Democrats have introduced and the U.S. House of Representatives will consider a bill “To address the…injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States…between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to…consider a national…proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent…racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans…”
The bill raises some perplexing questions (Warning: History ahead):
During the Roman Empire and the Dark and Middle Ages, light-skinned slaves were common in Europe. Muslims enslaved large numbers of Christians during the Byzantine-Ottoman wars (1265–1479) and the 14th-20th centuries’ European/Ottoman wars. Do white descendants of European and Christian slaves who migrated to America deserve reparations? From whom?
From the 17th to 20th Centuries, English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Dutch, French, and Spaniards settled in what is now the United States. Should their American descendants pay reparations? Even descendants of the vast majority who never owned or profited from black slaves and/or arrived after slavery was abolished?
Should the descendants of American Civil War Union soldiers who fought and died to free slaves pay – or receive – reparations?
Between 1662 and 1807, European slave-traders transported several million Africans to be sold as labor in British and Spanish Caribbean colonies. Spain only abolished Puerto Rican slavery in 1873, Cuban slavery in 1886. Some descendants of freed black Caribbean slaves migrated to America. To whom do the United Kingdom and Spain owe reparations? Who will make them pay?
Why should millions of Europeans, Asians and, especially, Hispanics who arrived since 1965 and their offspring be made to pay reparations?
Beginning in the Seventeenth Century and through the Civil War, free American blacks bought and sold black slaves. Will their descendants pay or receive reparations? How will Democrats identify “deserving” blacks – or is skin color all that matters?
American slavery ended more than 150 years ago, but the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that tens of millions of people in many parts of the world are still enslaved. If millions remain enslaved, why aren’t congressional Democrats focusing on emancipating actual slaves instead of attempting to force people who never owned slaves to pay reparations to people who were never enslaved?
“Reparations for slavery” are the sort of cynical nonsense that runs in cycles, the most recent very likely the result of historic gains minorities have made in America’s booming economy. Reparations wouldn’t really end racial discord in America. Democrats merely exploit the notion to harvest black votes.
But, Democrats should be more introspective. Their party has an ugly history of institutional racism. Democrats were central to the trade and ownership of black slaves. Democrats fought to preserve slavery. Slave owners were almost exclusively Democrats. “Copperheads” – Northern Democrats – some of whom profited from the slave trade, opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and the constitutional Amendments granting former slaves citizenship and the vote. Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan.
If congressional Democrats’ reparations “logic” were objectively applied, racial “justice” remedies would specifically target modern Democrats.