Sunday, January 8, 2017

Reparations?


Should we pay Neil deGrasse Tyson twice what we pay white astrophysicists in order to make up for slavery?   I think he would be insulted.  Maybe encouraging more black kids to become astrophysicists is a better idea instead.

In an article in this weekend's New York Times Magazine was a hilariously embarrassing article, in which an interviewer, interviewing a black pastor who proposes "individual reparations" admits to his white guilt and white privilege.  Reading stuff like this makes you realize New York City is indeed on another planet:
At the end of your sermon, you do a “benediction” section, in which you talk about making reparations on the local and individual level: donating to groups like the United Negro College Fund or a scholarship program, but also, to cite your example from the book, paying “the black person who cuts your grass double what you might ordinarily pay.” That gave me pause! 

Good! I used to say in church, “If the sermon ain’t making you a little bit uncomfortable, it ain’t effective.” Look, if it doesn’t cost you anything, you’re not really engaging in change; you’re engaging in convenience. You’re engaged in the overflow. I’m asking you to do stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’m asking you to think more seriously and strategically about why you possess what you possess.

I agree with reparations, but maybe this is my white privilege speaking: I can’t imagine actually doing that.

That is what I meant by an I.R.A.: an individual reparations account. You ain’t got to ask the government, you don’t have to ask your local politician — this is what you, an individual, conscientious, “woke” citizen can do.
It is so hard to know where to start with this nonsense.   I mean, the idea of "slave reparations" is just ridiculous.   Well, anyone who was enslaved should be compensated.   Maybe even their children.   But their children's children's children?  Where does it end?   And does it end there?  What other minority groups are entitled to reparations based on past poor treatment?  And what if that poor treatment was from another minority group?  My Irish ancestors were treated poorly - even lynched - in anti-papist riots.  Of course, they in turn, rioted against blacks, when they were drafted into the Union army.  There is a whole lot of intolerance to go around in this country.

But while it is appropriate that the direct victims of such treatment be compensated, the idea that you can "make things right" by giving money to the children or great-great-great grandchildren of people  who were wronged is just impractical.   There has to be some kind of cutoff, otherwise our society devolves into trying to "make up" past transgressions of ancestors to descendants today - a process that would never end.

Some on the Left argue that white people have an advantage being "descended from slave holders" and thus have inherited wealth that, at least in part, was created by slave labor.  Under this theory, as illustrated in this video, white people are given "money batons" by their ancestors in a relay race, while black people are not allowed to run.

The problem with this argument is that not all white people are descended from slave holders and even of those that are, many if not most, did not receive their "money batons" from their ancestors.

My heritage is a case in point.  My Father's family is white-trash Scotch-Irish and Swiss, who came over in the 1800's and took whatever shitty job was available (working as servants, for example).   They didn't get a "money baton" from anyone.   My Mother's family, on one side, can trace its ancestry (selectively, which is why genealogy is bullshit) to Col. Robert Thompson, who indeed did own slaves.   However, whatever money he made as a plantation owner, he lost as the result of some sort of War they had in the South, and he moved to Texas and started anew.   His descendants got no money batons.   I know I didn't get mine!

Whatever "white privilege" I got was from being raised by parents who valued education and hard work and imparted those values to me.  My Grandfather on my Mother's side grew up destitute after his Father committed suicide.  He worked his way though City College (no free tuition then, Cuomo!) and became a successful lawyer and mayor of Larchmont, New York.   No money batons needed.

My Grandfather on my Dad's side was a drunk who died young and left his son with nothing.  My Dad attended MIT on a scholarship and dragged himself up the social ladder, rung at a time, under his own power.   Again, no money baton, unless you count the broken-down '39 Buick he inherited from his Dad in 1955.

Reparations are just ridiculous - as is the idea that all white people have "privilege".

But that is not what really disturbs me about this concept or this article.  Read the above quote carefully.   The whole scenario posits that the white person is rich and feels guilty about it, and the black person works in a service job like lawn mowing.    This is racist.

The solution to racial inequality isn't paying your servants twice their normal rate, any more than the solution to poverty is to raise the minimum wage.  The solution is to provide people with better-paying, high-skill jobs.  Empowerment is the real answer, not hand-outs to people based on something that happened to their ancestors.

Sadly, this kind of thinking is ingrained into our society.   Native Americans, Indians, First Nations Peoples, or whatever you want to call them (Thank you very much Christopher Columbus for screwing that up!) have "sovereign" rights to avoid paying taxes and avoid many laws that apply to regions outside of reservations.  As a result, they can run gas stations that sell gas with no taxes - putting other area businesses out of business, at least in Central New York.   Indian Casinos are the reason Donald Trump no longer owns any casinos in Atlantic City.

But even with these special privileges (and running a tax-free business is a pretty sweet deal!) it doesn't seem like the Indians are really getting ahead in the world.  Poverty, drug use, and alcoholism are still big problems on Indian reservations.

Maybe - just maybe - things like reparations are not the answer.   Throwing money at any problem rarely solves it in the long-term.   Telling people that they need not try hard because they are due special treatment isn't going to advance them in society.

It is just sad to me that in 2017 we are still having discussions like this, and a major newspaper like the New York Times just assumes its readers identify with "white guilt" and think slave reparations are not past the sell-by date.

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