Reckless Reparations Reckoning

The last time racial reparations made the major news was on the eve of September 11, 2001 attacks. The loss of 3,000 Americans, which for a time fueled a new national unity, quickly dispelled the absurdities of the reparation movement, and turned our attention toward more existential issues.

Now the idea is back in vogue again. Here are 10 reasons why the nation’s—and especially California’s—discussions of reparatory payouts are dangerous in a multiracial state, and why reparations are not viable either in an insolvent state or a bankrupt nation at large.

1) Identity Politics Absurdities

We live in an absurd woke age of retribalization. It has witnessed Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), for mutual advantage, advertised as Harvard’s first Native-American law professor.

Fellow Montecito mansion denizens Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and multibillionaire Oprah Winfrey swap ridiculous televised stories of their own racial victimization.

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett initially was canonized by our top elected leaders and exempted for months by Chicago legal authorities after claiming the following absurdity: two white, MAGA-hatted racists, on their apparently routine nightly racist patrols in a liberal Chicago neighborhood and equipped both with special bleach that does not freeze in subzero temperatures and an ever-ready, just-in-case noose, assaulted Jussie. They put a rope around his neck and libeled his predominately black “Empire” soap-opera show—only to be repulsed single-footedly by a courageous Smollett, while retaining in one hand his cell phone and in the other his late night Subway sandwich.

Note that in these nutty cases and thousands like them, there is the cynical assumption that current American society, and the government as well, reward claims of racial victimization. That is why a Ward Churchill or Rachel Dolezal constructed new racial identities to game the system for profit.

One of the racialist universities’ current admissions challenges is their checkbox of “mixed race.” Whites and Asians often feign mixed parentages in hopes of being assumed either part black, Latino, or Native American. Any such partial lineage is seen as preferable to their own race. In our old racist society, one used to attempt to pass for white; in our new racist society, one attempts to pass for non-white.

Current racial tribalization obsessions have descended into a nadir that makes Al Sharpton’s 1990s Tawana Brawley/Crown-Heights career start (“If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”/ “We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”) look amateurish in comparison. In this context, new calls arise for ludicrous reparations simply because we have become a ludicrous society.

2) Who Is Who?

Lots of racially obsessed tribal groups, in our multiracial, intermarried, assimilated, and integrated postmodern America, for perceived advantage still claim racial purity.

Yet to further those claims, they ultimately will rely on DNA certification (ask Elizabeth Warren how that went down). Perhaps some will resort to the sort of sick rules of past racialized societies such as the Old South (“the one-drop rule”), Hitler’s Germany (yellow stars), or apartheid South Africa (racial certificates). Stanford University recently deplored its recent past of anti-Semitic admissions—even as it has adopted an entire canon of racial classifications to return to the very categories that it now claims to regret. After all, Jews with superior transcripts in the 1950s were turned away for being Jewish and now a century of regression later are turned away for being considered white.

Do we adopt the South’s 1/16 rule that is occasionally used by Native-American gaming casinos and perhaps, stealthily, universities? Will blacks applying for reparations have to hire genealogists to calibrate percentages of racial purity to assess corresponding reparatory remunerations?

How will the multimillionaire Barack Obama be adjudicated? He has zero African-American parentage. He went to prep school, funded by his white grandmother, a bank president. He is half-black due to his Kenyan father. But the latter was a temporary resident of the United States with no connection to slavery or Jim Crow.

Do we distinguish between African Americans born in the United States and African and Caribbean immigrants with no histories of ancestors who lived under Jim Crow or were American-based slaves? How white or Asian or Latino can one be and still qualify for black reparations? These are absurd questions only because our absurd system demands that they will ultimately have to be answered absurdly.

3) Whose Culpability?

California is at the forefront of the reparation lobbying effort. Yet it was neither a slave nor a Jim-Crow state. On the eve of the Civil War, the federal census recorded only about 4,000 free black citizens residing in the free state of California, or about 1 percent of the nearly 400,000 residents in 1860.

