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A Time for Reparations

The Fox News narrative goes something like this: the brutal killing of George Floyd is condemnable, but violent protest in response is even more deplorable. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, China’s new security law is despicable, yet violent protests are now commendable.

In Michigan, armed resistance to the government sanctioned lockdown is patriotic; while in Palestine...anyway, you get the idea. If you’re suffering whiplash from such obvious hypocrisy, then obviously you’re a new viewer to Fox.

The liberal mainstream media isn’t any better. They’ve worked themselves into a self-hating frenzy and are using this righteous fuel to further fan the flames. The right wing may not be looking for a solution, but the left isn’t offering one either.

Yet perhaps one may emerge from the unlikeliest of sources: Covid-19. If it’s done anything, the pandemic has shown us that age-old assumptions can be turned on its head in a flash. So much that was once unthinkable is now commonplace.

The crisis has proven that social conventions are only as enduring as its usefulness allows. The very same elitists forsworn off socialism are scattering vast sums like birdseed. These bigwigs who bemoaned healthcare for bankrupting us have now miraculously conjured up a trillion dollars from the ether.

After all, if we had the wallet to bail out the big banks after the global financial crisis and cut taxes for corporations and the uber rich, then might not more outlandish schemes find its calling in the midst of the pandemic.

The murder of Mr. Floyd has ripped the scab off a never healing wound - the plight of black people in America. Whites make up 60% of the population but have retained an iron grip on political, institutional, and corporate control. Even under President Obama the needle barely moved, and anyway Trump is hell-bent to reclaim any lost ground.

Whites’ median household income is 50% higher than African Americans - who rank at the bottom in income, education, and life expectancy. They take top billing in one dubious category, however, with more black males incarcerated in US prisons than any other race, despite making up only 12% of the population.

On top of all that, African Americans are burdened with the legacy of 400 years of slavery and oppression. Unlike other immigrants to the new world, Africans acquired their American citizenship as a consequence of a dehumanizing enterprise.

Why, then, should we not explore the possibility of recompense for their immense labor and sacrifice. If we can distribute wealth to the banks, the corporations and the wealthy, then why not also to the social underclass. Indeed, we are doing just so under Covid relief programs.

This isn’t pure charity either; it’s good common sense. A social contract is simply an unwritten acceptance of norms in behavior that both sides accept. When this contract disproportionately favors one side over the other, then the justification in upholding it erodes quickly. No amount of rubber bullets, tear gas, force or oppression is going to ensure compliance if one side is determined to opt out.

America is quick to point this out to China as it relates to Hong Kong, but less ready to accept it for themselves. And so far they’ve dodged the bullet. From repeated outrage to outrage they revert to the normal state, kicking the ball further down the field. But Covid might change all that.

The same administration that fought tooth and nail to eradicate healthcare for all its citizens have approved a trillion dollars in subsidies. It’s all funny money anyway - just an entry item in an electronic ledger. Why not make another one, and distribute another trillion for every black man woman and child in America, That’s $2,500 for each of the 40 million black Americans, a mere symbolic acknowledgement of their suffering, but an essential step in the right direction.

In addition, spend another trillion investing into schools, housing, hospitals and infrastructure in black neighborhoods and communities. Before you panic and call this socialism just remember it’s all been done before and for much less noble causes. Just call it another quantitative easing - not for bailing out banks or buffering stock markets - but for long overdue social justice.

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