“Reparations”: A Tribal Drum Calling Human Beings Away From Responsibility

I tend to write either upon a subject that has fermented in me for a while or upon one that breaks down my psychic door, even though I would as soon concentrate my attention elsewhere.  Today a door has come off its hinges, so… I yield to the necessity of cleaning up the mess.

I have grown irritated at several thoughtful people who write against the propriety of “reparations”—i.e., the monetary indemnification of people with X amount of melanin for the ordeal endured by their slave-ancestors.  The bright but annoying types with whom I’m peeved will protest, “I’m white, but my ancestors had nothing to do with this outrage.  They arrived at Ellis Island in 1890”; or perhaps they tender the version, “My ancestors were German farmers and Italian craftsmen who emigrated in the 1850’s and probably contributed children to wear Union blue.”  The implication is that the demand for “reparations” is itself not unjust or unreasonable, but that the writer in question shouldn’t be liable for paying a dime.

I could shred this argument on its own terms if I wanted to.  I actually have little doubt that slaves lived in the households of my progenitors on both sides—not hundreds of slaves to work vast plantations, though Hollywood would have us believe (and has duped most of us into believing, apparently) that no other kind of slavery existed.  Rather, among my ancestors as among most slaveholders (“most” as in 95 percent), there was a groom, a cook, maybe a girl to wait the table and tend the nursery, maybe another man to oversee heavier chores about the house: three to five adults, in total.  These people were employed in the same work given primarily to indentured white servants before the early nineteenth century.  Why the gradual shift from indenture to slavery?  Because Northern slavers found it profitable.  Arabic raiders plundered villages in northwestern Africa, and Yankee schooners from Long Island or Boston or Baltimore shuttled them across the Atlantic to Southern slave markets.  The North had no great need of slavery—or indenture (though the myth that no Union state practiced legal slavery during the Civil War is an ignorant falsehood).  With its far more industrialized economy, the North favored allowing competition in its populous towns and cities to drive down the daily wage and impose no burden of room and board on the employer.  The South, being far more rural and sparsely populated, was ripe for exploitation by the slave trade.  Slavery was an ugly business, all the way around—but it was a business from which the North drew a handsome profit.

It isn’t the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the, “My ancestors didn’t do it!” argument that most irritates me, however.  No… and it isn’t even the utter absence of historical awareness visible on all sides—but I’ll mention that in passing.  Were some slaves whipped, raped, separated from their families?  Unquestionably.  Slavery was a wicked, horrid institution—as were many institutions of the day.  The British Navy manned its fleet by “impressing” young men wherever it could find them.  The raids of its press gangs upon American merchant vessels, in fact, were one of the causes of the War of 1812.  This practice was essentially enslavement with a fairly high probability of mutilation or death in the aftermath.  Another example: in many parts of New England, drunkards and rioters were pilloried or otherwise brutally punished.  Farther south and west, feuds between families frequently produced a bullet in the back along a lonely road.  Thieves of a relatively petty variety were hanged.  Dueling was not uncommon.  Life was rough.  Women not uncommonly died in childbirth.  (And yet, for all the cruelty of the times, a newborn whose mother had no means of support would leave it at a church’s doorstep rather than, with the doctor’s help, cram its face in salt before shifting it to the dumpster.)

For all that, many slaves were considered part of the family.  The church which my wife attended as a child preserved evidence of a wall down its middle, created to divide slaves and masters.  In the Christian family, there should be no such division, to be sure—but here is solid evidence that the slave attended worship along with the owner (something that would never have happened up North).  My grandparents and their parents grew up playing with children of color.  The photo at the top of this piece was taken in about 1900 by a member of my father’s father’s family.  You can tell that black and white children, squeezed together (with the tiny tots of darker complexion in the middle), are playmates.  Brutality, in other words, was not universal nor even the norm—or perhaps only on large plantations, whose owners (often speculators and profiteers from the North) were typically despised by smaller, much more numerous farmers and had political interests inimical to most of their neighbors.  May I ask, in closing this digression, what Sherman’s ravages of the South did to keep either white or black children from starving, or how a “reconstruction” which abruptly ended in a couple of years left freedmen in a fit state to feed their families and make their way?

