How would reparations work?

Breaking off this post from the Unpopular Opinions thread, I want to address this concept in it’s own thread. I’m just curious about the nuts and bolts details of how any sort of reparations would work if it ever came to be. I am not criticizing the statement of “We should have reparations”. Of course that would be a reasonable starting point and conceptually I would agree with it. But it’s also easy to make such a statement. How would it work? How would it be determined who was eligible for reparations? How would it be determined how much?

ETA: Forgive me if this topic has been done to death.

This article is a great place to start: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

I think the most reasonable place to begin is to look at the most recent forms of large-scale discrimination (such as redlining/housing discrimination). Those practices and policies affected millions of living Americans. With some time and effort, those Americans could be identified, and a reasonable estimate of their financial losses due to these policies and practices could be produced. Even policies as old as segregation affected millions of living Americans – those harmed due to those practices could also be identified, and dollar values of how much they were harmed could be estimated. This would be a very large and expensive undertaking, but I believe it would be worth it.

It wouldn’t be that hard to identify those harmed by segregation – we have pretty detailed records of which communities were segregated, and most living people old enough will remember where they lived at the time (and claims could be checked against records and the testimony and reports of others). Similarly, we have government (and private business) maps (examples in the link in post #2) that explicitly delineated the neighborhoods that would not receive government backed loans or were otherwise harmed by various forms of housing discrimination. With some time and effort, we could find out who lived in those neighborhoods and is still alive. Many of them probably still live there.

You might be interested in this. It’s not reparations, but it’s something:

Scholarships for people victimized by Massive Resistance

Massive Resistance is the name for the strategy used by the white-run state and local governments during the 1950s to fight desegregation. It resulted in localities across the Commonwealth shutting down their schools, so as to keep the nigras from mixing with good white folk. For instance, in Prince Edward County, public schools were shuddered for five years. But if you were white, you were allowed to attend segregated private schools that were funded through state tax dollars. Imagine being 18 years old and having to summon up the dignity to re-start your education at the sixth grade level, and it’s even worse now because your new classmates hate your guts since they’ve been told you’re inferior to them. Maybe you have a lot of moxie and manage to finish the rest of your schooling and then you become a financial success, like the guy mentioned in the article I linked to. But probably not. Oppression like that can have a lifelong effect.

So…if you can document that you were harmed educationally by Massive Resistance, you are eligible for a scholarship. Strangely enough, white people have also tapped into this fund. We even had a discussion about it here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=613704/. It saddens me that the recipient of these scholarships are all elderly. The state should have been writing checks when the victims were college-age and trying to figure out what to do with their inferior educations.

Reparation proponents have diverse ideas about how it would work. Some think monetary compensation (like what the interned Japanese received) is in order, while others favor institutional grants. Some think anyone who can claim a connection to direct victims of slavery or Jim Crow should be eligible, whereas others feel that only direct victims should receive compensation. There is historical precedence for reparations, so this doesn’t have to be a theoretical navel-gazing exercise

I forgot to mention the Japanese internment example. It shows that reparations for oppressive acts can be done, and have been done.

I heard they got like around $20,000.

Thats 20 thousand for property that today with California prices, could be worth millions.

Here’s how it would work: it would trigger a new revolutionary or civil war.

I think that the idea of reparations, while well-intended, would probably backfire disastrously, for a number of reasons:

  1. Nobody wants to be on the paying side, but everyone wants to be on the receiving side. You would have a lot of people forming a line to receive reparations, but nobody forming a line to pay reparations. That’s not financially sustainable, from a supply-side perspective. And if it’s taxpayer-funded, then part of that would be taxes taken from the victims, to pay the victims (i.e., if it’s reparations for African-Americans, then some of it will be paid by taxes levied on…African-Americans. The IRS collects taxes from everyone regardless of skin color.) Unless what’s being proposed is a tax levied on white people, to be used to compensate black people, which might not even be Constitutional.

  2. It would be politically untenable. Any Republican candidate who proposed this would face massive backlash. Even most Democratic candidates in all but the most liberal regions would face significant backlash. It would be a surefire vote-loser. You would be hard-pressed to find a single candidate on the national stage who would be willing to promote this cause, let alone a Congressional majority.

