California is considering paying “reparations” to black Californians who are directly descended from enslaved people, which may surprise most Californians. After all, slavery was never legal in the Golden State.
Governor Gavin Newsom, heedless of the fiasco he’s inviting, formed a “Reparations Task Force,” no doubt with his future presidential aspirations in mind. The task force issued an interim report in June, detailing California’s “historyof slavery and racism and recommending ways the Legislature might begin a process of redress for Black Californians, including proposals to offer housing grants, free tuition, and to raise the minimum wage.”
To understand how slavery is applicable to California, one must sift through the report’s 500 pages of convoluted logic common to the victim industry in America. According to the report:
In other words, the task force is not recommending reparations for slavery, but rather for discrimination.
And how do task force members recommend California pay for its mistakes?
The task force’s preliminary findings identify a “housing wealth gap” and recommend granting $223,239 to every black Californian who is descended from slaves, at a cost to California taxpayers of $501 billion.
But this doesn’t take into account possible additional reparations for “unpaid prison labor and years of lost income [while in prison],“ or “disproportionate health outcomes,” including shorter life expectancies which the group’s economic consultants estimated to be worth $127,226 per year. And this is not a complete list of the “injustices” and “harms” the task force is considering.
Practical suggestions from the task force as to how reparations might be implemented will have to wait until at least June 2023. More “racial and financial data” needs to be gathered from the state’s Department of Justice to “make more accurate calculations.” But, along with “a formal apology,” the task force has preliminarily recommended cash payments, free college tuition, and zero-interest housing loans.
The phony sanctimony attendant to the professional grifters peddling this nonsense is breathtaking.
In predictably fawning coverage by the Los Angeles Times, the vice chairman of the state “task force” charged with coming up with reparation ideas said “the process came down to three ‘A’s’—admitting the problems of the past; atoning for them by identifying appropriate reparations; and acting on that information in a unified way to make sure state legislators, who would finalize a program, follow through and get the work done.”
Certainly, one of those three “A’s”—admitting the problems of the past—is healthy enough. There has been racism and discrimination in America’s past, just as there has been racism and discrimination in the past of every nation. Any decent person with a sense of history should acknowledge the past and abhor racist or discriminatory behavior. It’s the “atone” and “act” parts of the three “A’s,” however, where problems surface. Big problems.
For starters, if California is offering reparations for racial discrimination, why not offer them to every group that ever suffered discrimination based on their race or ethnicity throughout California’s history? Why not Hispanics or Native Americans? What about the Chinese workers who built much of California’s early infrastructure, or the descendants of Japanese Americans living in California who had their assets confiscated and were relocated to internment camps during World War II?
One might argue black citizens were victims of more discrimination than Native Americans, Hispanics, or Asians, but as any serious student of California history knows, that would not be an easy argument to make.
The biggest problem with “reparations” for black Californians is that we’ve already tried it, through the state’s welfare system that has caused significant damage to black families. How does welfare help the black community or the black family, if, as conservative Larry Elder puts it, “you have replaced the father with a welfare check”?
Thanks to welfare and other entitlements that made a black male breadwinner unnecessary, over 70 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers. Multiple generations of alienated black men have grown up in homes without a strong male role model and have turned to gangs, drugs, and crime. Today, black men are overrepresented in every category of crime in America, and welfare, i.e., reparations, are the reason why.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that proponents of reparations are in denial of this basic truth: When you take away the incentive for people to work and support their families, you foment chaos in families and communities.
Activists who demand reparations ignore these truths because they are part of what we may as well dub the “antiracism industrial complex.” Like every parasitic coalition of special interests that benefit by exploiting the cause of those groups they’re supposedly trying to help, this is a profitable con.
So far, whenever reparations have been tried to atone for racism and discrimination—not just welfare, but affirmative action—they have proven counterproductive. The welfare state fostered by the Great Society programs of the 1960s contributed massively to government dependency and black student underachievement. Affirmative action has undermined the immutable standards necessary for a society to thrive as a competitive meritocracy.
The consequences of affirmative action are as damaging to black communities as welfare is. The evolution of affirmative action into “equity” where proportional representation by race and ethnicity is demanded in everything—hiring, promotions, admissions, contracts, and even household wealth—is a mortal threat to the social and economic health of America. And both affirmative action and “equity” provide cover for the one place left in California where systemic racism still exists: the failing public schools in disadvantaged black neighborhoods.
If the task force really wanted to do something to help the black community, it would start with improving California’s K-12 public schools and addressing the failure of politicians beholden to the teachers’ unions to enact any real education reform. The task force recommendations include adopting a “K-12 Black Studies curriculum that introduces students to concepts of race and racial identity.” But nowhere to be found is any call to action for California’s schools to be held accountable for the fact that 84 percent of black students did not meet grade-level math standards on the state’s student assessment tests this year.
Anyone believing a handout of a half-trillion or more to 2.2 million black Californians is going to improve race relations is delusional. But it will ultimately be harmful to blacks themselves. Nobody ever felt better about their lives, or improved their lives, by getting something for nothing.
The reality for blacks in America today is that if they are willing to work hard, study to acquire marketable job skills, and reject the woke narrative that only puts a chip on the shoulders of all who ascribe to it, they have opportunities that equal if not exceed those of anyone else.
Unfortunately, you will never hear that hard and helpful truth expressed by anyone participating on the Reparations Task Force, or anyone else whose career may depend on denying it.
There is no chance that California’s reparations task force’s scheme can be carried out equitably, nor any possibility it will do anything but cause harm to race relations and the black community. This is what Gavin Newsom is flirting with. But as it lurches forward, with Newsom’s fingerprints all over it, it may help him win an early 2024 primary in a Southern state. Perhaps that’s all that matters.
This article originally appeared in American Greatness.
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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