Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Little to Gain, Much to Lose. (Last Word)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Little to Gain, Much to Lose. (Last Word)

Article excerpt

Should African Americans, as a matter of national policy, receive reparations for the historical crimes of slavery and Jim Crow segregation? That question is being asked with growing intensity across America. But it is the wrong question at the wrong time. In my view, we Black Americans have little to gain and much to lose from making "Reparations Now" the next civil rights rallying cry.

Consider the timing. It is no coincidence that demands for reparations have intensified just as support for affirmative action has begun to wane. Advocates seem to think that if Americans are not moved by appeals for diversity and inclusion, then they might yet be persuaded to pay compensation for historical wrongs. But, this is wishful thinking. Opposition to reparations is no less intense among non-Blacks than is hostility toward racial preferences, for the good reason that both programs suffer from the same political flaw: Their benefits accrue to a racially defined minority, but their viability depends on the support of a transracial majority.

Consider the political demographics. When it comes to race in America, "them times, they are a-changin.'" We are no longer a nation of Blacks and Whites -- far from it. Some 30 million newcomers, mostly of non-European origins, have arrived on our shores since the height of the civil fights movement. These new Americans and their children have a claim to the national narrative no less surely than do Blacks. It's their country, too. Of course, new immigrants are obligated as citizens of this republic to shoulder their share of the nation's responsibilities, including the discharge of any obligation the nation may have to correct for historical wrongs. But, the fact remains that a racial reform movement built around the theme of reparations can never truly engage them. …

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