  3. It would spark an extremely ugly debate in society - specifically, “Whose grievances are worth compensation and whose grievances are not?” The line has to be drawn somewhere, and you know that some folks who did not qualify for reparations are going to go to the media with a sob story, or that the people administering the reparations system will be accused of a double standard somewhere (i.e., “Why did that Native American man get reparations but this Hispanic woman did not?” etc. etc.) This debate could only embitter and divide America. There will be people applying for reparations, who will then be told that they do not qualify, and will not take it well. Yes, I know - as **iiandyiiii **mentioned, there are records of who was affected by Mass Resistance, segregation, etc. but the general public wouldn’t be analyzing the issue that deeply. They would be looking at it from a perspective of “What about *my *grievances?”

  4. Economic feasibility - suppose that reparations were to be paid out to 25 million disadvantaged/harmed Americans, and the reparations averaged $40,000 apiece (which, even then, might not be considered an adequate amount of compensation, taking into account such factors as inflation since the 1960s, etc.). That would amount to $1 trillion. Considering that the federal budget is $4 trillion, that is an enormous sum to raise in a country where the national debt already approaches $20 trillion and taxes cannot be raised much further on the middle class in a weak economy.

I agree there’s a real issue here. But I question whether reparations is the best way to address that issue.

Black Americans have certainly faced widespread discrimination. The comparative economic status of the average Black American and the average White American reflects that. And we need to keep working on eliminating this discrimination.

What I worry about is that reparations would create an attitude that we had paid off the problems caused by discrimination and the issue was settled. There would be people saying “Don’t talk to me about bad school systems or police harassment or lack of job opportunities or incarceration rates; we wrote you a check to cover all that.”

My great grandfather had two brothers killed on the Union side in the Civil War. The 3rd came home with what we would now call a bad case of PTSD. Is my share of the reparations reduced for that ?

I don’t have a problem with reparation, in theory, but the biggest problem I see is that it would have to be a one-time deal. OK, here’s your cash, now all is square. I can’t see non-minority Americans being willing to pony up ad infinitum. Is it possible to make a deal like that?

And if it ever passes, I’l be buying stock in 23AndMe. There will be a flood of white people suddenly interested in their long-lost black ancestors.

Compensation to those still alive and directly affected is reasonable.
Reparations to those whose ancestors were affected is a ridiculous idea. It would not be possible to calculate “how much” never mind “to whom” or “from whom”.

You’d have the nonsensical position of a first world descendent being both beneficiary of, and contributor to, any money forthcoming.

As noted, a problem with reparations is that it’s a one-time payoff for a wrong that produced persistent damage over the generations.

A better approach (in theory anyway) would be to find a payoff scheme that would also produce long-term, possibly multi-generation, benefits.

“Affirmative Action” was intended to be exactly that scheme: A contrived mechanism to get historically disadvantaged people into school or careers so that they could rise out of poverty hopefully once-and-for-all.

Even that has been horribly controversial. Every comfortable parent of white kids who didn’t get into college scream about all the less-qualified blacks who did (often euphemistically, of course). The scheme never really lived up to its perceived potential because the traditional “haves” just wouldn’t accept it.

To your second question, I think that’s a problem that can be easily addressed by having blood quantum requirements. Or requiring that claimants have a certain number of grandparents who were identified as black on the US census. The US government does not recognize any and every claim of Native American ancestry. There’s no reason to think it would be more liberal with black Americans.

To your first question, I don’t know what you mean. Are you saying that once reparation checks are handed out, people will want to shut down all programs that help the poor? Well, welfare isn’t a “black program” and reparations wouldn’t be designed to alleviate black American poverty (since wealthy black Americans would presumably be eligible for reparations). Are you saying that once reparation checks are handed out, there would be no need for Affirmative Action. Well, that’s not a “black program” either. And Affirmative Action is not intended to compensate for slavery and Jim Crow.

There have not been any government-sponsored programs (that I’m aware of) that have been targeted just to the descendants of American slaves since Reconstruction. So I’m wondering what would people mean by “we’re square now, leave me alone” with regard to reparations. Do you mean that people would feel that reparations would justify ending all conversations about race and discrimination going forward? Because even though I could see people making that argument, I would really hope the reasonable folks among us would be able to tell those people how ignorant they are.

