August 19, 2002

BEYOND REPAIR: A rally was

BEYOND REPAIR: A rally was held in Washington, DC, over the weekend in which African-Americans gathered to demand reparations for slavery. The reparations movement has gained quite a bit of steam in recent years, although if those who participated saw this rally as their chance to obtain widespread mainstream acceptance of the reparations idea, then I foresee a problem.
Speakers throughout, rather than emulating Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or even Jesse Jackson, went even further- loony Brooklyn-based city councilman Charles Barron (who recently led a delegation that visited tyrannical dictator Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe) set the tone for the day when he suggested the violent overthrow of the government and later stated that "I'm going to go and slap the first white man I can find." Despite the name "Millions For Reparations," the attendance was in the low thousands, echoing a similar rally several months ago, a week after the rally for Israel at the Capitol, in which a speaker claimed that "we don't have so many people here, but we didn't pay people to come like the Jews did."
Even though polls show that a majority of blacks favor reparations (just as any demographic group would react affirmatively if you offered them free money), any discussion about reparations must begin with the caveat that reparations will never happen. There's no way it will ever be accepted by society at large, nor is it socially, fiscally, or politically feasible. The morality of reparations can be debated endlessly, but the fact is, the point is moot. The true legacy of the reparations movement will likely be that it becomes a visible political issue in the mid-'00s, probably influencing the 2004 presidential election around the candidacy of Al Sharpton- as a corollary, it may very well be the issue that will derail (if not destroy) the Democratic party. Ultimately I see the reparations movement becoming a more subversive version of the Equal Rights Amendment- an initiative that takes off, divides America sharply, and then eventually peters out when it becomes apparent that it will not succeed.

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 19, 2002 08:07 PM
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