Reparations: The Complicated Truth
Don Lemon managed to put himself in the international spotlight after an embarrassing takedown on his show. While talking with his guest, Royal Commentator Hilary Fordwich, Lemon talked about the United Kingdom paying reparations for colonialism. The host was left speechless as Fordwich discussed some inconvenient facts about slavery. While this entire scene is quite amusing, it shows that the modern version of reparations is strictly separated from reality.
What Are Reparations?
According to Merriam-Webster, reparation is “the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury.” This simple definition is concise, however, the word also refers to the “payment of damages” as indemnification. Everything is about making compensation for wrongdoing. It is transactional justice.
Transactional justice is often applied to defeated nations, who need to give compensation for damages or expenditures that another nation sustained due to the conflict. If you look at all major conflicts in history, there is always compensation given to the victors. However, this transactional justice has been spun into a new beast in the modern age.
The word “reparations” has become controversial and stigmatized in the modern era. That is because it has completely transformed into a twisted version of itself. When reparations are mentioned today, it is often a reference to slavery compensation for Black Americans. The Black Lives Matter movement popularized the idea of reparations, focusing on compensation for Black people for slavery and the “ongoing war” against them. All of this was done under the flag of equity and justice. The group had six demands as compensation for their suffering. These demands were:
- End the War on Black People
- Economic Justice
- Community Control
- Political Power
The demands were far beyond reasonable, calling for the expulsion of police and power to run their own communities. Compensation was not enough. This escalated during the pandemic as Black Live Matter groups and supporters started looting for compensation and telling white people to give up their homes.
The modern form of reparations is not about equity and justice. It’s also not about compensating those who have been wronged. It’s time for a dose of reality.
Slavery Sins of the Past
Although modern reparations are supposed to amend the sin of slavery, the sin doesn’t fall on the White people or any other group of Americans today. In fact, not a single group can be fully accountable for the crime of slavery. In the past, most African-Americans' enslavement was at the hands of Africans and Arabs. However, every single race has participated in this crime. Furthermore, African-Americans participated in American slavery. According to a study in 2014, there were 3,000 free African-Americans that owned slaves. Should compensation be coming from those descendants as well?
Another problem with this version of reparations is that majority of Americans have no connection (direct or indirect) to slavery. The United States had two giant waves of immigration between the Civil War and the present. As a result, current generations have more connections to the immigrants of the 1880s and 1960s. Finally, it is impossible to implement such reparations. After all, what are the qualifications? Is the government going to force DNA tests for genealogy testing?
Modern Reparations Will Not Solve Anything
There is no denying that America participated in slavery. However, modern calls for reparations are not valid indemnification. If they were looking for transactional justice, they wouldn’t be demanding that representation be paid to a specific race. The reality is that reparations now won’t represent payment for atrocities made in the past. Maybe Don Lemon has a better sense of that now.