On January 25, 2021, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill in the Senate (S.40) intended to address the “injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery” in America. The bill establishes a commission to study slavery and to consider issuing a “national apology and proposal for reparations.” The intended beneficiaries of reparations are “living African Americans” harmed by the previous institution of slavery. This study would cost taxpayers “$12,000,000.”
There are certain assumptions and omissions within the bill. For instance, it assumes only African Americans were the subjects of slavery. It further assumes only whites were slave masters.
In The Peculiar Institution, historian Kenneth Stampp writes, “Not all southern slaves were [Blacks], and not all southern masters were whites.” He adds that by the year 1830, the number of free blacks who owned slaves exceeded thirty-six hundred. In Black Masters, Johnson and Roark narrate the life of William Ellison, a free black who owned slaves. Ellison owned over a hundred slaves in South Carolina for the express purpose of exploiting and profiting from their labor. Senator Booker’s bill makes no mention of this black-on-black tragedy.
Another example to consider is that of Keith Richburg, a reporter for the Washington Post. As a black American, Richburg traveled to Africa in the early 1990s. Violence and genocide were commonplace in that Continent. In Out of America, Richburg writes, “We are told by some supposedly enlightened black leaders that white America owes us something because they brought our ancestors over as slaves. And Africa–Mother Africa–is often held up as a black Valhalla, where the descendants of slaves would be welcomed back and where black men and women can walk in true dignity.” Richburg had traveled to Africa and strongly opposed this view. He writes, “Sorry, but I’ve been there.” He continues, “So excuse me if I sound cynical, jaded. I’m beaten down, and I’ll admit it. And it’s Africa that has made me this way.” Richburg then notes, “Thank God my ancestor got out, because, now, I am not one of them,” meaning a victim of genocide. He concludes, “Thank God that I am an American.” To wit, Richburg is grateful to be an American because America gave him an opportunity to pursue his own interests and forge his own destiny as a free individual. With life so precarious in Africa, he likely might not have been born as his ancestors would have likely perished in that Continent.
Senator Booker’s reparations bill does not consider how the descendants of black slave owners ought to pay reparations to the descendants of the slaves they exploited. The bill also neglects the fact that there were thousands of white indentured servants who labored side by side with black slaves. The most egregious fact conveniently omitted by the bill is that hundreds of thousands of white men died in the Civil War securing freedom for slaves who were in no position to secure it for themselves. It seems these are the heroes owed a national apology. Furthermore, reparations today are a desperate attempt at recovering lost votes from minorities who no longer see themselves as victims and have abandoned the Democratic Plantation and joined the Republican Party. Forcing innocent whites today to pay reparations to non-existent slaves is not only racist but based on revisionist historiography and is thus a complete waste of taxpayer money. With Keynesian economics ruling the day in Washington D.C., and cronyism rampant on Capitol Hill, the vote-buying scheme of reparations ought to go the way of the Whigs, extinct.