Barr: The Racial Reparations Train Gathers Steam

Slavery – a stain on our history by any reckoning – met its constitutional end in the late 1860s when the 13th and 14th Amendments to our Constitution were ratified. Additional constitutional amendments, in conjunction with numerous civil and criminal laws, especially those passed in the mid-20th Century, cemented the rights of African Americans into a meaningful legal system. 

For advocates of race-based reparations, however, none of these corrective measures suffice; for them, taxpayers today must be forced to make monetary and other amends for the sins of their forebearers.

Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago with a population of  about 80,000 residents (and dealing with a sharp increase in crime), has put its taxpayers’ money where its political priorities lie, becoming the first municipality in the country to actually make cash payments to atone for past racial injustice in housing. The City in 2019 had earmarked $10 million for this project and recently began disbursing cash, with the first $25,000 payments going to 140 “elderly” residents.

Obviously in Evanston, atoning for sins of the past trumps concern for addressing problems of today.

New York City is moving slower but still aboard the reparations train. The Empire State’s legislature last month passed a bill creating a commission to study reparations for slavery (which ended in New York nearly two centuries ago, in 1827).

It is California, however, that has dived head-first into the racial reparations controversy. Late last month, the “California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom three years ago, sent the state legislature its “Final Report.” 

If judged by its length alone, the Task Force’s report deserves an A+. It is well over 1,000 pages long, buttressed with hundreds upon hundreds of footnotes, and identifies just about every conceivable direct, indirect, or imagined aspect of racial discrimination. 

The Final Report clearly is an extensive “look back” at harms to African Americans. It also “leans forward” in a big way into myriad ways to fix those injuries. As one writer noted, its list of remedies is so “far-reaching” they “have to be seen to be believed.”  Indeed.

Central to the Report’s call for numerous “reparatory” measures, is the “wealth gap” between African Americans and “other racial groups.” But the Report identifies and discusses many other “gaps,” including divergences in health, education, food, politics, environment, criminal law, entrepreneurship, and housing. Reparatory measures are recommended for each identified gap.

The Report’s formulaic solution for these racially imposed gaps, appears to be to calculate the percentage of African Americans who fall in an identified gap measured against the percent of African Americans in the state. 

Thus, for example, as the above-cited writer notes, “child support” in the state has discriminated against African Americans because, “although African Americans are less than seven percent of California’s population, they represent around 18  percent of the parents who owe child support debt.” Ipso facto, legislation is needed “to eliminate interest on past-due child support and back child support debt.” 

Predictably, the Report pans “barriers” to voting by African Americans, such as voter identification. It calls for a complete end to cash bail in criminal cases. To solve other perceived racial disparities in criminal law, the Report also recommends stopping “consent-only searches” by police. An even more dramatic recommendation, one that would lead to unfathomable chaos in California law enforcement, is to close prisons throughout the state.

The Report even recommends outlawing police procedures that already are illegal, such as “pre-textual traffic stops.”

Although in a way less serious than recommendations that would effectively dismantle California’s entire criminal justice system, but which still would be problematic, are the Report’s calls for mandatory “anti-racist” and “sensitivity” training programs, including in schools. 

California students, for example, would be taught “cultural humility” in order to avoid even the slight chance that a student would inadvertently offend a fellow student who might be LGBTQ.

The many fanciful, but serious recommendations in this Reparations Task Force Report, as far-reaching as they are, still are not enough for some of the state’s Democrat lawmakers, who are now pushing a bill to force judges to explicitly factor race into sentencing. If this proposal is implemented, it would force judges to violate not only their oath of office but the Constitution of the United States. The nonsense is never ending.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.

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