California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans has arrived at an estimate owed to the State’s Black residents: $569 billion.
The nine-person committee, led by State Attorney General Rob Bonta’s ’93 LAW ’98 Department of Justice, and created just one month before the Yale and Slavery Working Group in the fall of 2020, found that state discrimination practices in the mid-20th century have resulted in a debt of $223,000 to each Black Californian whose ancestors were in the United States in the 19th century.
Like most issues in our polarized political climate, the task force’s findings will preach to the choir of progressives already keen on the idea of reparations, while falling on the deaf ears of conservatives who will never hear about the task force’s work or, worse yet, form their opinions from what Tucker Carlson has to say. However, it should not be taken as given that progressives are for reparations and conservatives against. In fact, there are several arguments for reparations based on conservative principles.
The conservative identity of the modern Republican Party has its roots in the Reagan Era of the 1980s. At this time, family values, fiscal responsibility, private enterprise and limited government became the key tenets of conservatism and indispensable to conservatives. Each of these values is reflected in the task force’s report and forms the justification for reparations. The report describes how racist and discriminatory policies not only led to the degradation of Black families and hindered the growth of Black-owned businesses but created a massive wealth gap, which, rather than “trickling down,” has concentrated and compounded at the expense of African Americans.
Reparations are an attempt to correct the harm done by big and intrusive government destroying American families, crushing successful private businesses and restricting individual civil rights and liberties. The long and painful history of racism in this country has thrown a wrench in the social, political and economic progress of African Americans, and if reparations are the way to free African-Americans to reach their full potential, then even Reagan would agree that it is time to “turn the bull loose.”
Closing the racial wealth gap means money flows more easily through the economy, creating jobs, increasing productivity and expanding long-term growth. Reparations also repay massive government debt and will reduce government spending on welfare and assistance programs disproportionately used by African Americans because of past discrimination. If reparations cut government spending and prevent debt from being passed to future generations of Americans, then reparations are the epitome of fiscal responsibility.
Conservatives who value faith and the rule of law should celebrate California’s reparations efforts. They are the first in the nation to address this issue, attempting to repent from their original sin, and are guided by the Supreme Court’s 1883 interpretation of the 13th Amendment to abolish “all badges and incidents of slavery in the United States.”
The fact is, the racial disparities that still exist in the United States today represent a shameful badge of slavery that will stay with us only if we allow it. Conservative Republicans have made their opposition to reparations clear. But if Republicans wish to lay claim to the legacy of Lincoln — whose Republican Party is fundamentally different in ideology and base than the Republican Party of today — then they own America’s first attempts at reparations, and must embrace today’s efforts to do the same. So as California continues its efforts to examine its history and the legacy of slavery, the State Attorney General’s alma mater should continue its work with the Yale and Slavery Project and we all, regardless of political ideology, should see the merit in this bold undertaking. It will not only ensure, for the first time in our nation’s history, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all citizens, but equality of opportunity for any hard-working, law-abiding individual who wants a chance at the American Dream.