The relatively new state remained part of the Union, in which no major battles of the war over slavery were waged. The pathology did not exist anywhere in California and the population was overwhelmingly loyal to the Union.

In other words, reparations based on slavery is not a cohesive argument for the current-day 40 millions of California, in which over one-quarter of the residents were not even born in the United States.

Are whites with Confederate ancestors more culpable than Michiganders or Ohioans, whose great-great-great grandfathers marched through Georgia, freeing slaves or who died fighting side-by-side with black soldiers at Fort Pillow against General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates?

Will the ancestors of blacks who fought with the Confederacy, or were descended from slave traders in Africa, qualify for reparations? Will whites whose ancestors died fighting the racist Third Reich or the racist Imperial Japanese be given tax exemptions from paying the cost of reparations?

If prior violent felony convictions disqualify one from voting, will the same be true of reparations? Will convicted murders, rapists, and assaulters be issued government reparatory checks?

4) Comparative Grievances

Will Armenian- and Jewish-Americans have equal or more compelling claims as well? Both groups arrived following the genocides of their own people. Many had relatives who perished due to discriminatory immigration laws that denied them entry into the United States. Nearly 8 million Jews and Armenians were murdered in the Nazi and Turkish genocides. Those totals are 23,000 times greater than the 3,500 blacks believed to have been lynched from 1882-1968 (a period during which 1,300 whites were also lynched).

Arguably these two groups suffered more killed in their 20th-century histories than all other American racial and ethnic groups combined. And such genocide, in our current ways of thinking, was imprinted on their collective psyches in a way few other oppressed groups could imagine.

Both were subject to zoning restrictions on home purchases and Jews were overtly discriminated against in Ivy League admissions for a half-century.

Stanford University was founded in part on the profits of exploiting cheap Chinese railroad labor, often in racist fashion. For a time, 19th-century racialist discussions centered around whether starving Irish immigrants were fully human. The recorded hot-mic outbursts from various Latino Los Angeles City Council and union members reminds us that racism is not a black/white binary. Instead, it has become a circular firing squad, with ammunition that will be radically increased by discriminatory reparations.

5) Plus and Minus Ledgers

If we are to envision individuals only as racial collectives, and then assess their grievances on the basis of distant claims of ill-treatment, and if we are also to assess contemporary black claims as of greater immediacy than say those of Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, poor whites, gays, the disabled, and the transgendered, then if we are no longer individuals, are we to calibrate both relative pluses and minuses that help calculate oppressors versus the oppressed?

Therefore, should we also ascertain each racial group’s federal crime statistics? That way we could calibrate whether any one tribe has been collectively disproportionality guilty of hate crimes or violent rape, murder, and assault, committed against other groups, who have been percentagewise inordinately the victims of hate and violent crimes?

Then in our sick game of racial arithmetic, through such a complex calculus, should we assess which particular group falls on the plus or minus side of the reparations ledger? Will groups who have been denied college admissions and job opportunities on the basis of their race since 1965, likewise lodge claims against the state, calculating how institutionalized race-based discrimination has harmed them financially?

In this context, would Asians who proportionately are least likely as a collective to commit crimes, but suffer disproportionately as victims of hate crimes and reverse discrimination in college admissions, and who have weathered a history of anti-Asian discrimination, perhaps have the best claim on reparatory compensations?

Or are reparations really not about the past, but solely the present and thus fueled by one reality: blacks believe they collectively are not doing as well economically as Latinos or Asians and therefore attribute the lack of parity to the past, in order to find equity in the present that so far has not been attained?

6) Reparations Upon Reparations

The Heritage Foundation not long ago pegged the cost of Great Society redistributionist entitlement programs at $22 trillion. For a half-century the courts have engaged in multibillion dollar reparatory settlements. To take one example, under the so-called Pigford I and II payouts, black farmers received $5 billion dollars in payouts. Are we to total up thousands of such court settlements or other compensatory federal entitlements that were race-based to subtract from the current racialized reparatory obligations? Can a half-century of affirmative action be monetized, calibrated, and deducted from reparatory obligations?

Again, ridiculous questions like that arise because ridiculous people are ridiculously attempting to monetize purported reparations.

