In early January 2016, during the waning days of the Obama Administration, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) submitted his infamous HR40 as he has every year since 1989. The title of the bill is a somewhat less than subtle throw to Civil War Gen. Sherman’s order to grant 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves during the Reconstruction, later reversed by Congress.
The stated purpose of Conyers' Bill is:
"To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes."
In 2016 Senator Bernie Sanders & Fmr. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected the notion of reparations. I, very uncomfortably, found myself agreeing with them. The difference is that they used the issue as a political football, whereas I reject the notion entirely on these grounds:
There is absolutely no logic behind the notion that anyone born after February 1, 1865 (The date the 13th Amendment entered law) could be legally liable for reparations related to slavery in the United States.
If such an individual (born 1/31/1864) were alive today they would be 152 years old. Even further: allowing for the voting age in 1864 (relaxed to 18 from the previous 21) any individuals born after 1846 were minors and thereby not legally responsible for the action or inaction of elected officials. The oldest person alive today in the United States is Adele Dunlap, who was born Dec. 12, 1902, in Newark, NJ and at 113 years old was fully two generations removed from slavery.
Simply put, the only people who could potentially be held liable for a Tort have been dead for approximately 50 years. From any logical, legal perspective the case is invalid. While members of the government, ergo the people who elected them, could have theoretically been held legally liable for Tort against former slaves, they're all dead. The victims are all dead. The issue is dead. To move forward as a society, we cannot exact vengeance from dead men.
The practice of slavery ended with an atonement in blood-- the blood of 600 thousand people lost in the American Civil War. Was that price, along with fifty years of affirmative action insufficient penance on a national scale for this sin?
Furthermore and a bit closer to home, I, like many Americans and many millennial Americans, am descended from families who emigrated to the United States long after the South's guns fell silent. This begs the question: if neither I, nor my ancestors took any part in, nor benefitted from the slavery and oppression of the African people in the American South between 1619 and 1865, then what would possibly entitle any of their descendants to my hard earned money?
The root concept of this brazen redistribution of wealth is fundamentally flawed, patently insulting, and a thoroughly disgraceful. It is a thinly veiled attempt at theft on a massive scale. Representative Conyers has shown behavior completely unbecoming a United States Congressman, and the fact that his travesty of a bill has been proposed yearly since it was first introduced in 1989 with no repercussions is the most damning part of all.
Redistribution of wealth is theft, and the notion of reparations for slavery is a farce.