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If the November elections put Democrats in control of the House of
Representatives, we can expect John Conyers, D-Mich., to introduce
legislation that would set up a committee to decide who would qualify for
reparations for slavery, whether they should be compensated in cash, land or
some other payment, and how much each black person would receive. City
councils in Chicago, Houston, Detroit and several other cities have already
called for Congress to hold hearings on reparations.

First off, let me say that I agree with reparations advocates that
slavery was a horrible, despicable violation of basic human rights. I’d also
agree that were it possible slave owners should make reparations to those
whom they enslaved.

The problem, of course, is both slaves as well as their owners are all
dead. Thus, punishing perpetrators and compensating victims is out of the
hands of the living. Reparations advocates, however, want today’s blacks to
be compensated for the suffering of our ancestors.

If we acknowledge that government has no resources of its very own, and
that to give one American a dollar government must first confiscate it from
some other American, we might ask what moral principle justifies forcing a
white of today to pay a black of today for what a white of yesteryear did to
a black of yesteryear? We might also recognize that a large percentage of
today’s Americans, be they of European, Asian, African or Latin ancestry,
don’t even go back three or four generations. Are they to be held
accountable and taxed for slavery and why?

Then there’s the fact that white slave owners aren’t the only villains in
the piece. In Africa, Moslems dominated the slave trade in the 18th and 19th
centuries. Africans also engaged in slave trade with Europeans. In fact,
there was plantation slavery in some parts of Africa, such as the Sudan,
Zanzibar and Egypt. Thus, a natural question arises: Do reparations
advocates hold those who sold blacks into slavery subject to reparations
payments? After all slavery, of the scale seen in the Western Hemisphere,
would have been all but impossible without the help of Africans and Arabs.
Incidentally, President Clinton apologizing for slavery in Africa, of all
places, is stupid — apologizing to descendants of slave traders for slavery
in America.

Though it’s not politically correct to say, today’s blacks benefited
immensely from the horrors suffered by our ancestors. You say: “What do you
mean, Williams? Would you run that by us?” Most black Americans are in the
solid middle class. In fact, if we totaled the income black Americans earned
each year, and thought of ourselves as a separate nation, we’d be the 14th
or 15th richest nation. Even the 34 percent of blacks considered to be poor
are fairly well off by world standards. Had there not been slavery, and
today’s blacks were born in Africa instead of the United States, we’d be
living in the same poverty that today’s Africans live in and under the same
brutal regimes.

If reparations were to be made, then what? Would reparations payments
accomplish what the 6 trillion dollars spent since 1965 on the War on
Poverty didn’t? Let’s face the fact that there’s not one thing anyone can do
to change the past. There’s a lot we can do about the future. Dwelling on
the past comes at the expense of preparing for the future.

There’s one condition where I might fall prey to the reparations
temptation. The federal government owns up to 90 percent of the land in
western states such as Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico and California. Turning
that land over to blacks, and hence into private hands, might not be a bad
idea.

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