Reparations for slavery, once a fringe issue touted by a motley mix of
black separatists, zealots and crackpots and that respected mainstream civil
rights leaders shunned, have now been slammed onto the nation's public-policy
Leaders of the NAACP, the Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus
all agree that reparations have merit. Outside of President George W. Bush's
national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, no other prominent black dares to
publicly denounce reparations. Even some top white politicians, such as Chicago
Mayor Richard Daley, have given a passing nod to reparations as valid for
consideration. The Washington reparations march Saturday aimed to put pressure
on Congress and the administration to soften their resistance to reparations.
However, there is a simple reason Bush will not embrace reparations. He
reads the opinion polls, and they show that the overwhelming majority of
whites, other non-blacks and even many blacks think that reparations are a bad
idea. And the numbers aren't close. A CNN/USA Today poll taken after blacks
filed two well-publicized reparations lawsuits last February found that 75
percent of Americans said corporations should not pay reparations, and a
whopping 90 percent said the government should not pay reparations.
Reparations advocates have grabbed at every argument in the book to dent
the wall of public resistance. They offer assurances that black millionaires,
corporate presidents, superstar athletes and entertainers won't get a dime of
reparations money, that it will go to programs to aid the black poor and that
it won't guilt-trip all whites. They point out that Japanese Americans and
Holocaust survivors have gotten reparations.
These arguments still fall on deaf ears. The reparations movement can't
shake the public tag that it is a movement exclusively of, by and for blacks.
Despite countless speeches pleading for racial brotherhood and interracial