7) Class claims?

Over one-fifth of the California population currently lives below the poverty line. One third of the nation’s welfare recipients live in California. Will reparations in the state with the largest number of absolute poor and homeless people ignore class considerations—in an age when class and racial statuses are no longer synonymous?

Are some of the grandchildren of the Oklahoma diaspora, who work minimum-wage jobs and have no college-educated relatives in their families, to pay increased taxes to ensure reparations to third-generation, college educated, diversity, equity, and inclusion, six-figure salaried campus administrators?

8) Financial Insolvency

California is currently facing a mounting budget deficit of between $25 and $40 billion. The nation itself heads into a likely recessionary or stagflationary economy in 2023. Billions of dollars in capital and more than 300,000 residents a year are fleeing California, due to the highest combined basket of income, sales, property, and gas taxes in the nation. About half the state’s resident households do not pay income taxes, while the one percent often pays nearly 50 percent of all state income tax revenues.

So how does an insolvent state facing a huge budget deficit, and over $1 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities, in a nation with a $31 trillion national debt and a $1.5 trillion annual deficit, borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to pay 12 percent of the population for the purported sins of nearly 160 years ago, when most of those who enslaved and were enslaved have been dead for over a century? Upon which culpable group are the taxes necessary to redistribute such vast amounts to be leveled?

9) No Statutes of Limitations?

There has not been slavery in the United States in some 158 years since the end of the Civil War. If a generation can be defined as 25 years, there has not been a living American with personal experience of slavery in generations. Few of any Americans even know the names of, or much of anything about, their great-great-great-great grandparents.

In that context, what was the collective price that all of white America of 1861 was properly to pay for the contemporary slave-holding society of the Old South? Since we are going back 16 decades to ensure fairness in the present, were 500,000, 600,000, or 700,000 dead between 1861 and 1865 in battle or due to disease and illness on campaign, sufficient wages for the sins of slavery? Should the United States assess West-African nations reparatory fines for their active participation in the Atlantic slave trade, given the enslavement of black Africans by black Africans was essential for ensuring the slave trade’s trajectory to the New World?

The evil institution of slavery itself did not enrich generations of subsequent Americans. Reactionary slavery instead explains why the 11 Confederate states were, in aggregate, far poorer in almost every category of economic development than their Northern Union adversaries. After the war, almost all the riches of the plantation class and its prewar profits from slavery vanished during the fighting and reconstruction, and most antebellum slave-based wealth was not inheritable by the vast majority of the postbellum South.

10) Salutary Effect?

In 2020 nearly 10,000 blacks, mostly young males, were murdered, the vast majority by other blacks.

Blacks, who make up about 12 percent of the population account each year for about 50-55 percent of all homicide victims and murderers taken together. But beyond that, there is an epidemic of disproportionately black violent crimes (over 50 percent of all firearm assaults and juvenile violent crime). In the black community, over 72 percent of births are out of wedlock, one-parent households account for about 64 percent of all black families, and a third of blacks have felony convictions. These current challenges might deserve more focus and federal action than simple cash payouts for the sins of the pre-Civil-Rights era.

If there has been any lesson from the $22 trillion record of Great Society compensatory payouts, it is that massive infusions of federal money are more apt to ensure social disruption and dislocation than alleviate them.

In sum, it would be hard to imagine a more volatile idea than racial reparations in our current multiracial society. But if the goal of the architects of reparations is to accelerate our rendezvous with the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, then it certainly may get us there far sooner than we think.


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36 thoughts on “Reckless Reparations Reckoning”

  1. John Brizendine

    Another way to calculate reparations that are due:
    Consider the average assets/ income of blacks in the U.S. who are descendants of Africans who were brought here in slavery, then compare that to the assets/income of the descendants of Africans who were not brought here. If the African Americans have really suffered financially from the slave market then reparations could be discussed.

  2. For centuries, Sri Lanka had comity and cooperation between its Sinhalese and Tamil groups. At its independence in 1948, it was deemed “the best bet in Asia.”

