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The Roadmap to Reparations

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The injustice took place between , when the Japanese were first interned, and , when the war ended. The perpetrator, the US government, was easily identifiable. The internment of Japanese-Americans violated the values of ethnic equality and ownership of property, since their property was confiscated. The Japanese-Americans were not tortured or murdered, however.

Reparations for slavery - Wikipedia

Quite a few former internees were still alive in when reparations were offered. They were both Second World War veterans and Inouye had lost an arm in battle.

Compared to Japanese-Americans, enslaved African-Americans and their descendants endured much more severe injustices. Enslavement violated all norms of personal safety; owners were permitted to beat and torture enslaved people, and in some cases even to murder them. The violations offend all our contemporary norms of racial equality. Enslaved African-Americans were also not permitted to own property and were themselves the legal property of others. Slavery was abolished in , but many injustices were perpetrated during the post Jim Crow period and beyond.

These included continued violations of bodily safety, such as lynchings and police shootings. Segregation and discrimination violated the principle of equality. And even when African-Americans earn the same incomes as their white contemporaries, they own much less wealth because they do not inherit from generations of property owners. It is easy to identify the perpetrators of these injustices. But there are so many that it might be difficult to persuade any one perpetrator to pay reparations.

Who would be paid?

At minimum, perpetrators include the US federal government and the governments of every state that ever permitted enslavement of African-Americans. More broadly, they include municipal governments, private businesses, educational institutions, and churches. The problems in organizing reparations to African-Americans lies in the other characteristics of successful social movements for reparations. It is difficult to identify which people of African descent in the US today are the descendants of enslaved people.

If all descendants are considered worthy of reparations, regardless of the number of generations since their ancestors were enslaved, then the number might be in the tens of millions. None of the direct victims of enslavement are still alive. And there is no single individual who can be considered symbolic of the reparations movement, because all the immediate victims are long dead.

POINT TAKEN - One Word or Less: Reparations to Black Americans? - PBS

Perhaps, though, one could be chosen, such as Michelle Obama. Both her grandfathers were grandsons of enslaved people.

Why Japanese-Americans received reparations and African-Americans are still waiting

Democrats, who were about to hold the first congressional hearing on slavery reparations in over a decade, hit the roof. Another candidate, Marianne Williamson, a self-help guru who has proposed making reparations to African-Americans of up to half a trillion dollars, questioned his gradualist view of racial progress. Barack Obama considered the idea of reparations to be politically fantastical, because a majority of Americans would never agree to it, and otherwise flawed. That was not to downplay the terrible legacy of slavery and Jim Crow among black Americans, including persistent white-black wealth, income and education gaps.

But as a policy prescription, Mr Obama told the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose essay in favour of reparations, published in the Atlantic , had revived the issue, it was a distraction. This also represented a belief in the hard slog of incremental improvement, ingrained in Mr Obama by his study of history as well as by the political moment.

The New Deal and civil-rights era were rare explosions of liberal progress, in special circumstances, which his election alone did not augur.

That many Democrats are nonetheless now embracing the reparations distraction shows how much the party has changed since Mr Obama last secured the White House in That should worry anyone who hopes it will repeat the feat against President Donald Trump next year.

Congressional Republicans, led by Mr McConnell, obstructed him to an unprecedented degree.

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Left-wing critics of Mr Obama, including black activists dismayed by his pragmatism, had previously warned that his attempts to meet Republicans in the centre ground would cause them to shift it to the right. The fact that this happened when Mr Obama adopted a Republican health-care plan, Republicans called it socialism is a reason many now cite for demanding a bolder agenda. Yet the idea that Mr Obama would have been more successful if he had tried to do the left-wing things his critics falsely accused him of defies reason.

Republicans are liable to dismiss any Democratic racial-justice scheme as identity politics.


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In this case they would be right. Yet native Americans, a smaller and less Democratic group, would beg to differ. It would be liable to keep spreading—maybe to poor Hispanics next. That such a clearly impractical and politically no-win scheme made it through the Democratic policy machine might seem amazing; but it did not. No think-tank or policy unit appears to have given real thought to slavery reparations. The Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all, two other fashionable ideas on the left, received similarly scant consideration before being pushed by activists into the mainstream.

In their defence, Democratic candidates have mostly made far more measured commitments to all three ideas than the activists would like. That is the sort of colour-blind anti-poverty measure which would have benefited African-Americans disproportionately and which Mr Obama would have approved of. Mr Booker should describe it as such.