By the most curious of coincidences, just as the United Nations’ pompously titled “World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” was about to leap from the earth in Durban, South Africa, the issue of “reparations for slavery” enjoyed a renaissance in the United States. First, Newsweek devoted a large portion of its Aug. 27 issue to an amazingly lop-sided discussion of reparations and then the Sunday New York Times allowed historian David Brion Davis to maunder all over its “Week in Review” section in support of reparations.
The Newsweek articles are not especially noteworthy, except for the revelation, probably inadvertent, of at least one of the political agendas that lurks behind the racial guilt and tear-jerkery in any and every discussion of reparations. This particular agenda was disclosed by Manning Marable (to e-mail him, click here), head of “African-American Studies” at Columbia University.
“The fundamental problem of American democracy in the 21st century,” Professor Marable spouted, “is the problem of ‘structural racism’: the deep patterns of socio-economic inequality and accumulated disadvantage that are coded by race, and constantly justified in public discourse by both racist stereotypes and white indifference.” Mr. Marable fails to adduce a single morsel of evidence for his generalization, but that sort of thing never stops specialists in “African-American Studies” anyway.
What the prof’s remarks do reveal, however, is that the agenda behind reparations is in part racial collectivism, and he urges the establishment of a “reparations trust fund” with “the goal of closing the socioeconomic gap between blacks and whites.” White guilt over slavery therefore is useful to undermine any white resistance to divvying up the national swag with their black brethren. Lenin and Mao had to rely on revolutionary violence and state terror to grab other people’s money, but the racial revolution that hides behind reparations is starting off by manipulating guilt.
Guilt is exactly what David Brion Davis, a distinguished historian of slavery, was selling in his New York Times installment. “The United States,” he tells us, “is only now beginning to recover from the Confederacy’s ideological victory following the Civil War.” You might think that means that Confederate ideological beliefs like states’ rights and agrarianism won, but no, all it means is that the rest of the nation failed to sign on with the radical determination to make all white Americans wallow in guilt for slavery. The reason they didn’t was that no one except for a handful of radicals in the North had any interest in slavery. From Lincoln on down, most on the Union side were interested in keeping the nation together. Abolishing slavery was mainly an after-thought. Nor were most Americans interested in revolutionizing the South or the rest of the country for the sake of blacks. Maybe this was an “ideological victory” for the Confederacy, but maybe also it was just a common sense reaction to a bloody and disastrous civil war.
But. Professor Davis’ point is that the reaction was intended to hide the real role of slavery in American society, and most of his article details the very large role slavery did in fact play. He mentions, among others, “European investors in the slave trade,” major philosophers like John Locke and Voltaire; “wealthy Virginian and Brazilian middlemen,” “New Englanders,” and even the mere “European and American consumers of slave-produced goods.” His point is to make sure we know that we’re all guilty of slavery—Europeans and Americans, Northerners and Southerners, slave traders and consumers, businessmen and intellectuals, even Brazilians—and therefore we all owe for reparations. Of course, Professor Davis conveniently downplays the role of Africans themselves in the slave trade.
His purpose also is to discredit the whole body of Western and American civilization by insisting that racial slavery was an integral and major part of it (though of course one could also argue that he legitimizes racial slavery by showing how important it was in Western history). That’s also what Professor Marable tries to do with his “deep patterns” of “structural racism.” Here we reach the real core of the reparations issue and the real reason it keeps popping up—the delegitimization of the old, white, European, and Eurocentric America and the legitimization of a new, non-white, non-European, and even anti-white and anti-European America. The money for reparations is largely just a teaser; the real pay-off is the racial power that reparations and the acknowledgement of white guilt and white illegitimacy would bring.
The reparations issue may go back underground for a while after the ill-advised Durban conference is over, but don’t imagine it will go for good. What’s behind reparations is not just a fad or a foolish conceit of a few eggheads, but a concerted grab for power by one race against another.