Early in his May 21, 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations,” in The Atlantic, Senior Editor Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this paragraph:
“One thread of thinking in the African American community holds that these depressing numbers partially stem from cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behavior. (In 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, responding to violence among young black males, put the blame on the family: “Too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of, and then we end up dealing with your children.” Nutter turned to those presumably fatherless babies: “Pull your pants up and buy a belt, because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”) The thread is as old as black politics itself. It is also wrong. The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect. And in the wake of the grim numbers, we see the grim inheritance.”
Well, how do you win respect? President Obama has spoken public ally about the baggy pants syndrome, especially in the wake of terrible street violence in his hometown Chicago.
Michael Nutter is African American; in fact, the third African American mayor of Philadelphia. One would think that Coates, a black grievance writer par excellence, would listen to a voice like that, but no. No, because it speaks directly to the issue of black male responsibility, and Mr. Coates doesn’t like that because it diminishes his case for the black man as white victim and therefore deserving of reparations.
With a sweep of the pen, Ta-Nehisi Coates completely undermines the moral and legal basis of our society. Whites and Asians may be held accountable for their actions but not African American men and women. Or children.
Not long ago the New York press reported the story of a 14-year-old who was shot by police somewhere in the’ hood—anywhere from East New York, in Brooklyn, to Harlem. I’ll call him Juwan. Juwan was chasing another man at 3 a.m. with a gun when he ran afoul of a street patrol. Juwan engaged the police in gunfire and paid for that action with his life. His aunt was interviewed on local TV. “Why they killin’ our children?” she asked philosophically, meaning the police. No mention was made of the parents. You could safely bet your 401K that the boy’s parents had little influence in his life. It was up to the aunt to raise and bury the child.
Mr. Coates says that black teen pregnancy is at record lows. Surely, a good thing if true. It is also true, so I have read, that the percentage of black children born out of wedlock has risen from 50% in the 1960s to app. 75% today. Three-quarters of black children born in America today are illegitimate. That is a staggering statistic.
What kind of dollar amount to be paid to African Americans would be satisfactory? Who would decide the amount? Mr. Coates mentions several figures based on the average disparity of wealth between blacks and whites, as well as the rather paltry sum paid by the post-WWII German government to the Jews. Mr. Coates acknowledges that the money did not bring the victims of the Holocaust back to life, but was constructive as part of the German nation coming to terms with the enormous damage it inflicted on the Jews. However, those sums are ongoing and include home care for the dwindling number of survivors of the Holocaust.
Who would decide that reparations were to be paid: Congress, the Supreme Court? Would it be one and done, or a series of payments made over a period of years, as Mr. Coates suggests; a transfer of wealth from white pockets to black pockets based on the average wealth disparity between whites and blacks in the country?
It is difficult to imagine any such transfer of wealth without a fight. What about victims of reverse discrimination? Would they receive an exemption? Would descendents of Abolitionists pay the same as descendents of slave owners? What about mixed marriages? Would the one drop rule apply? Would children receive a full share? How about felons in prison? Would millionaires pay more than white families in debt?
Relatives of victims of the World Trade Center destruction were offered substantial sums in excess of a million dollars, by the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, in some cased, based on the deceased individual’s current level of income and age—a simple insurance payout based on actuarial tables. Relatives who accepted the deal agreed not to sue the airlines, for one. No one expected the money to heal their emotional wounds. And that was a tiny bureaucracy, essentially one man, Kenneth Feinberg, compared to the behemoth that would spring up to administer reparations along with the politicians who would be sewing new pockets into their coats to line them with cash.
In a post-affirmative action world, one would expect substantially less sympathy for reparations to be paid willy nilly to Black America no matter how dreadful the past was for the slaves and their children. There just isn’t the big money needed to fund Great Society programs such as the War on Poverty and War on Drugs, as in the past—unless the President redirects some of the trillions being printed for the purpose of quantitative easing in that direction. The middle class is not moving up the career ladder as in former times. Many college grads are not attaining entry level jobs in their area of study and are living at home with mom and dad.
Billions of dollars are being consumed by millions of illegal immigrants to pay for social services, health care and for the education of their children. Also to consider are the equally astronomic costs to society of imprisoning the two million prison inmates in this country, which are disproportionately black. It can cost anywhere from 30 to 60 grand per prisoner per year: three meals a day plus a roof over your head and health care.
What would White America expect for the transfer of wealth from their pockets to Black America? Would there be a national sigh of relief across the land? Would there be a national thank you note to whites for their generosity? Would Reparation Day become a new national holiday right up there with Martin Luther King Day and Christmas?
Would White America expect better behaved black youth? Fewer black butt cracks displayed in public as per Mayor Nutter? Fewer illegitimate births? The voluntary disbandment of criminal gangs? Hispanics would receive no reparations and might be none too happy about the black bounty not coming their way.
Maybe we would hear grumbling, that the check amount was way too small; the check was not delivered on time; a decision that reparation money could be taxed.
What would Juwan do with his share, were he alive to receive it? Would that sum help to keep him alive or put him in his grave?
What black politicians still living in the 1960d and grievance writers like Ta-Nihisi Coates don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge, is that the era of big spending is over. President Obama might say he is comfortable with a 17 trillion dollar debt but is not showering us with greenbacks. I received a tax rebate check from President George W. Bush in the amount of $600–but not a dime from President Obama. The U.S. Mint will not strike the one trillion dollar coin.
What all the social dollars spent with the best of intentions to erase poverty and level the playing field has left us with, besides whatever gains that money has made, is a hard core urban terrorist I call the Destructive Black Male (along with his buddy, the Destructive Hispanic Male) in my essay “Trayvon Martin and Race in America.”
You know, the kind whose bullets fly through windows in the projects and always kill or maiming the grandmother everyone loves or the young student about to graduate from the top of his class, it seems. The kids who never carry a book in school and are the reason why the new normal has brought armed police officers and metal detectors into public schools. They seed the world with their children, dropping them off as they drive on their destructive path through civilization.
During slavery, so I have read, black families tried hard to keep together or to keep in touch with members sold off to distant places. By contrast, the welfare state has alienated and impoverished the black family, creating new dependencies on the state.
In the final year of the Bloomberg administration, the Board of Education wanted to close 50 schools. Just close them and start all over. It’s no wonder that parents in Harlem and elsewhere in New York City scream to get their children into charter schools.
It could be that someday soon Juwan’s aunt will change her tune and complain the cops are running fewer patrols in her neighborhood, and crime is up. Where are the police?
About a year ago, the Detroit Police Department issued a travel advisory: “Travel in this city at your own risk.” Actually, the core of the city is reasonably safe. It’s those glittering buildings you see at night in the Chrysler “Imported From Detroit” commercials for its vehicles. Beyond that is a wasteland: hundreds of square miles of abandoned homes and weeds off the grid.
I believe this wasteland will be reclaimed someday by a hardy new breed of urban pioneer. We have already seen how rustbelt cities like Pittsburgh have been at least partially rebuilt. It might also be true that civilization will demand tough new measures to protect itself against the urban terrorist, walling him out of the city core; constructing a new ghetto reminiscent of the Middle Ages’ ghettos to partition off the Jews. We see indications of this in science fiction movies like “The Hunger Games,” with its gleaming capital Panem; and “Elysium,” where the good life is positioned like a giant flying saucer over teeming, wretched life on Earth.
The monies that Mr. Coates thinks should be coming due in the form of reparations from White America to Black America will instead be expended to clean up after superstorms like Katrina and Sandy, affecting all races, and constructing defenses against gangbangers and the urban terrorists who have gone beyond the bounds of tough love.
Copyright by Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.