    Then a politician, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, got rid of the country’s shared language and instituted an affirmative action program to compensate for Tamils outperforming Sinhalese on standardized tests.

    That began 70 years of intermittent civil war and genocide, with hundreds of thousands of people murdered.

  3. Professor Hanson argues with ideological zealots. He has been for many, many years.

    In that time the side that he argues so rationally for has steadily lost ground; worse its opponents have grown increasingly more, not less, demanding.

    Yet Professor Hanson not only takes no responsibility for his never-ending defeats and bows out to let other, stronger champions take over; he instead keeps pushing the same tactics and strategy that has gotten him — and us — chest-deep in the Big Muddy.

  4. VDH, respectfully, every time the subject of slavery reparations comes up, those with a soap box—such as yourself, should ask:
    If reparations are to be paid, why should the entire country have to pay them? Have we forgotten how deeply divided the U.S. was on this issue in the mid-19th century? Surely, if the millions of aborted fetuses could somehow miraculously demand their reparations, they would not ask them from those that were pro-life.
    Instead, does it not make sense, that if slavery reparations are to be paid, they be paid by organizations that were clearly proponents of it? It has already been argued that some complicit corporations (e.g., Lloyds of London) pay for their past sins supporting slavery. Strangely though, those that are now demanding this, stop short of demanding that the one clearly complicit political party, still extant today, pay anything.
    All literate Americans should know that the two major parties in this country on the eve of the Civil War are the same two major political parties that still exist today. One was established as an anti-slavery party and in 1860 gave us Abraham Lincoln as our president.
    The other political party whole heartedly supported the continuance of slavery in this country. So, considering this controvertible fact, doesn’t common sense scream out that it is this 2nd extant party that should do the paying? Is this not as clear as the nose on one’s face?

    1. Good one.

      When I bring this up with dems they always claim that there was a “big switch” some time after the civil war when democrats became republicans and vice-versa. They actually believe this.

      Anything to avoid the pain of cognitive dissonance.

      1. The so called “Big Switch” that you mentioned is a fabrication of the left. Only two southern Democrat Senators (I believe they were called Dixiecrats) switched to the Republican Party from the Dem Party. Strom Thurmond was one, and the other’s name I have forgotten. But it was only these two, and this hardly constitutes a Big Switch. Just more lies from the Democrats.
        If you want to read a very telling article, google “LBJ’s Democratic Plantation”. It is available online, and authoritatively written by Dinesh D’Souza. D’Souza makes a very convincing case, in my view, that LBJ cared little about blacks when he started “The Great Society”. The Dem’s then, like now, were losing their base (i.e., the blacks) because they were steadily acquiring self-sufficiency. I’ll let DiSouza make the rest of his case.
        Just one more thing, in order to counter this loss of voter base, LBJ comes up with this massive welfare program. As VDH pointed out $22 trillion thus far spent on it. And what does society have to show for it?
        Now we have a new scam to replenish the Dem. Party’s base–its called open boarders–right?. The Dem Party has the same DNA as they did in the mid-19th century, in my view.

        1. One final thing, Jim. If you go to (their slogan is short videos, big ideas) you’ll find one of their five minute videos exposing the fallacy of the so-call “Big Switch”. I watched it several years ago, and I presume they still have it available there, along with hundreds of others, on their site–some by even the great one, VDH, himself.

          1. I need no convincing on this subject because it is absurdly idiotic. But a true believer will be undeterred in their continued adherence to bogus history. If it does not fit your chosen narrative then you just make something up. Otherwise, your world becomes unbearable.

            Over on this side, though we may not be entirely objective about everything politic, I would like to think that we at least listen to opposing arguments and assess ands adjust as we go along. The people who are attempting to use logic and history to defend their positions are the ones who are barred from speaking at colleges and similar forums.

            There is a reason for that, pun intended.