Through the years that I’ve been on the board, we’ve talked about reparations on several occasions. Here are the arguments that have come up against reparations:

  1. They won’t fix racial inequality.

The rebuttal to this: reparations aren’t intended to fix racial inequality, at least not overnight. If your family were to receive a settlement due to someone’s fatal error, your family wouldn’t expect the money to bring you back to life. But the money certainly takes away some of the sting, and perhaps will make the person who caused the accident be a bit more careful going forward.

  1. **Everyone will be mad. **

This is a horrible argument. People were mad over Emanicipation, but it was still the right thing to do. People were mad over school desegregation, but it was still the right thing to do. People will always be mad when it comes to black people’s fight for civil rights and redress of wrongs. And? Is it fair to cater to one side’s anger and continually ignore the other’s?

  1. **Slavery was a long time ago. Everyone directly impacted by slavery is dead.
    **

Yes, but the reparations that were promised to the slaves were not granted. If that denial had not occurred and 100 years of Jim Crow hadn’t followed, we wouldn’t be having this debate, since the wealth of the descendants of slaves would likely NOT be a twelth of what the average white American family has. A lot of this disparity is due to slavery and the inability of black Americans to accrue wealth and prosperity during a time when almost everyone else was making money hand over fist. A lot of it is also due to Jim Crow, which happened recently happened enough that it is still in living memory. Both the federal and state governments were complicit in denying black Americans the same chance to build equity that they eagerly gave white Americans.

  1. Reparations will be too costly.

The US owes China over a trillion dollars, and barring a war or something catatrophic, the US will eventually pay it back. And the average Joe Six Pack won’t even notice, just like he didn’t notice when his grandparents scored a huge advantage in the housing market by virtue of their race. Just like he didn’t notice that his own education was never thwarted by the government, like it was for the black folk across town.

At any rate, if claimants successfully make the case that they are owed a gazillion dollars, it will just go to show how much harm they incurred. In reality the claimants would not receive a gazillion dollars. To whit: the interned Japanese Americans initially asked for more money than they ended up receiving. Turns out that the US government is capable of negotiating settlements (the interned Japanese Americans initially asked for $25K. They got $20K. Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes too).

5.** Who will be owed reparations next? The Native Americans? The Hispanics? The gays? Women? When will it stop?**

This is like arguing that a person shouldn’t seek civil damages against someone who has wronged them since it opens the door for others to do the same thing. If all these groups are owed a debt and they can prove it, then they should be compensated. Simply bringing charges doesn’t mean a claimant will be rewarded anything. Just because one group can make a good case doesn’t mean that all groups can make the same case.

At any rate, precedence has already been set with the interned Japanese Americans, who I hope everyone agrees deserved to be compensated. The US government has also dedicated $12 million for Holocaust survivors, in the form of institutional grants, though the Holocaust was not an American atrocity. In both of these cases, the world continued to turn. Angry mobs wielding pitchforks weren’t inspired to storm the streets. There’s no reason–except for racism–to think that reparations for black Americans couldn’t be pulled off just as smoothly.

Gotcha, anyone that thinks this is not going to be straightforward is automatically a racist. That seems to be about the level of debate on this subject. :rolleyes:
If historical disadvantage has occurred and that echoes through to today then the only sensible thing to do is fund programs that address it. That is the proper role the government. Popping a wad of cash down a culture’s metaphorical cleavage and telling them to “buy themselves something nice” will do absolutely nothing but cause strife and resentment on both sides of the racial divide. If cash payments were needed it had to be done at the time…it wasn’t and it is far too late and people are far too dead.

There was only one question, but I think you mean 2nd paragraph, so assuming that is correct… You could be right, but I would not point to the Native American experience as a good example. Firstly, they don’t all go by blood quantum, and secondly, there is a lot of animosity created by the arcane methods the different tribes use to determine who is in and who is out. Just out of curiosity, what quantum would you recommend, or would it be more like a sliding scale (or both), depending on how much African ancestry you have?

You are correct int hat affirmative action isn’t only about race, but there are certainly programs that do help blacks. We still have SCOTUS cases trying to resolve this, and in one of the more recent ones, the SCOTUS upheld the use of race in college admissions under certain circumstance. What I’m saying is that reparations would eliminate “black” as a suspect class for AA programs run by governmental agencies. That would include state schools.

