On a recent radio talk show a caller told anti-reparations crusader David Horowitz that reparations advocates didnâ€™t give a hang what Horowitz thought about reparations. He assured listeners that reparations advocates would force
Horowitz and the caller are right and wrong on reparations. Once a fringe issue touted by a motley mix of black separatists, zealots, and crackpots, and that respected mainstream civil rights leaders shunned like the plague, reparations has now been rammed onto the nationâ€™s public policy plate. The NAACP, Urban League, and Congressional Black Caucus leaders all agree that reparations have some merit. Outside of President Bushâ€™s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, no other prominent black dares to publicly denounce reparations. Even some top white politicians such as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley have given passing nod to reparations as valid for consideration. The
Reparations advocates have grabbed at every argument in the book to dent the wall of public resistance to reparations. They assure that black billionaires, corporate presidents, superstar athletes and entertainers wonâ€™t get a dime of reparations money, that it will go to programs to aid the black poor, that it wonâ€™t guilt trip all whites, and that Japanese-Americans and Holocaust survivors have gotten reparations for the atrocities against them. These arguments still fall on deaf ears. The reparations movement canâ€™t shake the deep public tag that it is a movement exclusively of, by, and for blacks. Despite countless speeches pleading for racial brotherhood and interracial cooperation by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders, that same tag was imprinted on the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. It took national shock and revulsion over Southern mobs beating, maiming, and killing white civil rights workers, and the massive presence of thousands of white students in Southern backwater towns to shake the â€œfor blacks onlyâ€ tag from the civil rights movement. Only then did it gain widespread public and political acceptance as an authentic movement to change laws, and public policy that would benefit labor, women, minorities, and even whites.
The reparations movement does not possess the inherent racial egalitarianism of the civil rights movement. It is ensnared by its racial isolationism. The focus is solely to compensate the descendants of black slaves for the wrong of slavery, and whipsaw whites for present-day racism. Most whites almost certainly applaud the fight to improve failing inner city public schools, health care, provide better housing and health care, and to battle drugs, and the near pandemic scourge HIV/AID affliction among blacks. But they also believe that these are social ills that slam other minorities, the poor, and marginally employed working class whites nearly as hard. Reparations advocates make no mention of this.
As a consequence, reparations comes off as a hustle and scam that would flush their hard earned tax dollars down a black hole with nothing in return for them. In a time of soaring budget deficits, corporate meltdowns, the stock downslide, and the looming peril of massive layoffs that batter middle-class workers, reparations seems like a frivolous issue that is politically divisive and racially polarizing.
Despite the colossal resistance to reparations, a compelling argument can still be made that itâ€™s in the interest of government and business to pump more funds into specific projects such as AIDS/HIV education and prevention, remedial education, job skills and training, drug and alcohol counseling and rehabilitation, computer access and literacy training programs. They would boost the black poor, not gut public revenues, and most importantly, not finger all whites as culpable for slavery.
The fact that thousands were willing to march for reparations guarantees that the issue wonâ€™t go away. But as long as most Americans are convinced that reparations is a terrible idea, a march wonâ€™t do much to change their thinking on that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and columnist. Visit his news and opinion website: www.thehutchinsonreport.com He is the author of The Crisis in Black and Black (Middle Passage Press).