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Reparations: Come One, Come All!

Big surprise the other day. The Evanston, IL city council (my hometown) recently voted

to grant cash payments to Black residents in the name of slavery reparations. With even legislators in Washington already abuzz on the same subject, it would seem that the steamroller for slavery reparations is beginning to chug ahead. Some may envision Uncle Sam as a genie wafting up from an Aladdin’s Lamp, proffering riches all whose ancestors suffered bondage. I see Uncle Sam opening a Pandora’s box of lawsuits and legislative larceny. Let’s just imagine what might happen if Washington, which had already bestowed $2 trillion-plus for pandemic relief, decided to give, say, $50,000 to each American of African descent. With a 44 million or so Black population, the cost to taxpayers would be around $2.2 trillion. Let’s just suppose Congress ponied up. What then? First, be prepared for the likelihood that lots of proud Blacks would scoff, seeing no way that 50K could ever compensate for the decades that multiple forebearers suffered in slavery – or for having to sit in the back of the American bus for so many years afterward. So, White America, do not expect tearful thanks of joy for your magnanimity. But let’s continue the scenario that the law did pass. Some government agency would then be tasked to dole out the money to those who qualified. Ah, the rub…those who qualified. As a figurative snapshot of what would happen all across the country, picture a very, very long line winding around several blocks, waiting to be interviewed at long tables of bureaucrats – kinda like a nationwide job fair. Now let’s listen in a bit to some conversations.

“Um, my parents arrived here after slavery was abolished. But as you can see, I’m a ‘person of color.’ So I qualify. Right?” “True, I’m from Sri Lanka, but I’ve been told I look Black. Am I eligible?” “My ancestors were freed during the Revolutionary War. Do I get a piece of the action?” “Yeah, I know I look white, but I can prove I’m 20 percent Afro. I spent a hundred bucks to get a DNA report from So give me my 20 percent.” “I come from Egypt. The law covers African Americans. Right?” “Hey, see that guy over in that next line? You don’t wanna give him a dime. His ancestors were African kings who sold their own people into slavery.” “My family moved to England in 1933. But we heard about this new law and now we’re ba-ack!”

Bureaucrat: “Your name?” Applicant: “Kamala Harris.” “Father’s race?" “Jamaican…er, Black.” “Mother?” “Indian.” “Indigenous American Indian?” “No. Indian, like from Mumbai.”

Bureaucrat: “Please wait while I see my supervisor.”

Now add to this mix the many lawyers who will be rounding up various rejects for class action suits. Then stir in lobbyists pressing Congress for even more kinds of reparations. Examples:

  • The Asian-American Fairness Act. Surely the Chinese deserve compensation on behalf of the coolies who laid track for the Transcontinental Railroad and slaved scrubbing dirty laundry for gold miners. And what about the Japanese Americans whose parents were herded into “detention centers” during War II?

  • The Indigenous American Get-Even Act. Lawyers for a hundred tribes will scramble to compile a list of all the treaties broken and insults hurled by White settlers ever since the Pilgrims first raided their corn supplies.

And, faith and troth, one cannot ignore those in the nineteenth century who were thrust upon our shores by the Great Potato Famine, only to face insulting signs in shop windows saying NO IRISH NEED APPLY. Since so much of their blood now flows through the veins of today’s lawmakers, we can scarcely deny Irish descendants a wee nip from the passing cup to moisten their lips. Well then, who’s to pay for all this? Not me. I’m going to spearhead a class action suit. I’m armed with anthropological research showing all of humankind sprang from central Africa. So, I figure I am at least 1% Black – and I even have a letter from to prove it. Just give me five hundred bucks and I’ll go quietly.

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