Last week, on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club,” Senator Kamala Harris of California agreed with a host’s suggestion that government reparations for black Americans were necessary to address the legacies of slavery and discrimination.
Ms. Warren also said she supported reparations for black Americans impacted by slavery — a policy that experts say could cost several trillion dollars,
The U.S. has no authoritative genealogy service. If the government is handing out $trillions and eligibility is based on being a descendant of a slave, how will people be sorted into “gets paid” and “does not get paid” buckets?
America’s greatest intellectuals don’t seem to have come up with any practical ideas in this area. See “The Case for Reparations” (Atlantic) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for example. There is nothing about what to do when Elizabeth Warren shows up with a family legend about an enslaved black ancestor and asks for her check.
More than 40 years ago, the Malone brothers availed themselves of jobs reserved for Americans identifying as “black”. See “Boston Case Raises Questions on Misuse of Affirmative Action” (nytimes):
Philip and Paul Malone are fair-haired, fair-complexioned identical twins who worked for the Boston Fire Department for 10 years. Last month both were dismissed when a state agency ruled that they had lied on their job applications: They had contended they were black.
In 1975, the Malone twins, now 33 years old, took the Civil Service test for firefighters and failed. But in 1976, according to their lawyer, Nicholas Foundas, their mother found a sepia-tinted photograph of their great-grandmother, who, she told them, was black. In 1977, they reapplied to take the test, contending they were black.
Philip Malone scored 69 percent and Paul Malone 57 percent, below the 82 percent standard minimum for white applicants, according to the Massachusetts Department of Personnel Administration, which monitors Civil Service tests and hiring.
The twins won appointments in 1978. They were questioned about their race last February, when their names appeared on a list of black firefighters applying for promotion, said Capt. Matthew J. Corbett, a spokesman for the Fire Department. ‘They’re Devastated’
The system under which the Malone brothers prospered for 10 years was a lot simpler than what Kamala Harris and other politicians are proposing. The Boston Fire Department was allocating jobs based on skin color, which can be observed and measured today, not ancestry, for which there is no official source.
Readers: How would it work? If people are lining up for their $trillions and all say that they are descended from slaves, who will decide whether to write a check or not?
Also, how do we decide who pays the reparations? It can’t come out of general tax revenues, can it? Why should an asylum-seeker who arrived via caravan in 2018 have to pay reparations for something that happened 200+ years prior to the caravan’s arrival? How about Native Americans? Should Sachem Elizabeth Warren have to pay for what white people did to black people?
- “Cure for Racial Dishonesty” by Walter E. Williams: “We can learn from South Africa. During its apartheid era, it, too, had a racial spoils system. The government combated racial fakery by enacting the Population Registration Act of 1950, which racially classified the country’s entire population.”