  5. All shots squarely in the 10 ring, Professor Hanson, with mostly X’s. Your continued insights into our most complicated problems are like a strong beacon cutting through the fog in which we are presently living. It seems to me that humans may be their own worst enemies in the long run. We only learn in the short term and ricochet from one crisis to another.
    Thank you,
    Jack Bowers
    Captain USN (ret)

  6. I have the greatest respect for Professor Hanson’s mode of argumentation. And such a keen intellect and fluency of language! The problem is that his employment of all these otherwise tremendous talents in this essay strike me as totally irrelevant to the question of reparations. Irrelevant? Yes, sadly, irrelevant. The reparations cause is in reality a shadow-boxing show for the desire for REVENGE against whites. It is a form of psychological warfare, squeezing the white-guilt lemon for all it’s worth, with no expectation of any kind of counter-offensive from the other side. There are still far too many whites in America armed with all kinds of weapons for the reparations crew to lodge any kind of frontal assault. So instead we have this ersartz attempt at undermining of the national psyche, keeping the white honkies, as it were, off balance, apprehensive, and hopefully thoroughly guilt-ridden. Notice: Have you ever seen or heard of a polling of the black community to see what percentage actually favors obtaining reparations in some monetary form? I call the lack of such a poll part of the larger issue of “managed news.”. It’s a game, but as Professor Hanson notes at the end of his essay, it could without all that much difficulty become a very deadly game.

  7. What about the Japanese-Americans sent to relocation camps in 1942. California’s Attorney General helped the relocation. California formally apologized for its role in the relocation on Feb 21, 2021.
    My family lost everything. The Federal government paid each “surviving” member (not descendants) of the relocation $20,000 with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. So why shouldn’t California pay for its role in the relocation?

    1. Was California directing its own relocation of the Japanese, or implementing the federal dictates of the relocation?

  8. A visit to the slums of western Africa (southern Nigeria for example) will soon show that, on average, the lives and prosperity of descendants of black slaves in America far exceed those of their distant cousins still in Africa.

    So perhaps the reparations should flow in the opposite direction, ie from American Blacks to American Whites.

  9. An excellent essay, encompassing many of the rebuttals to an admittedly wacky concept from the Left. There is another item to consider: there will be no end of reparations, ever, if somehow enacted. An article of faith in the Left is that they cannot accept “yes” as an answer.

  10. VDH & Ben Stein are two of my favorites, & the latter says the same thing on this reparations topic. I moved out of California about 3 years ago & have NO desire to return… not even for a visit! The democRATs have destroyed what was once a paradise; the state I lived in for over 60 years. The saddest part of this situation is that more & more people will be moving OUT of California, & taking their woke ideas with them to destroy other states. This is already happening to Arizona & Nevada.

  11. Kamala Harris’ recent ancestor, Hamilton Brown, owned over a thousand slaves in Jamaica. What would her assessment be?

  12. Reparations I knew would be complicated e.g. How much does Oprah get?
    VDH pulls out just how ridiculous and complicated and in some instances how nonsensical the idea of reparations can be when followed to a logical end.

  13. Ancestry dot com works okay. It cleared up questions of my own racial background, 61% South Asian/Chinese and 39% European White between the UK and Germany. Ancestry dot com zooms in on a regional swath, it does not name exact cities, not yet that detailed. But I am worried about the lack of privacy since those DNA ancestry companies want to buy and sell your identity information. I hear the CCP wants to database the US citizens, etc.

    For reparations, I feel like it will never be enough, it will be a drug that hooks millions, though it would be money better spent than the trillion dollar COVID bills where the Democratic Party and friends walked away with much more money than the proposed aid to the US citizens. Then again, all the reparation recipients will probably be or become lifelong Democrats in thanks for their new reparations high of free, never ending money. Hopefully reparations will be as elusive as having Brandon pay back university tuition loans, nearly non-existent, yet endlessly promised.

  14. Well, we are talking about taxing a lot of Hispanics and Asians for the sin of slavery in other states. Also, anyone of Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, or eastern European descent likely had no Confederate ancestors. Probably the best place to look for people with Confederate (though probably not slaveholding) ancestors might be among the progeny of impoverished Oakies who moved to California during the Dust Bowl years. So, tax Bakersfield heavily for their inherited sins. That’ll teach them to have nasty forefathers.