All of this aside—and it’s a lot to shove aside, for the willful stupidity of imbibing all one’s knowledge of the mid-nineteenth century from Django infuriates me—but all of it aside, the true outrage of “reparations” is the moral outrage of holding children responsible for their parents’ deeds.  The crazed immigrant who pushed a little boy over a rail to almost certain death in the Mall of America… should his children pay monthly compensation to the victim for the rest of his life, if he survives?  What if the would-be murderer claims that the rabble-rousing “hate speech” of Liz Warren, Kamala Harris, and other unscrupulous flame-throwers of the Left incited him to attempt a killing?  Should the Democratic Party pony up for the bereaved family two or three generations from now?

Should I refuse to let my son marry your daughter because your grandfather wore a Nazi uniform?  I believe Ted Bundy left a son behind; perhaps that child should be monitored for signs of schizophrenia… but should we place him in a classroom all by himself?  Alexander the Great was a marvel to his contemporaries for, among other things, not slaying the sons of his political adversaries when resistance reached open hostility.  Do we, too, now marvel at such restraint?  Does it no longer make any sense to us?

I know the my-ancestors-didn’t-do-this crowd hasn’t fully weighed the implications of its half-hearted objection… but weigh them, please.  Consider what you’re not saying as well as what you’re saying.  The “reparations” canard (and I have refused to use the word outside of quotations to signify my contempt and disgust) is evil.  It’s not a dumb idea or an impractical proposal: it is evil at its foundations.  The basis of any true morality—i.e., any that is not cultural conditioning masked as unquestioned goodness—must be individual conscience.  Each single person must be presumed capable of choosing his or her acts… and held accountable, by the way, for not choosing when he or she just goes with the flow.  Such a presumption is the foundation of our free society.  If we reject it and assume, instead, that people are infinitely programmable robots who do the bidding of their tribes or their demagogic leadership, then why have another free election?  Why accord the individual the right to defend himself from deadly attack?  Program him, rather, to die passively: he can be replaced by another robot, and the malfunctioning robot who slew him can be dismantled back at the factory.  Why allow couples to conceive, bear, and raise their own children—for the real thrust of the “pro-choice” movement is to regulate the production of new humans according to some master-plan of population density and racial composition.

Notice that all three of the preposterous positions just outlined—overhaul of free elections, suppression of the right to self-defense, and state-sponsored eugenics through abortion—are fast becoming leftist orthodoxy. There is no room in the progressive state for troublesome individualists who delay the march of progress. Our individual lives have no meaning: meaning is conferred upon them only by the ascendant vector of tomorrow’s golden dawn.

Megalomaniac leftist ideologues understand that “reparations” are completely consistent with their broader vision of a deterministic, inhuman apehouse whipped into line by their own superior inspiration—they, our insane prophets sent from some inscrutable, blank-and-pitiless heaven.  Most of their allies in our currently sitting Congress, I am convinced, no more embrace this depraved ideology to its last letter than people on my side of the fence oppose “reparations” simply because of a family-tree exemption.  Democrat presidential candidates, rather, are competing in offering bribes to a base that (they hope) can be bought.  Even among that base, few whose palms grow itchy at the thought of a “reparations check” in the mail, I imagine, seriously believe that they have no power over their lives—that the cards determining their destiny were shuffled 150 years ago.  They just want the “free stuff”.

But what will the next generation believe?  Once we raise its members totally immersed in the poisonous vapors of tribalism and determinism, what else will they believe but that you are only and always your DNA signature—that this man must be my enemy because of his skin tone, and that I must pray to this god and love this music because my ancestors did so?  Those who write the checks, and those who accept them, will be responsible in a higher reality for corrupting human society with a sordid scam.  And you, too, my brothers “whose great-grandparents weren’t here at the time”… your hands will not be entirely clean.

For God’s sake, call the Devil by his name.

Author: nilnoviblog

I hold a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (Latin/Greek) but have not navigated academe very successfully for the past thirty years. This is owed partly to my non-PC place of origin (Texas), but probably more to my conviction--along with the ancients--that human nature is immutable, and my further conviction--along with Stoics and true Christians-- that we have a natural calling to surmount our nature. Or maybe I just don't play office politics well. I'm much looking forward to impending retirement, when I can tend to my orchards and perhaps market the secrets of Dead Ball hitting that I've excavated. No, there's nothing new (nil novi) under the sun... but what a huge amount has been forgotten, in baseball and elsewhere!

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