Should Blacks Be Paid Reparations

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During the recent presidential campaign a rumor was started and widely circulated that Barack Obama, if elected, would begin a process to pay reparations to Black descendents of former slaves.

Such rhetoric betrays a serious lack of understanding of how things work at the highest levels of politics. For one, the office of President of the United States is primarily a figure head position. Another thing is that presidents have very little real power. The executive branch of government at the federal level was purposely designed by the writers of the Constitution to be the weakest of the three governing bodies.

The reparations rumor was designed to have the same effect on the body politic as the one started during the 2000 election about John McCain allegedly having an out of wedlock baby with a Black woman. The desired effect was to provoke knee-jerk emotional responses by listeners of certain radio and TV talk shows. Both rumors were hugely successful.

This brings to mind a recent encounter I had with an individual on the social network YouTube.

I had recently uploaded a new video promoting the benefits of membership in a club to which I belong. The name of this club includes the word 'Black' (racially speaking). In this brief video I described the primary purpose that the founder, Mr. Lee Green, had in mind when he created this club.

One individual, a young White male, decided to comment on the video. I was somewhat startled, though not surprised, by his words. From the tone of his comments you would have thought that he'd caught me abusing his child. His words expressed anger, contempt and a total mischaracterization of my video presentation and my descriptions of the primary intended beneficiaries.

Using run-on broken sentences that expressed no real thoughts or coherence, he presented the most perfect textbook examples of what the word 'non sequitur' means that I've ever encountered. I long ago created a word to describe this Rush Limbaugh-like behavior. It's called 'egotionalism' -- an unstable and irrational mental state characterized by knee-jerk responses rooted in ego and emotion -- which is basically ignorance on steroids.

In my interactions with people over my lifetime I've reached the conclusion that you can evoke egotionalism in both Black and White people fairly easily. For most Black people, just start a discussion about religion; for most Whites, just mention the word reparations.

I tried to engage my YouTube video critic in meaningful dialog, but he continued to remain egotional, unable to get past his deeply rooted convictions and false and misguided beliefs about Black people.

As an example of what egotionalism is, allow me to cite another textbook example. I live in South Carolina and from time to time the issue of seceding from the union (again) arises on local talk shows and in local newspapers.

The prevailing position of most Whites is that South Carolina originally seceded from the union over the issue of something that is called 'states' rights.' This position is supported by quoting book, chapter and verse from the U.S. Constitution outlining the valid (i.e. Constitutional) reasons and process for breaking away from the United States.

What I find most confusing however, is that no one seems to be able to explain precisely which particular 'state right' was being violated to such an extent that it necessitated legal and permanent separation. When the question 'which state right was violated' is posed, the answer, in one form or another, is always 'the right of a state to secede.' Can you say non sequitur? Lots of air time and newsprint is expended exercising this circular argument.

The reparations question was put to an elected official recently on a C-SPAN program. Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, was asked if he was in favor of reparations for descendents of former enslaved Africans. Mr. Pence took a most unique tack with his response. He replied (paraphrasing) that no reparations were necessary because all due payments were already made by the fact that almost 600,000 American lives were sacrificed to end slavery and advance the cause of Blacks in America.

Whoa brother Pence! Are you telling me that the Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery? Not something called 'states' rights'? Mr. Pence obviously does not have the intimate knowledge and depth of perception of this issue that so many locals here enjoy; despite the fact that South Carolina and Mississippi regularly toggle for bottom rung on the education ladder.

Now I'm not the brightest bulb in the ceiling, but it seems to me that Mr. Pence hit the nail on the head with his answer. Although he revealed a serious lack of compassion with his statement -- expressing the sentiment that Blacks should just be grateful that slavery was ended and any expectation of reparations is an insult to the memory of those who died to end it (with no mention of the more or less equal number who died to maintain it) -- he was confident that the war was over slavery.

Long before I saw Mr. Pence on TV I had formulated a much more adult argument designed to really get at the meat of the issue of secession. Question. If there had been no slaves, would South Carolina have seceded? If the answer is no, then we understand that the war was indeed over the peculiar institution. If the answer is yes, then please apprise me of what issue, what violation of which 'state right' would have brought about a war that cost almost 600,000 lives.

Using this dispassionate approach to a subject that arouses deep passions, one can actually reach a point to where it all makes sense. If this question had been debated in my college psychology class from many years ago, the application of reason and a systematic analysis of the facts would have led to a logical (the only acceptable kind) conclusion bringing about a simple, straightforward and honest answer to the question as to why the so-called Civil War was fought.

As my alter-ego, Lt. Cmdr. Data of Star Trek: The Next generation, using his positronic brain would have deduced, the Civil War was fought over the right of a state to permit some of its citizens to own other human beings.

Personally, I don't expect to receive any reparations and I don't think too much effort should be placed into forcing the issue.

One can, however, take an entirely different approach to the subject. Given the spending habits of Black people in America, if I were a White business person who owned a luxury car dealership, a jewelry store, a baggy pants shop, a hair care store, a popular night club, a popular restaurant, a video game store, a fancy rim shop, a movie theater, a liquor store, a check cashing location or any number of other retail outlets, I might give serious consideration to supporting reparations because I knew my sales would sky rocket.

I don't mean to be unkind, but despite the fact that Black people in the United States now 'control' approximately One Trillion Dollars annually, it is estimated that about 98% of it stays in the Black community for less than six hours.

So, at this particular point in time, the lion's share of any reparations to Black people for slavery in the form of liquid assets would immediately end up in the cash registers of businesses owned by everybody but Black people.

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