What does Reparations look like?

In the spirit of Black History Month, I’d love to enter into a serious discussion about reparations. It seems as though this has become a taboo topic, because of the tension it brings with Blacks and Whites. It’s sort of the new racism: If you are for it, then you want to get something for nothing. If you are against it, then you are a racist.

This should not be.

Maybe it’s another case that America is not smart enough to really deal with. I mean, as a country, we are already paying reparations to a variety of folks, including Native Americans, Japanese atomic bomb survivors and Holocaust survivors. The word” reparations” simply means “to repair.” This concept brings up the idea of being broken. The idea of pay is just one way; not THE way.

I am in favor of reparations. But I think we need to be careful what we call reparations. I’m not for cutting a check for every person that had a link to slavery. Actually, I don’t think reparations should even be connected to slavery. You see, there are some things that our government did deliberately to African-Americans. These things had lasting effects that have made it difficult for some to become anything but a permanent underclass.

There was a missed opportunity for the Bush Administration to redeem itself when the recession started. Consistent with his ideology of tax breaks and stimulus packages, Bush could have ordered reparations be given to the poor in the amount of $30,000 and say that it’s because of slavery. “Poor” would be defined as any African-American who is living in generational poverty (two generations or more). If Bush did this, he would have redeemed himself and the Republican party because he would have literally bought the poor black vote. At the same time,  in 2008, now President Barack Obama spoke against reparations. If we are being honest, we know that the 30k would have ended up right back into the economy in less than 30 days. What a jump start that would have been. It may have even ended the concept of White guilt … or maybe not.

So here is what I would propose for reparations. What I would like to see happen is to give opportunity, not money. The Federal Housing Administration did not do right by minorities in the 1930s. Low interest rate loans were given to White people to buy nice homes and the loans had nothing to do with their credit. They got those home loans because of the color of their skin. I say we do the same thing today. Identify the disenfranchised of our time and help them into a home that, on their own, they could never get. I don’t mean to give a mansion away to the poor, but I do mean to follow the example of Habitat for Humanity and make that single mom with four kids a homeowner. Literally, grant her a pass on the credit score and give her a loan to have a reasonable mortgage payment not to exceed $400 a month. This house has to be in a suburban area with a better than average school system. This could easily be done. As a country we’ve done it before.

The second thing I would do is grant 10 years of government paid education (or forgiveness if you have school loans and finished your degree). This would allow any minority who is on welfare and in a dead end career to elevate themselves higher. They would have to put in the work though. They could never be on academic probation and they would have to have a life coach. This would grant those who have had hard lives to get a second chance to fix some of the problems they have had.

The sad part of all this is that most would not take advantage of it. Nevertheless, it’s something that should be done. It’s finally an opportunity to get ahead with the assistance of your government working in your favor. This is what reparations should look like.