Recently, Governor “hair gel” Gavin Newsom pointed out that it’s not just about cash payments, and there are other proposals being bandied about, such as repealing the state’s constitutional amendment outlawing discrimination in state hiring, etc. According to polls, the reparations proposal isn’t popular even in a leftist loony bin like California, but merely introducing the subject to the legislature virtually guarantees it will transpire at some point.
Recall that Californians originally roundly rejected the notion of same-sex marriage, too, then the transformation crowd sunk their talons into traditional unions and it wasn’t long before guys were marrying guys and gals marrying gals in the sunny confines of the Pacific coast. It’s always been said that anything goes in California (forget Las Vegas), so the fact “reparations” may not get through this year hardly means the pushers will give up for good.
Besides, it’s widely speculated that ambitious Newsom is just waiting for senile Joe Biden to slip up in some notable way – and thus leap into the 2024 presidential race picture – so, of course he’ll claim that “reparations” aren’t everything they’re said to be. Gavin has to remain acceptable to the leftist loons but also palatable to the “common folk” in the hinterlands.
There are apparently provisions that claimants will have had to reside in California for a certain amount of time, so there probably won’t be as much “reparations shopping” as there otherwise would’ve been. At the same time, there have to be a lot of African descendants who lived in Cali during the years in question and have since moved somewhere else. Does this provide incentive for them to get in touch with their previous residences?
They weren’t exactly reparations, but there were numerous proposals during colonial times to compensate slave owners for their “property loss” if slavery were to suddenly be legislated out of existence. I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing the plans didn’t get far because of the sheer cost of the payments to the already elite and rich slave owner class. I seem to recall from history study that no such ideas were near to realization.
The Founding generation didn’t see slavery as beneficial and there were very few, if any, true defenders of the institution around the time of the Declaration’s adoption and signing. It’s common knowledge that Jefferson himself included language condemning slavery that was subsequently removed from the final version of the document to keep the southern delegations to the Continental Congress on board with the burgeoning movement towards Independence.
Even among slave owners, there was a need for compromise.
Massachusetts-born Eli Whitney’s cotton gin (in the late 1700’s) invention changed many, many attitudes towards the “necessity” of slavery, which the southern states’ economies relied on to survive on the staple cotton crop. But it wasn’t just cotton. Coastal southern plantations often grew rice to help feed the slave population. Rice growing itself was very labor intensive. And the rest is history.
At any rate, the 1800’s saw a fierce defense of slavery develop in the affected regions – and also the growth of anti-slavery societies in the north. The rhetoric of the pre-Civil War years was very much different than that of the 1770’s and 80’s. Therefore, it only makes sense that “reparations” proponents consult the facts before deciding on payments (or other measures) to rectify past wrongs for African-Americans.
It goes without stating that the practical implementation of a reparations scheme would be enormously challenging. In a time when there are already insurmountable bureaucratic headaches, how would it be feasible to cut checks for people based on race alone? How many Californians are technically black? Will there inevitably be a similar push for rectifying discrimination against other minority groups or Native Americans?
The 1990’s movie “Dances with Wolves” introduced the story of the Plains Indians who were eventually pushed off their lands and starved by the U.S. government encroaching from the east. Sioux Indians have laid claims to owning the Black Hills and it’s likely that any such race-based lawsuits will only increase were a big state like California pass “reparations” for one dark-toned ethnic group.
Forgive the term, but ethnic “tribalism” is getting worse, fueled by Democrat politicians who rely on skin color to emphasize cultural differences and division. It’s not known whether the California “reparations” proposal will be enacted in full or in part, but one can’t help but think such an act would open a Pandora’s box of similar laws in many, many Democrat-run states – and at the federal level should liberals obtain significant majorities in Congress and maintain control of the White House again.
“Reparations” will join LGBTQIA+++ “rights” and abortion as a cause célèbre of the left. Tell me it isn’t so.
Independence Day should be a time of celebration and gratitude for the Founding generation that sacrificed so much in the name of freedom and liberty. More than just an excuse to hold a backyard barbecue, it’s an occasion to ponder the whole concept of self-governance and rejection of excessive governmental tyranny. “Reparations”, like those being considered on the west coast, would set this nation back hundreds of years.
Living in America is all the “reparations” any citizen should ever need.
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