The Right has a cottage industry of outrage over reparations to the descendants of slaves. (I know it’s hard to keep up these days, with so many themes emerging from the outrage machine.) It’s fallen a bit by the wayside lately, what with blaming Bill Gates — or George Soros or Mickey Mouse — with creating COVID-19 in a test tube in Wuhan, the up-and-coming religion of QAnon, and whatever #Obamagate is supposed to be (too complicated for the president to be able to explain). But, like all Golden Oldies — especially racist ones — you can be sure outrage over reparations will be coming back.
The irony is that we already have a system of reparations — only it’s for white people. Society gives whites special privileges to make up for having to brush shoulders with black and brown people. Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin are just two examples, out of many, of the leeway we give to whites who object to black people who have the temerity to walk or run through a white neighborhood. Sure, black people can move into formerly all-white enclaves, but the law will back you up if you shoot them for being too uppity. Most African-Americans will take that broad hint and stay inside, giving you the illusion that you don’t really live in the 21st century, in which a whopping 47 percent of Americans aren’t non-Hispanic whites. Shooting unarmed men and women — and even children — is the most lethal example of reparations, but there are plenty more.
Obviously, society gives whites a leg up in employment: white high-school dropouts deserve to make more than black college graduates to make up for having to deal with non-whites at work in the first place. It’s like tipping extra at the restaurant to make up for spilling hot coffee on the waitress.
It also applies to government programs. It’s unfair to have a program that gives an advantage to black people who are the first in their families to buy their homes. Don’t we want people to be independent and responsible? That’s completely different from white parents helping their children buy homes, which is ubiquitous among the wealthy. Part of white reparations is to say the latter is a wonderful, loving gesture, but the former is abhorrent. Even though, as the Urban Institute points out:
We found that a 10 percent increase in parental wealth increases a young adult’s likelihood of owning a home by 0.15 to 0.20 percentage points. So if two sets of parents are identical in all relevant factors and one set has $260,000 in wealth and the other has $200,000, the child of the wealthier family will have a 5 or 6 percent greater chance of owning a home than the child of the less wealthy family.
The same people who squawk that they weren’t responsible for slavery and haven’t inherited the onus somehow never complain about the wealth they inherited from their slave-holding ancestors who stole it from the enslaved. One of the reparations we give white people is to see them as innocent victims, not fences who handle stolen goods. You see, black people shouldn’t benefit from a long-ago harm; white people, on the other hand, …
Everyone has an Uncle Sid decrying how those people (that’s the expression he’ll use if you’re lucky) are living off the gub’mint. Not Uncle Sid, though! His 1960s or 1970s full-ride Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (BEOG) to go to college, his FHA loan, his mortgage deduction, his Social Security check, his Medicare — those are not government largesse! Of course they’re not! They’re white reparations, a little lagniappe given to boost his ego in a time when 293 counties — mostly, the biggest ones — in the United States are already majority-minority, and his kind will be in the minority nationwide in less than 25 years. Faced with that kind of blow, fragile white egos need all the boosting they can get! They need white reparations.
And, while there are countless other examples of white reparations, I’m going to end with single motherhood. Think of all the paeans to poor, benighted single mothers, now finally coming into their own! What these all have in common is that the single mom in question is white and middle- to upper-middle class. These women are heroes! They do it all: work, parent, take care of their home.
Now, all of that is even more true for black women stuck in dead-end jobs, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find lyrical odes to them. White single moms are assumed to be divorced; black single moms are presumed to be promiscuous. (Even little girls are assumed to be promiscuous if they’re black.) That’s one of the reparations afforded to white women and girls: No matter what you are like sexually, you’re OK — not like them. Do you sleep around? Well, you’re sexually liberated and body positive. Are you monogamous? Well, that shows how much you value your marriage vows. Are you a single mom by choice? Well, good for you!
Black single moms, on the other hand, are risky propositions, even when it comes to employment. But that just provides a little extra reparations for white women, who have always been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action. Well, except for white men.
After all, can you name a single black or brown judge who was as supremely unqualified as Kentucky’s own Justin Walker or Lawrence VanDyke? Imagine a president nominating a nonwhite judge who had never been lead counsel on a single case to the bench, like Walker or Sarah Pitlyk. You can’t, can you? Fox News would be howling for days! And while the ridiculously unqualified Brett Talley and Matthew Peterson didn’t make it to a lifetime sinecure on the federal bench, obviously, plenty of them did.
In fact, Donald Trump’s lousy judicial nominees have their own Wikipedia page! Now how’s that for white reparations? A quota system for whites with connections to the Federalist Society — no matter how egregiously unqualified they are! Now that’s the right kind of affirmative action.
So you see, asking for reparations for blacks isn’t new. When it comes up, and someone starts arguing against it, don’t point out their “privilege”; instead, nod sagely and say, “white reparations.” If nothing else, it puts them on the defensive. A minuscule victory in the war for reparations for those who really deserve them.
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