  15. I believe I read in the book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., that some 5000 blacks owned black slaves. So, this adds a new wrinkle to the many that VDH listed in his excellent essay.
    Still, although logical arguments abound as to why it is ludicrous to considered reparation payments, these arguments will never cause the proponents of this insanity to shut up about it. But if the counter argument shifts to “Who should pay?”, that just may. Because the Democratic Party is utterly drenched in guilt when it comes to slavery (not to mention KKK and Jim Crow) and it is also this same party that is now calling for reparation payments–that puts them in a rather untenable position, I’d say. Those with a soap box need to remind their audiences at every opportunity of this inconvenient fact.

  16. Trying to figure out who gets paid and how much is just too complicated. Let me simplify the math.

    1. Forget about where the recipient was born. Too hard to track. They just need to be black.
    2. Testing for blood purity is also too complicated and, well, invasive. Don’t do that.
    3. We need to have swatches, similar to paint swatches, that can be aligned with a person’s face to determine the level of blackness in the hopeful beneficiary of our tax dollars. Perhaps 10 different swatches, in uniform gradations, from 10% to 100% black. Have a three person panel match up the correct level of blackness and then pay out the money accordingly.

    Also, if you are black and already in jail then you get the maximum payout, since you are obviously in the clink because of America’s out-of-control racism. It wasn’t your fault. It was the unseen and ALMOST undetectable micro aggressions that landed you behind bars.

    Problem solved. Next!

  17. If I identified as a victim, I would want reparations from Egypt for the 210 years of slavery suffered by my ancestors…with interest, payable in dollars or shekels.

  18. How can California, which was a free state throughout its existence and part of the Union during the Civil War, legally or ethically, give public funds as reparations for something they were not responsible for? Never mind the city of San Francisco, which has neither the authority nor the rationale to use public funds in this way.

    Now, if you want to talk about reparations to atone for past misdeeds in California you could make a case for Chinese-Americans who can trace their lineage back to the Gold Rush. They endured vicious racism, discrimination, violence and abuse. And as other commenters have already mentioned, the internment of Japanese-Americans and stripping them of their property, livelihood and their rights was incredibly shameful and they deserved more than what they got in “reparations”. .

  19. The main criteria for demanding reparations appears to be how badly your “group” is doing in modern America. Many migrating nationalities from Europe initially did not do particularly well here but eventually overcame prejudices, prepared themselves, and then succeeded. There were no quotas for Italians, the Irish, Jews, or people of Finnish origin. They all just learned how to succeed in the “system” which is America. Asians and Latinos of many varieties have done the same.

    There is only one ethnic group that has consistently failed in every way possible. One.

    That group is demanding reparations from living people who never harmed them. The injury they claim to have suffered was not inflicted by any person alive today.

    If reparations are ever bestowed upon the Blacks in America, it will only open the floodgates of broader compensatory measures. This is the nature of flimsy criteria and free money.

    Then we will truly have a mess on our hands. This will cause a huge society-wide crisis.

    See where this is going?

    1. In my view, the single greatest predictor of failure in life is if one allows themself to have a sense of “victimhood”.

      What do the Dem’s try sell to blacks each and every day? VICTIMHOOD!

    2. The blood spilled in the Civil War which was fought, in part, to abolish slavery and to free black slaves should have been enough. However, because discrimination and apartheid-like situations still existed well into the 20th century it was clear that more had to be done for blacks who were at a great economic disadvantage. So the government enhanced the welfare state and instituted remedies like Affirmative Action to correct past wrongs. But these ideas and programs didn’t work and often exacerbated the problems, especially for those trapped in a cycle of generational poverty. Throwing money at problems is not the answer. Fostering and enabling opportunities for improvement, both individually and collectively is the solution. However, that’s often difficult to accomplish when crime and drugs have a stranglehold on black communities and the related “gangsta” image and lifestyle is admired and celebrated.

  20. I wonder if groups who already despise America will hate their country, and country men & women, even more when these proposals fail. Will they be filled w even more resentment?

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