Why The Notion of Slavery Reparations is Ludicrous

Professor Lawrence Brown of Morgan State University tweeted out some interesting ideas last week. Brown has since shut off the tap to the public, but luckily, Steven Crowder screen-grabbed several of his tweets before that happened.

On June 1, 2015, Brown tweeted:

“My new criteria for white allies is gonna be: How much are you using your whiteness to LITERALLY eliminate the racial wealth gap?”

He also tweeted this gem:

lawrence brown

Even if Brown is writing facetiously, his tweets being up a much greater issue. The idea of slavery reparations has always been one that makes me cringe because of its absolute lack of logic.

When one group—typically black minorities—demand that the government, or individuals whose ancestors owned slaves or contributed to the slave culture (see: 99% of the population), give modern minorities their personal wealth as an apology is wildly illogical. It removes any aspect of personal responsibility from the equation–it’s akin to original sin.

If I, as a son of the American Revolution, owe my personally gained wealth to someone else because of what my ancestors did in the 1700’s or 1800’s, then when is the cutoff point? If I am to take responsibility for the actions of my relatives dating back at least 160 years, where does it end? Why are the slave days the arbitrary cutoff date of reparations?

If we’re discarding personal responsibility, there can be no time limits set on reparations because those limits are entirely arbitrary. We all have ancestors going back thousands of years. We know this because we’re alive now. Given that my heritage is mostly German, do the ancestors of Vikings owe me money because of the Viking slave trade that took place 1,300 years ago? Do Egyptians owe Jews slavery reparations for the generation that served during the time of Moses?

At some point, everyone will owe everyone else money. It’ll be an equal exchange of wealth—and everything will remain exactly the same.

The notion of slavery reparations discards personal responsibility in favor of an original sin concept in which we carry the guilt from the actions of our ancestors. But in doing so, we must also discard personal responsibility. The cake can’t be had and eaten, too.

I’m not personally responsible for slavery or oppression, but I owe reparations? Am I not a free agent? Am I simply a carrier of ancestral guilt? If my father commits murder, do I get hanged? I guess so.

I will not be held responsible for what someone else did. It’s illogical, asinine, and ultimately a slap in the face of free agency. If we are to be executed for the crimes of the father, then what’s the point of having free will?

If we are inextricably linked to the negative actions of our ancestors, and must atone for them ourselves, then that extends beyond slavery and to every single negative action ever taken by our ancestors.

Why just pay black people for slavery? Why not pay everyone for every bad deed? Reparations lead to a crushed society in which every person is so heavily burdened by the atrocities of “our past” that we can no longer breathe.

We are either personally responsible for our actions, and thus able to atone for them ourselves, or we are ancestrally responsible, and thus irredeemable.