David Horowitz, a conservative author, published this article in a number of locations, including Free Republic, Salon, Front Page, and the National Association for the Advancement of White People website. He also paid to have the article printed in school newspapers across the country, where it sparked heated debate. At Brown University, students actually destroyed copies of the school newspaper; at other schools, they protested, led boycotts of the newspaper, and made various demands of the administration. In some cases, the editors of the newspapers offered apologies; in other cases, they did not. At Duke University, the president expressed her disagreement with many of Horowitz's points but said that the article fell within the bounds of free speech--essentially, she said that you do not have a right to not be offended. She did offer to pay for an article responding to and refuting Horowitz's claims, but to date, no such article has appeared.
I've reprinted this article below. Now, before you get angry at me, I don't agree with every point he makes. Although some of his points are good, others are not well supported, and others seem pointlessly offensive. This article presents Horowitz's views, not mine. I present it here so that people can read the article that sparked such contentious debate and learn about some of the events that transpired. Even if you find it objectionable, you can react most effectively not by demanding its censorship but rather by preparing effective responses.
That aside, all available evidence indicates that I'm going to be called a racist, that people will think that I support everything written here (in spite of my emphatic disclaimer above) and will respond with emotional insults rather than logic. Oh, well.
(Note on copyright: he paid to publish this article in several newspapers; therefore, I doubt he'd mind that I'm reprinting it for free.)
One: There Is No Single Group Clearly Responsible For The Crime Of Slavery
Black Africans and Arabs were responsible for enslaving the ancestors of African-Americans. There were 3,000 black slave-owners in the ante-bellum United States. Are reparations to be paid by their descendants too?
Two: There Is No One Group That Benefited Exclusively From Its Fruits
The claim for reparations is premised on the false assumption that only whites have benefited from slavery. If slave labor created wealth for Americans, then obviously it has created wealth for black Americans as well, including the descendants of slaves. The GNP of black America is so large that it makes the African-American community the 10th most prosperous "nation" in the world. American blacks on average enjoy per capita incomes in the range of twenty to fifty times that of blacks living in any of the African nations from which they were kidnapped.
Three: Only A Tiny Minority Of White Americans Ever Owned Slaves, And Others Gave Their Lives To Free Them
Only a tiny minority of Americans ever owned slaves. This is true even for those who lived in the ante-bellum South where only one white in five was a slaveholder. Why should their descendants owe a debt? What about the descendants of the 350,000 Union soldiers who died
to free the slaves? They gave their lives. What possible moral principle would ask them to pay (through their descendants) again?
Four: America Today Is A Multi-Ethnic Nation and Most Americans Have No Connection (Direct Or Indirect) To
The two great waves of American immigration occurred after 1880 and then after 1960. What rationale would require Vietnamese boat people, Russian refuseniks, Iranian refugees, and Armenian victims of the Turkish
persecution, Jews, Mexicans, Greeks, or Polish, Hungarian, Cambodian,
and Korean victims of Communism, to pay reparations to American blacks?
Five: The Historical Precedents Used To Justify The Reparations Claim Do Not Apply, And The Claim Itself
Is Based On Race Not Injury
The historical precedents generally invoked to justify the reparations claim are payments to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, Japanese-Americans and African-American victims of racial experiments in Tuskegee, or
racial outrages in Rosewood and Oklahoma City. But in each case, the recipients of reparations were the direct victims of the injustice or their immediate families. This would be the only case of reparations to people who were not immediately affected and whose sole qualification
to receive reparations would be racial. As has already been pointed out, during the slavery era, many blacks were free men or slave-owners themselves, yet the reparations claimants make no distinction between the roles blacks actually played in the injustice itself. Randall Robinson's
book on reparations, The Debt, which is the manifesto of the reparations movement is pointedly sub-titled "What America Owes To Blacks." If this is not racism, what is?
The Reparations Argument Is
Based On The Unfounded Claim That All African-American Descendants of
Slaves Suffer From The Economic Consequences Of Slavery And Discrimination
No evidence-based attempt has been made to prove that living individuals have been adversely affected by a slave system that was ended over 150 years ago. But there is plenty of evidence the hardships that occurred
were hardships that individuals could and did overcome. The black middle-class
in America is a prosperous community that is now larger in absolute
terms than the black underclass. Does its existence not suggest that
economic adversity is the result of failures of individual character
rather than the lingering after-effects of racial discrimination and
a slave system that ceased to exist well over a century ago? West Indian
blacks in America are also descended from slaves but their average incomes
are equivalent to the average incomes of whites (and nearly 25% higher
than the average incomes of American born blacks). How is it that slavery
adversely affected one large group of descendants but not the other?
How can government be expected to decide an issue that is so subjective
- and yet so critical - to the case?
The Reparations Claim Is One
More Attempt To Turn African-Americans Into Victims. It Sends A Damaging
Message To The African-American Community.
The renewed sense of grievance -- which is what the claim for reparations
will inevitably create -- is neither a constructive nor a helpful message
for black leaders to be sending to their communities and to others.
To focus the social passions of African-Americans on what some Americans
may have done to their ancestors fifty or a hundred and fifty years
ago is to burden them with a crippling sense of victim-hood. How are
the millions of refugees from tyranny and genocide who are now living
in America going to receive these claims, moreover, except as demands
for special treatment, an extravagant new handout that is only necessary
because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within
reach of others -- many less privileged than themselves?
Reparations To African Americans
Have Already Been Paid
Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and the advent of the Great Society in 1965, trillions of dollars in transfer payments have been made to African-Americans in the form of welfare benefits and racial preferences (in contracts, job placements and educational admissions)
- all under the rationale of redressing historic racial grievances.
It is said that reparations are necessary to achieve a healing between African-Americans and other Americans. If trillion-dollar restitutions and a wholesale rewriting of American law (in order to accommodate racial
preferences) for African-Americans is not enough to achieve a "healing,"
What About The Debt Blacks
Owe To America?
Slavery existed for thousands of years before the Atlantic slave trade was born, and in all societies. But in the thousand years of its existence,
there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians - Englishmen
and Americans -- created one. If not for the anti-slavery attitudes
and military power of white Englishmen and Americans, the slave trade
would not have been brought to an end. If not for the sacrifices of
white soldiers and a white American president who gave his life to sign
the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would still be slaves. If not for the dedication of Americans of all ethnicities
and colors to a society based on the principle that all men are created
equal, blacks in America would not enjoy the highest standard of living
of blacks anywhere in the world, and indeed one of the highest standards
of living of any people in the world. They would not enjoy the greatest
freedoms and the most thoroughly protected individual rights anywhere.
Where is the gratitude of black America and its leaders for those gifts?
The Reparations Claim Is A
Separatist Idea That Sets African-Americans Against The Nation That
Gave Them Freedom
Blacks were here before the Mayflower. Who is
more American than the descendants of African slaves? For the African-American community to isolate itself even further from America is to embark on a course whose implications are troubling. Yet the African-American community has had a long-running flirtation with separatists, nationalists
and the political left, who want African-Americans to be no part of
America's social contract. African Americans should reject this temptation.
For all America's faults, African-Americans have
an enormous stake in their country and its heritage. It is this heritage
that is really under attack by the reparations movement. The reparations
claim is one more assault on America, conducted by racial separatists
and the political left. It is an attack not only on white Americans,
but on all Americans -- especially African-Americans.
America's African-American citizens are the
richest and most privileged black people alive -- a bounty that is a
direct result of the heritage that is under assault. The American idea
needs the support of its African-American citizens. But African-Americans
also need the support of the American idea. For it is this idea that
led to the principles and institutions that have set African-Americans
- and all of us -- free.