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Mind Bytes on Reparations - September 16, 2002

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to Newsmax.com

Word is out. Advocates of reparations for slavery have let it be known that the issue is not going away anytime soon. To prove their point, there's a load of lawsuits for them to refer to.

High-profile lawyers claiming to represent the descendants of slaves are suing corporations that allegedly were unjustly enriched due to the existence of slavery.

For those who favor extraction of payment for ancestral wrongs but prefer an alternate to the lawsuit, there's the legislative route. Various politicians have hinted that they may support some form of reparations. As the voices increase, we can look forward to like-minded leftists across the country jumping on the transfer-of-wealth bandwagon.

Monetary magnetism aside, there are three swirling masses of problems that threaten to hit us head on should we venture down the reparations freeway.

Remuneration of this type would be unjust, illegal and ultimately ineffective.

Unjust

  • The suggestion that one person pay for the wrongdoing of another violates a fundamental moral maxim: It is inherently unfair to hold a person accountable for an offense committed by another.
  • Black Americans who are descendants of black slave owners or descendants of black suppliers of slaves would theoretically have to pay rather than be compensated. A determination of this kind would be difficult, if not impossible, to make.
  • Descendants of other wronged parties from our nation's past will quickly begin to queue up. Descendants of Chinese railroad builders, of women who were denied the right to vote or work, and of soldiers who were killed or wounded in a war that, in part, was fought to end slavery will get in line.
  • A significant number of citizens happen to be descendants of immigrants who came to this country in the early part of the latter century. Others are part of a more current tide of immigration. The ancestors of these groups had no part in American slavery.
  • The entire notion of reparations is saturated with hypocrisy. It is an attempt to punish a class of people on the basis of skin color. If held to a consistent standard of logic, the same individuals who are behind the reparations movement would be compelled to call this type of action what they themselves have defined it as being ­ profiling.

Illegal

  • The idea of punishment for ancestral wrongs is arguably violative of the constitutional prohibition against Bills of Attainders in Article I.
  • There are serious problems with Due Process, as set forth in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
  • The civil law requires that damages be reasonably ascertainable. Due to the long period of time that has transpired since the alleged harm, as well as the difficulty of distinguishing the wrongdoers from the victims, damages could never be calculated with any kind of precision.

Ineffective

  • The notion of reparations for slavery sets back the civil rights movement. The ideal principle of a level playing field, which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. promoted, is thrust aside. In the process, a once noble endeavor is reduced to permissible extortion.
  • The discussion of reparations distracts from the bona fide issues that face the black community today, including illiteracy, poverty and shattered homes.
  • The so-called leaders of the reparations movement are likely to pocket much of the cash. A hefty portion of a theoretical reparations payment would undoubtedly be funneled in the direction of lawyers, politicians and organizations run by the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons of the nation.

The bottom line is that reparations for slavery cannot be administered in a just, legal or effective manner. But should reparations advocates get anything near what they're asking for, what we will end up with is the Mt. McKinley of slippery slopes.


Reproduced with the permission of
NewsMax.com . All rights reserved


Copyright © 2002 -
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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