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  1. Sentiant says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. Sorry for the delay in getting back to your response regards my post about reparations and other things we can look forward to from the Obama Administration.

    I would refer you to the following Wall Street Journal article about Obama and reparations, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12174362673419737… wherein they quote President-elect Obama as saying, "I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."

    Reparations is a slippery slope to start down. Where would it end? How about reparations for my family who were part of the underground railroad and suffered tragic losses? You see where I'm going with this? Once you open that flood gate everyone wants to jump on the band wagon.

    Regards,

    Sentiant


  2. James says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Sentiant, and for documenting the reason for your earlier belief that Obama might support reparations for slavery.

    You're quite right that Obama made that comment in his interview with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (which was then quoted in the op-ed in the WSJ).

    However, Obama was not talking about offering reparations to black Americans for slavery.

    For one thing, the remark was made in the context of whether the U.S. should apologize to Native Americans for their historic treatment. In his answer, Obama said that we should acknowledge our past, but focus on the needs of people today. This focus on the problems of now, rather than on compensation for the past, is entirely consistent with his uniform rejection of specific reparations proposals in the past.

    Moreover, Obama has consistently taken the same position on reparations, a fact which the WSJ opinion writer chose to ignore.

    Obama has said repeatedly that he believes in acknowledging the past and "recognizing the continued legacy of slavery," but that reparations are not the way to address that legacy. Instead, he says we should focus on "the much harder work" of enforcing existing laws on equality, improving our schools, providing job training and rehabilitation, and lifting Americans "of all races" out of poverty.

    I agree that reparations, in the sense in which you mean that term, represent a slippery slope. However, I would urge you to note the difference between American slavery and other historic injustices.

    The U.S. government, and our society more broadly, including state governments and institutions of all kinds, formally endorsed and participated in the institution of slavery. The same is true of the century of Jim Crow and overt discrimination which followed. This complicity can easily be seen as generating an obligation to make things right, and the fact that Americans to this day enjoy the phenomenal benefits of slavery creates another powerful argument for setting matters straight.

    The same argument simply doesn't apply if the historic injustices were the sole responsibility, for instance, of long-dead individuals and not of enduring institutions or of society as a whole. The argument for compensation today also doesn't apply if the benefits gained from the injustice have long since disappeared or dissipated.


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