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April 13, 2009

Enough Already: I Don’t Owe You Any Reparations


Instead of silencing chatter about financial reparations for slavery, Barack Obama’s election has, for too many, spurred new discussions on the issue.


The Reparations Movement has openly pleaded with Michelle Obama to launch a national debate on reparations. Some forces are urging the U.S. government to attend the 2009 UN World Conference against Racism, which the U.S. is boycotting in part because of the reparations issue (not to mention that the sponsoring committee is chaired by a Libyan, and has vice-chairs from such human rights paradises as Iran, Pakistan, Cuba and Russia – quite consistent with the UN’s usual mockery of human rights).


The Tennessee legislature has recently been engaging in a heated debate about apologizing for the past sin of slavery. Even some gay activists are now jumping on the reparations bandwagon in a feeble attempt to attach themselves to the far more compelling African-American story.


To those American blacks demanding reparations, I want to tell you that I agree with you. I agree that if you find any man or woman who has enslaved you or participated in enslaving you, you should milk them for all they’re worth. And I will be extremely happy to help you do it.


But if that doesn’t happen, don’t talk to me about reparations. I don’t owe you a dime.


The terror that was slavery ended nearly 150 years ago, and both its victims and villains have long been buried. Yet today, the likes of Jesse Jackson are demanding not only apologies, but also financial compensation, from legislators who represent neither slave-owners nor slaves.


Even if we accept the farcical arguments that today’s descendents of slave-owners are guilty for their ancestor’s sins, and that descendents of slaves are as victimized as the slaves themselves, the case for reparations remains untenable for a variety of reasons.


Many black American families were never slaves, whether they lived here prior to the Civil War or immigrated afterwards. In fact, they might have been profitable participants from the slave trade themselves. Many more Americans descend from families who never owned slaves, and who moved here after the end of slavery. In fact, they were probably persecuted as well.


Millions of immigrants came to America to avoid death and oppression at the hands of European monarchs, and more recently communism and Islamic radicalism. I myself was born into the Lebanese civil war, and in a country that had at some point been ravaged by the Ottomans, the Mamluks, the Seljuks, the Arabs, the Romans, the Macedonians, the Assyrians, the Armenians, the Persians and others. Even the French managed to colonize the land back when they knew how to fight wars. Should I demand reparations from each?


These occupations usually involved some combination of enslavement, death, starvation and persecution. And some of them took place more recently than the American Civil War. So, again, by what twisted logic am I, now a U.S. citizen, supposed to hand my hard-earned cash over to Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright?


Logic doesn’t matter. In my recent visit to Obama’s 20-year spiritual home, Trinity United Church of Christ, I witnessed first-hand the dreadful strategy of some radical black leaders – convince black Americans that they are still enslaved, even if not noticeably. Burn into them the idea that their skin color is their primary identity. Brainwash their children into believing that they are growing up in a vicious, racist society that does not accept them as full human beings.


What these leaders don’t answer is: Where in the world would blacks be better off? Africa, where, if they were not enslaved or forced to join a militia at the age of six, they would die of starvation and disease? Japan, were they would never be embraced by a homogenous society? Or France, where they would be relegated to the impoverished suburbs and turned into expert car-torchers?


Not only did the likes of Sharpton and Jackson never suffer through slavery, but they are far better off than their distant cousins in Africa – due to the deplorable ordeal of their ancestors.


In fact, it is today more desirable to be black in America than it is to be white. One needs to look no further than a current movement by some Arab-Americans to be classified as anything other than “white,” so they are no longer discriminated against by colleges and employers. Meanwhile, anyone with a hint of African blood proudly proclaims his blackness and gets showered with special opportunities because of it.


By every measure, America has given me fewer opportunities than Jesse Jackson. So who should “repair” whom, after all? At the moment, the louder whiner has the advantage. And Jackson whines pretty loudly.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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