Reconsider reparations. We need them morally and economically, and we can afford them.
I recently attended a rally in my city that should have left me hopeful. I heard a police officer tell a neighbor that he estimated the crowd at over a thousand people - that's about 10% of the city's population.
The abundance of young people in the crowd was even more inspiring. But their signs and posters bore slogans that I've seen in demonstrations for years, and the chants and slogans seemed all too familiar to me: "Black Lives Matter", "No Justice, No Peace", "I Can't Breathe" . And when I thought about this grief over the death of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, I first realized how little lasting impact demonstrations like this had, except that people let off some steam and made others feel virtuous. What remains of them are a lot of debris that need to be cleared up, but no serious changes in public order.
I'm not a die-hard demonstrator, but after teaching at a university for 50 years, I've seen my part in it. Still, I came to the question of whether someone is listening out there. The Vietnam War ended when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger wanted it to end, not because of public outrage at the uprisings after the Kent or Orangeburg massacres.
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Black Americans need real progress
The results of the demonstrations after the death of black Americans by the police, despite all their grief and passion, have left this 13% of America pretty much where it always was: poor, sick, living in inferior homes and viewed by many whites as unfortunate or threatening. So much of what has afflicted this community can be attributed to a burden that they bear disproportionately: poverty and without the bare essentials to advance economically.
For generations, African Americans, for example, have paid rent to landlords to have a roof over their heads. Only about 40% of black Americans own their homes compared to about 70% of whites. The simple inability to buy a house and benefit from its increase in value has denied so many of them access to a tangible asset.
In Over-the-Rhine, Ohio, on June 7, 2020.
Home ownership gives everyone a share in their community and their own interest in their security and prosperity. And it doesn't have to be a three bedroom house on a 4 acre lot, it could be a person's own space in a skyscraper, with the bare essentials to trade something bigger and better.
Solutions are obvious: killings by pandemics and police officers show the brutal status quo. We can fix that. Why don't we?
For those who have criticized the riots and looting after the death of African Americans, it is useful to note that people who demonstrate after these murders can get angry, but if they are involved in the system, they are less prone to vandalism and Arson. Having a job is another point, and in 2018 undeclared unemployment was almost twice that of whites, creating a pool of people with nothing to lose. While the only systematic study of why people loot is 50 years old, political scientist Christian Davenport of the University of Michigan told The Atlantic: “The best way to prevent looting is to provide people with a living wage for their Providing basic needs and treating them with human dignity and enabling a life in which to thrive. "
Repairs don't seem extravagant
I once thought that reparations were a terrible idea that could lead to resentment among whites as well as being welcomed by blacks. Money alone can never be a sufficient atonement for slavery; It is a crime for which no living person can be healed. But the possibility of a single foundation for tens of millions of people no longer seems extravagant at a time when the federal government is shoveling trillions of dollars out of the door to maintain a crippled economy.
A targeted investment in a group of our fellow citizens who are descendants of those who have suffered a monumental injustice may well be justified. And it would be a blow to the economy if the purchasing power of tens of millions of black Americans were increased.
America's Overdue Settlement with White Supremacy: "We Made Evil Thrive"
The recipients should be those who can trace their roots back to an enslaved ancestor. With the explosion of genealogy services like Ancestry.com, this shouldn't be difficult to determine. Skin color alone shouldn't qualify. The compensation would not go to Somali new immigrants or to people whose ancestors voluntarily emigrated from Africa, although they would include the descendants of those who married the descendants of the formerly enslaved people.
There is an obvious precedent for reparations to black Americans in the legislation that compensated Japanese Americans for interning them during World War II. The principles are the same. The only difference would be the amount of compensation; Over $ 82,000 in reparations were paid to over 82,000 Japanese Americans.
The Senate and the House of Representatives have legislative proposals to investigate the functioning of a reparation program in which democratic co-sponsors come together. Perhaps the outrage sparked by George Floyd's murder will prompt more members from across the aisle to support efforts to correct a historical injustice.
Ross K. Baker is a respected professor of political science at Rutgers University and a member of the Board of Contributors at USA TODAY. Follow him on Twitter: @ Rosbake1.
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This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: reparations would help correct a historical injustice and we can afford it
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