If you consider San Francisco mighty generous for proposing to pay black residents $5 million each in slavery reparations, then you are a coldhearted cheapskate. In fact, one local leader dismisses that hefty sum as “very minuscule.”
“I don’t think you can put a figure to taking someone from their country, raping and pillaging their communities, not allowing them the chance to reproduce, not allowing them the chance to raise a family and grow wealth, making them work for free,” said Shamann Walton, a member and immediate past president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.
Walton told National Review’s Brittany Bernstein that “most certainly, the $5 million is a very minuscule number compared to a lot of research that has been done over the past couple of decades, quite frankly.”
Walton is right: If people exist who were brought to America in chains, raped, and forced to labor without wages, they should sue their owners and make them pay until they bleed.
The bad—but incredibly good—news is that America has lacked both slaves and slave owners since the Civil War ended in April 1865.
Any child born into slavery that month would be 157 today or, more likely, dead.
Ditto any slaveholder who would be older—or even deader.
Since the parties directly affected by slavery are long gone, the questions of who would collect and who would pay reparations quickly become self-entangling.
- Who is black enough to get paid? Any black San Franciscan or only those with ancestors in the slave-owning South?
- Should wealthy and successful San Franciscans—e.g., Vice President Kamala Harris—receive reparations? How about her ex-lover, Willie Brown, San Francisco’s former two-term mayor? Can anyone seriously argue that slavery hindered them as they occupied America’s commanding heights?
- What about San Franciscans of mixed race? Harris is half-Jamaican and half-East Indian. Do her Caribbean roots disqualify her from a program designed to address the evils of the old South? Should she still collect if, despite no ties to Dixie, she routinely bolts upright from nightmares about being oppressed on a plantation?
- Stanford University emeritus professor Donald Harris, Kamala’s father, wrote that his family descended from Irish-born Hamilton Brown, who owned at least 121 Jamaican slaves. Should the vice president get penalized for this, perhaps scoring only $1.25 million or half of the $2.5 million that she could earn as a half-black woman?
- As for payment, does the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of a slave owner or Confederate general pay more than her “fair share” into the reparations fund?
- Conversely, does a San Franciscan whose forebears fell at Antietam or Shiloh deserve a “We gave at the office” discount?
- What about someone who fled the carnage of Ukraine and took refuge in America only last August? Must someone who reached this country six months ago pay reparations for something that ended 157 years ago?
- Who, exactly, would make all of these excruciating and potentially explosive decisions rooted as much in genetics as justice?
Local officials are weighing other concepts, including “a comprehensive debt-forgiveness program” for blacks and a plan to boost poor blacks’ earnings to match the $97,000 area median income—“for at least 250 years.”
Would shoveling out this kind of cash until 2273 A.D. bankrupt this town?
No way, Walton said reassuringly. “I would say that we’re a very fiscally responsible city.”
Finally, assume that $5 million turned out to be a fair and equitable reparations payout. What if San Francisco’s model were applied nationwide?
To give $5 million to each of America’s 42 million black citizens would cost $210 trillion. This equals 667% of the current $31.5 trillion U.S. national debt. These $210 trillion could fund the Pentagon’s $740 billion fiscal year 2022 budget until 2307 A.D.—284 years hence.
If you think egg prices are high now, just wait until President Joe Biden hears about San Francisco’s big idea.
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