A group of activists in California are demanding a staggering amount of money as reparations for slavery and racial discrimination: $200 million for each and every African American living in the state. This outrageous claim is based on a distorted interpretation of the historical promise of “40 acres and a mule” to former slaves, which they claim is equivalent to $200 million in today’s dollars.
The activists are not satisfied with the proposals of the state’s reparations task force, which has estimated that the total cost of reparations could be more than $800 billion, or more than twice the state’s annual budget. The task force has suggested various ways of calculating the losses suffered by black residents due to discrimination in areas such as policing, health, education, and business. The task force has also recommended that eligible recipients receive “cash down payments” as part of the reparations package.
The activists’ demand is not only absurd and unrealistic, but also insulting and divisive. It is insulting to the taxpayers of California, who would have to foot the bill for this massive transfer of wealth based on race. It is also insulting to the black residents of California, who are not a monolithic group with a single history or identity.
Many black Californians are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came to the state after slavery was abolished, and who have contributed to the state’s economy and culture. To lump them all together as victims of slavery and discrimination is to ignore their diversity and agency. It is also divisive to pit one racial group against another, and to create resentment and hostility among Californians of different backgrounds and experiences. Reparations based on race are not a solution to the problems of racism and inequality, but a recipe for more conflict and polarization.
The state of California should reject the activists’ demand and focus on more constructive and realistic ways of addressing the legacy of slavery and discrimination. The state should invest in improving the quality and accessibility of education, health care, housing, and employment for all Californians, especially those who are disadvantaged or marginalized. The state should also promote dialogue and reconciliation among different racial and ethnic groups, and celebrate the diversity and unity of California. These are the ways to heal the wounds of the past and create a better future for everyone without falling back to segregation which is what they are trying to do.
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