Letter to the Editor: Reparations misguided

Dear Editor,

Many voters are disappointed with Trump’s handling of the COVID crisis, tired of the routine spin and lies, and no longer fooled by claims that tax cuts and other GOP initiatives really benefit the middle class. Most Americans want real structural change in their government, with leaders who will stand for ethical principles and drain the swamp that has only grown in size. But Democrats, tentatively poised to assume national and global leadership, are squandering the opportunity by proposing a direction that will not appeal to many disenfranchised voters. Seemingly few Americans disagree that statues honoring confederate. civil war leaders represent misguided tributes to traitors to the American nation and must be removed from prominent display. But things may be going too far, too quickly. Now, monuments honoring early European explorers must be torn down in retribution for their conquests. Ignored is the fact that so-called indigenous peoples—who like everyone else arrived here from somewhere else—were raiding, warring, killing, enslaving and appropriating property and land among their groups long before—and after—Leif and Christopher arrived from Europe. The Iroquois have a deservedly proud history, but it, too, is marked by atrocities against other peoples. The reality of world history is that you snooze, you lose, and the stronger or more aggressive thrive. In any event, It simply will not be possible, nor advisable, to compensate every person wronged or delighted through time. Even I have abandoned hopes of recovering my ancient kingdom in Luxembourg.
The quest for “reparations” is sure to alienate many voters who will reject use of scarce tax resources to “compensate” purported victims of slavery almost two hundred years after the nation endured a bloody, costly, traumatic civil war to end the institution. Many white voters feel no responsibility for the institution of slavery, and fail to see how they caused or benefited from it in any way. They are weary of politicians pandering to minority groups, complete with promises of more funding and affirmative action with quotas euphemistically disguised as “goals.” They see career and educational opportunities going to lesser qualified individuals, to the detriment of their own children and themselves, and wonder when the failed and discriminatory policies will end. They don’t have the money needed to buy admission for their children to elite colleges and universities, or to fund minority scholarships while their own children struggle with student loans. They feel they have already paid enough.
Whatever will Congress—unable to deliver on healthcare, COVID relief, education, infrastructure, genuine tax reform and a secure Social Security program—do to effectuate reparations that are equitable to both recipients and payers? If reparations are to be paid, who will pay it, how much and to whom? Will there be a sliding scale to account for varying degrees of liability or loss? Will wealthy, powerful or otherwise successful African-Americans get reparation money contributed by a struggling white middle class, or will reparations go only to poorer members of the class? Will monies go to all “victims”, or only those who can show they demonstrated due diligence but failed in efforts to succeed? How about those who have already benefitted from affirmative action? Will African nations whose ancestors gathered up, sold and delivered their relatives and neighbors to slave traders be required to contribute to the reparations pot? Will the descendants of Underground Railroad operatives and other early civil rights activists be relieved of an obligation to pay their money for reparations for discrimination their ancestors opposed? What about reparations to freed slaves offered opportunity to return to Africa and declined—will their reparations be adjusted? (Some will argue that the African-American descendants of slaves actually won the figurative lottery by escaping life in today’s Africa for a life in America.) Will Americans whose descendants from Europe and Asia who arrived here post-slavery be excused from payments for reparations? How about Europeans who served as indentured servants—are their descendants eligible for payments, too?
>> A national policy fixated on reparations is doomed to be a divisive failure which will only promote further discrimination, enabling victims, martyrs and racists alike to continue on a disastrous path. Instead, Congress must address the causes and impacts and remedies for implicit racial and class bias in every aspect of our society, and develop mechanisms for educating the population about it, including programs in primary schools and continuing into university, graduate and professional training in all fields. The funding and other resource inequities experienced by rural and urban schools and their communities must also be addressed. It is clear that the current moribund Congress and White House are unlikely to facilitate the necessary change. Americans must show individual leadership and vote to empower new national leadership.

Mike Fetzer

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