Friday, October 2, 2020 : By Nathan Skates
Gov. Newsom, D-Calif., has signed legislation that aims to provide reparations to black communities.
The bill, AB3121, signed into law on Sept. 30, will create a nine-person task force to make recommendations on what reparations should be awarded. Fox News reported that the group can also recommend that the state issue a formal apology “for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.”
Fox also wrote, “The group will study the lingering effects of slavery to include how it benefited public and private institutions and may have contributed to racial disparities in incarceration, unemployment, wealth, housing, healthcare, and education.”
The Daily Wire quoted the author of the legislation, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D), as saying, “California has historically led the country on civil rights, yet we have not come to terms with our state’s ugly past that allowed slaveholding within our borders and returned escaped slaves to their masters.”
Weber told the Sacramento Bee, “AB 3121 is groundbreaking for the United States, to basically say this state is going to deal with the issue of reparation and we’ll make a difference as the result of that.”
The task force is required to have a member of academia with expertise in civil rights, while at least two members must come from major organizations “that have historically championed the cause of reparatory justice.”
The idea of reparations is not new. Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson made news by calling for $14 trillion in reparations. Johnson claimed that there is a disparity in wealth between black people and white people and that disparity is because of centuries of slavery and discrimination. Fox News quoted him as saying, “You want a big idea: white America, what would happen if you said, ‘Please forgive us and accept our apology. And by the way, we think we owe you what was taken from you for over 300 years of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and denial of economic opportunity and rights.’ I think that would be a huge emotional assuaging of guilt.” Johnson later stated that reparations would be a way for white people to apologize for building wealth off of slavery and “atone” for guilt.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is in favor of reparations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky., was quoted as saying, “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago when none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea.”
Newsom’s signing of this legislation indicates that the idea of reparations for slavery and discrimination is not going away, but rather gaining traction. As concepts such as critical race theory become mainstream, the cry for reparations grows louder.
Proponents say they desire an “equitable” outcome, one that would put African Americans at the same economic level as white people. They argue that African Americans can never achieve that level of economic success because they are historically disadvantaged and, as such, need reparations.
There are issues with this idea, however. Views such as critical race theory place the blame for what some white people did over 150 years ago at the feet of all white people now. Critical race theory discounts any hard work or achievement by white people, instead crediting their “white privilege.” It also fails to carefully consider that other factors affect economic standing and that there are poor white people and very wealthy black people.
Sadly, there were some white people, as there were also some black people, who owned slaves many years ago and those slaves were denied opportunity. That was a travesty, yet not one American alive today has lived in a United States that allows for slavery—and thus they should not be held responsible for the sins of others.
In the last several decades, the U.S. has fought for equality and has lived up to its claim to provide equal opportunity for all. Equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome. It is not the government’s responsibility to take wealth from a group based on skin color and give it to others of another skin color. That type of policy is found in command economic systems, not in the land of equality.