Local View: Reparations for sins of long ago just not realistic

From the column: "The purpose of the reparations would be to offer a form of compensation. Although the idea is noble, it is deeply flawed."

Dave Crockett.jpg
Dave Crockett

It is self-evident our justice system holds to the principle that, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, even if those iniquities prove true.”

There is a growing population supporting the idea of reparations for those whose ancestors suffered under slavery. Proposed reparations range from monetary payments to special programs and preferential treatment. The purpose of the reparations would be to offer a form of compensation.

Although the idea is noble, it is deeply flawed.

One cannot repair an injustice with another injustice. Nor can racism be eliminated by promoting racism.

How do you address compensation for an injustice that began 100 years before the birth of this country and ended more than seven generations ago? Reasonable questions to ask include: Who was responsible for slavery? More importantly for today’s citizenry, who should pay the compensation and who should receive it?


Any reparations paid or special programs enacted would come at the expense of today’s American people. And what is their relationship to the slaves of yesteryear? Very little. The majority of Americans are immigrants whose relatives came to this country 50 years after the end of slavery. These were people who had no ties to slavery nor responsibility for it.

For those with ancestry back to the pre-Civil War days, few owned slaves. Many had outlawed it or fought against it. Historical data shows that only 4% of those in slave states owned slaves. Before the Civil War, 15 states allowed slavery and 19 did not.

During the Civil War, nearly 400,000 Union soldiers died. This represents that part of the country where families lost loved ones in the fight to end slavery. What do the descendants of slaves owe the descendants of those families who fought to free their ancestors?

And who would be the recipients of reparations? The logical answer is those of direct descent to slavery. But, with poor historical records, identification would be a daunting task.

The majority of Americans assume that if you are Black you are of slave descent. However, that is a false assumption. President Barack Obama considers himself Black but is not of slave descent. His father is from Kenya. Many Black people are immigrants to this country — after the end of slavery. Many are multiracial, Obama included. What reparations are owed to those who have only a small link to slavery?

The idea of reparations is not intended as a race issue. Its consequence will be discriminatory in the sense of promoting one group of people at the expense of another. The outcome will only fertilize racism. In the end, nothing is truly compensated.

Dave Crockett of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, owns engineering firms in Arizona and Michigan; is politically active; and is currently on sabbatical, working at Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth.

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