One would assume the California government would prioritize managing the homelessness crisis or stemming the population hemorrhage.
But naw. Identity politics takes precedence. Social Justice™ uber alles.
Bureaucrats in California – which became a state in 1850 and never instituted slavery – recently decreed that taxpayers are on the hook for $569 billion in slavery reparations.
Via New York Post:
“A California task force studying the long-term effects of slavery and systemic racism on black residents in the state has estimated a whopping $569 billion in reparations is owed to the descendants of enslaved people, according to a report.
The nine-member panel concluded that black Californians whose ancestors were in the US in the 19th century are due $223,200 each due to housing discrimination practices utilized from 1933 to 1977.”
The U.S.'s stark racial disparities and persistent wealth gap have driven attempts to compensate Black citizens for the economic legacy of slavery and racism. Now, California is undertaking the nation’s most ambitious effort yet to pay reparations. https://t.co/qEuC19qRGj pic.twitter.com/VM0rv3AuHi
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 1, 2022
People who never owned slaves are now financially liable for crimes they never committed, and whose ancestors likely didn’t commit them either. They owe reparations for these phantom crimes to people who never were slaves.
The unjustness is obvious and has been litigated ad nauseam elsewhere, so need to elaborate on that. If you’re not totally ideologically possessed you can appreciate the perverse morality, or lack thereof.
So let’s get down to brass tacks.
How would this work in practice?
First of all, it’s seemingly impossible to quantify the economic cost of slavery to an individual. This would be true of a person who was actually enslaved at some point, but doubly so for his descendants born into legal freedom. To do so accurately would be an accounting nightmare – one that would end up costing more than the actual financial award to blacks.
You would have to factor in every racially motivated slight ever committed against an individual and his ancestors, going back indefinitely in time. You would then need to determine the quantifiable economic damage that that particular instance of discrimination wrought.
Second of all, how would the state parse the oppressors from the oppressed? America – more so than any other place on Earth in world history – is an inter-ethnic breeding ground. Most Americans are genetic mutts. Save for African immigrants straight off the boat — who were never enslaved nor could conceivable be argued to be even tangential victims of American slavery — no American blacks are pure-blood. Hence the broad spectrum of skin tones among the African-American population.
Think TI vs. Akon.
Which brings us to the issue of colorism. Lighter-skinned slaves – so-called “high yellows” — often received preferential social treatment during slavery. They ate better food, stayed inside more, and were spared from the hardest labor.
This bias in favor of light-skinned blacks continued after the abolition of slavery, and ostensibly opened up more upward economic and social mobility. This would mean that lighter-skinned blacks, based on the logic of the proposition, should rightly be awarded less compensation than darker-skinned blacks.
And what about all the blacks who fully passed into whitehood? According to research published in the American Journal of Human Genetics
“The relationship between self-reported identity and genetic African ancestry, as well as the low numbers of self-reported African Americans with minor levels of African ancestry, provide insight into the complexity of genetic and social consequences of racial categorization, assortative mating, and the impact of notions of ‘race’ on patterns of mating and self-identity in the US.
Our results provide empirical support that, over recent centuries, many individuals with partial African and Native American ancestry have ‘passed’ into the white community, with multiple lines of evidence establishing African and Native American ancestry in self-reported European Americans.”
And what about other ethnic minorities who were arguably treated as badly or worse than African-Americans? What about Native Americans, who were literally almost completely wiped out in genocide? Interred Japanese during WWII? Chinese rail worker serfs? For that matter, what about ethnic groups who likewise suffered but perhaps not as terribly as American slaves, like the “Irish Need Not Apply” Irish immigrants of the early 20th century?
Even if every conceivable racial grievance were remedied with cash payments, would that absolve the US of its terrible racist past? Or would it actually embolden the grievance industry by setting the precedent for identity-based compensation for real or imagined wrongs — no matter how far back in history or how tangential the connection of the supposed modern day victims to the injustice?
The moral hazard here is nearly incalculable.
Fortunately, this robbery of the public treasury for social justice engineering has little chance of actual implementation. It will certainly be challenged in the courts, possibly making it all the way to the Supreme Court currently occupied by ostensible conservatives.
Legal scholars have chronicled the numerous technical fallacies in the formal argument for slavery reparations, and the further out from institutionalized slavery we get, the weaker the arguments for reparations become.
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