And I’m saying they wouldn’t, not without a lot of resistance at least. To benefit from AA, an individual does not have to prove they are the descendent of an American slave or a black American who lived through Jim Crow. Affirmative Action is not intended to address inequalities stemming from slavery and Jim Crow, but rather mitigate the effects of present-day discrimination.

A substantial debate about this topic can only be had if knees like yours refrain from jerking. I’m totally open-minded to non-racist arguments why reparations for black Americans would not go as smoothly as other reparations have. If you have some, I’d love to hear them.

But the government did pop a wad of cash down a culture’s metaphorical cleavage for generations and members of that culture did buy themselves something “nice”. A whole lotta nice. And that did create strife and resentment,and yet here we are. What it sounds like you are saying is causing strife and racial divide is a forgiveable offense when it results in happiness and wealth for white people, but it’s the ultimate wrong when it results from the *compensation ** of harm *done to black people. How is this right or fair?

Sorry, black people! You should have asked the government for reparations right after slavery so you could get them before you died. What’s that you say? The country was virulently racist right after slavery and didn’t want to listen to a bunch of darkies whining? And you were impoverished and uneducated, in no position to sue anyone? And what’s that you say? Right when you started becoming less impoverished and uneducated, the civil rights you were fully entitled to under the Constitution were taken away from you, preventing you from acquiring the political power necessary to bend the government’s ear? And this lasted for almost a century? OK, that’s a shame, but do you really think you’re owed cash money for all that, black people? Wouldn’t you be happier with some McDonald’s coupons or something? *

Both the interned Japanese Americans and their immediate descendants received monetary compensation. Because intelligent people understand that if your parents are screwed, you will likely inherit the sore ass. A scholarship may make up for that injury, but most people would prefer to spend their compensation however they’d like. If you owe Visa or Mastercard, you don’t have the option of paying them back in bus tokens and skeeball tickets. I don’t see why the debt owed to an oppressed group should be treated with any less gravitas. (Let’s say you’re an elderly black American who can clearly document how you’ve been harmed by Jim Crow. Maybe you’d rather have reparations cash than a reparations schlolarship since you can transfer cash to your children and your grandchildren. A 75-year-old attending college isn’t likely to be a financial boon for a family).

no you aren’t, you are very clear about that.

I wasn’t being flippant when I mentioned war. If some politicians got together and said all white people would have to give money to all black people because of an institution that was defeated 150 years ago, I have no doubt in my mind that it would lead to a massive civil/race war. It would succeed where Charles Manson failed.

You know, I’m just gonna throw this out there. The reason we think we need reparations are fundamentally, without help from your parents (who therefore must have money), it’s

a. Extremely difficult to finish high school and especially college in a well paying career.
b. Due to several factors, some caused by policies by the government, it’s very difficult to get that first job even when you do have the needed degree. This is where you get screwed if you don’t have that well connected daddy or mommy or didn’t get to make well connected friends at that elite college. With connections, getting that first job is a snap. Without them, and you gotta play the game where companies generally demand years of hyper-specialized experience even for ‘entry level’ jobs - and you have none. Oh, and of course the trend of unpaid internships just makes this worse - daddy or mommy better have money to give you, or you’re fucked.

So I say the fundamental problem is that the calls for reparations are because in America we do not really live in a country where it is possible to pull yourself ‘up from your bootstraps’ any more. Maybe it was in the past, but it is not that way today. (so when a 70 year old talks about working their way up from the mailroom, their route can’t be duplicated by you)

So why don’t we, as a nation, levelize this playing field somehow. For everyone. Not based on a particular race or gender. Make it so that how well you do in life is mainly determined by what you personally did for society, and make available to everyone the means to advance.

The whole system would be funded by large inheritance taxes and there would need to be Federally funded colleges that only offer degrees in marketable skills and a national job match system to eliminate most bias and favoritism, where you need only put your resume in once (and it gets federally verified as being truthful) and then companies don’t get to view name/race/age/gender, just your verified skills and verified reports by previous employers. This would eliminate most of the lying and bullshit, and also make it possible to actually enforce anti-discrimination laws, because it would be obvious when a company is picking candidates who look good based on their online resume then mysteriously never picking anyone too old/wrong race/wrong gender, etc.