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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Lyman

Reparations Are Not 'Long Overdue'; They're Just Not Due

Reparations for slavery is a political movement embraced by social justice warriors that asks those who never owned slaves to pay money to those who never were slaves. 

A tangible example of leftist virtue signaling, reparations are premised on the idea that black people have systemically been disadvantaged by the system of slavery, more than 150 years later, and need to be compensated for a horror that they themselves did not experience. 

Leftists believe reparations are needed to help lift minority communities out of the impoverished situation that they say white people inadvertently put them in. 

Reparations create a victim mentality. Democrats have conditioned their voters to believe that black Americans need white Americans to help lift them out of poverty while completely ignoring the irony of perpetuating the inferiority of their constituents at the same time. 

The cost to pay reparations would not fall on the perpetrators of slavery, nor those who perhaps even had lineage to slave owners. Instead, it would blanketly fall on any single person who is white. The question then becomes is it every single person who has white ancestry including biracial Americans? Surely according to liberal logic their white ancestors must’ve benefited from slavery. So would biracial Americans pay themselves? 

Who qualifies for reparations? Do all descendants, both current and future, get reparations? Do black immigrants who came here in the 20th and 21st century also get reparations simply for the color of their skin? This becomes a never ending cycle with no clear answer in sight. 

Furthermore, how do we quantify the efficacy of reparations? With reparations we undoubtedly will run into the issue of spending said reparations. Individuals have the right to spend money as they please, but is there a newfound responsibility to teach financial management to those who now receive more money, and if so, who does that responsibility fall on? Would it not be wasteful to pay reparations, whether monthly or in one lump sum, if the money isn’t being used to pay for something with both short term and long term gains?

Aside from obvious concerns, the constitutionality of reparations is one that is seldom discussed. 

A good point of comparison is Ronald Reagan’s Civil Liberties Act. Signed in 1988, this act compensated more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The legislation gave $20,000 to each surviving victim. The reason this act is important is because one, putting Japanese Americans in interment camps was a federal policy, unlike slavery which was a state by state policy. Second, Reagan’s legislation hit upon the pitfall of leftists’ arguments for black reparations, and that is only survivors of the internment camps were paid. Descendants of those who were in the internment camps were not paid a reparation on behalf of their ancestors. This was strictly to compensate living victims. 

Now onto the constitutionality of reparations.

The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that entitlements, like reparations, are only permissible to remedy discrimination that takes place by the government providing the special treatment. This means that the government paying out (in this case) reparations must also be the same government responsible for the explicit discrimination, which in this case would be slavery. 

In Richmond, Virginia there was a program that gave preference to minority business enterprises in receiving municipal contracts. Richmond had a black population of around 50% and had set a goal in which 30% of the city’s construction contracts would be given to black-owned businesses because the city had determined that local, state and national patterns of discrimination had created disproportionate access to contracts for black-owned businesses. However, in City of Richmond v. J.A Croson Co.,  the Supreme Court Ruled that Richmond’s claim that past societal discrimination alone was not enough reason to discriminate against white contractors. The majority opinion wrote: 

“To accept Richmond’s claim that past societal discrimination alone can serve as the basis for rigid racial preferences would be to open the door to competing claims for “remedial relief” for every disadvantaged group. The dream of a Nation equal to citizens in a society where race is irrelevant to personal opportunity and achievement would be lost in a mosaic of shifting preferences based on inherently unmeasurable claims of past wrongs.”

This has two important implications. The first is that the government would need to provide concrete evidence of discrimination as a result of slavery. This would be impossible to do. This opinion brings us to our next point, which is that the Supreme Court is clearly ruling that our current government is not responsible to remedy the actions of a previous government. In the cases of reparations, our current government did not discriminate against black Americans in the system of slavery, therefore they are not responsible to remedy the actions of the government up until 1865. 

Further, most courts have ruled that race-based affirmative action can only remedy intentional discrimination, not a disparate racial impact. Liberals demand reparations on the basis that the effects of slavery are worthy of remedy, which is simply unsupported by precedent.  

In the case of People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Educational School District No. 205, disparities in educational achievement between white and minority students was found to be the result of the school board’s failure to take effective measures to prevent individual public schools from becoming all white or all minority, thus resulting in the school board engaging in intentional discrimination. A remedial process was created which included provisions for racial quotas among other things. 

Eventually the United States Court of Appeals (Seventh Circuit) found that the school board was in full compliance with the remedies initially presented, despite the fact that educational achievements between white and minority students didn’t drastically change. The  U.S Court of Appeals ruled that since all the necessary actions were taken by the board to eradicate their involvement in explicit discrimination, the need for future action was null. They wrote:

“The Rockford public schools have been desegregated. No longer are there any schools that are “white only” or “minority only”, or even approximations to such schools...The reality is that until minority students achieve parity of educational achievement with the white students in the Rockford public schools, the plaintiffs will contend that the minority students are victims of the unlawful discrimination of an earlier period in Rockford’s history. Yet it is obvious that other factors besides discrimination contribute to unequal educational attainment, such as poverty, parents’ education and employment, family size…”

This ruling reaffirms the fact that our current government is not responsible for a disparate racial impact. This is important because leftists say that while black Americans alive today were never slaves, they still feel the impact. However, the courts consistently disagree with this claim. 

Reparations, put simply, are unconstitutional. They take money from those who never owned or benefitted from slavery, and gives it to those who were never slaves.


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