Sunday, January 29, 2023


I once did a talk show on reparations with a Black activist who angrily informed me, “Your grandfather raped my grandmother.”

I was tempted to reply that my grandfather was too busy being chased by Cossacks in Russia to have time for carnal knowledge of his bubbe. But what’s the use of trying to speak reason to racial resentment?

Reparations for slavery are back with a vengeance, which only shows that no brand of snake oil has an expiration date.  

Reparations are about one thing, and one thing only: Black chattel slavery, although sometimes segregation is thrown in for good measure.

It’s as if American slaves and their descendants are unique in their suffering.

Over the course of recorded history, almost every minority has suffered oppression and exploitation.

Should the descendants of the Vikings pay reparations to the Brits they oppressed (the Dane geld, etc.) for hundreds of years? The English could turn right around and fork those funds over to the Irish, whose ancestors they brutalized from the Curse of Cromwell to the Black and Tans. Surely, someone else has a historical grievance against the Hibernians that needs to be addressed — perhaps the Eskimos.

In San Francisco, a committee established by the city’s human rights commission is proposing a $5 million lump-sum payment to each Black resident under certain conditions.

That the proposal, if enacted, would bankrupt the city is irrelevant to its champions. When did fiscal sanity ever stand in the way of a good race hustle?

The absurdity of the scheme may be seen in the following: If former President Barack Obama — who has both slaves and slave owners in his family tree — were a resident of the City by the Bay, he’d be required to take money out of one pocket and put it in the other.

The case for reparations is based on an absurdity. The committee’s report claims: “The United States was wholly supportive of and dependent upon the enslavement of African people and their descendants as the vehicle that established and propelled the country’s economy.” Only an ideologue ignorant of both history and economics could make such a far-fetched claim.

The wealth of America is based solely on cotton-picking cotton? Mines and mills in the North, farmers in the heartlands, ranchers in the West and entrepreneurs, industrialists and scientists had nothing to do with creating what became the greatest economy on Earth?

In the climb from an 18th-century agrarian society to 21st-century America, a lot of people got a raw deal — among them American Indians who were displaced, Chinese railroad workers, and Irish, Italians and Poles who toiled in factories for a pittance. Do their descendants get guilt gelt too?

The current reparations campaign is more about politics than justice.

America has become the Republic of Race, where everything is about victims.

Our schools teach racial history (the 1619 Project). Law enforcement is based not on considerations of public safety but an attempt to create spurious equality in the treatment of perps. Colleges and universities find ways to create racial quotas. Tax codes seek to achieve income parity through levies on the one hand and handouts on the other.

Reparations advance the left’s agenda everywhere.

Anti-capitalism: Marxists have always said capitalism is based on exploitation. Advocates of reparations put the emphasis on race.

Anti-Americanism: It’s the old narrative that the United States was built on the backs of the downtrodden, and had nothing to do with individual enterprise, investment and ingenuity.

Grow government: Reparations will need to be administered by a huge bureaucracy with appropriations and jobs all around.

Racial voting: Reparations is another attempt to keep Black voters firmly in the Democratic column. Just look at what your friends are doing for you, it seems to say to African Americans. Forget the fact that in the 19th century, Democrats fought to keep slavery and, in the 20th century, strived to maintain segregation. President Biden used to boast about his friendships with segregationist senators back in the day.

Turn America into a collection of squabbling interest groups instead of a people united to confront the challenges of the 21st century. The Chinese and Russians must look at us tearing ourselves apart over race and laugh hysterically.

History is, in part, a chronicle of folly. We can spend our time wallowing in the injustices of the past or seek to first understand them and then move beyond them.

The choice is ours.

• Don Feder is a columnist with The Washington Times.

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