By Rudy Barnes, Jr., May 13, 2023
Justice means different things to different people--especially those of different races. Last week a California panel called for a state law that would pay billions in racial reparations. Racism is the most divisive political issue in America, and racial reconciliation, not reparations, is needed to reduce racism. Reparations would only exacerbate racism and racial injustice.
Justice has no price tag. Civil rights laws can provide damages for violations of civil rights laws, but not for systematic racism. Reparations require laws that define the wrongs done and who is entitled to damages. Reparations were paid to those Japanese incarcerated in America during WWII; but there is no precedent for racial reparations to descendants of slaves.
Laws providing reparations to the descendants of slaves would open a Pandora's box for descendants of those who have suffered other forms of discrimination. Unless monetary damages are limited to those who actually suffer discrimination, such damages would go beyond civil rights and equal justice under the law, and be an unworkable political remedy.
When racial reparations are defined in money entitlements, they don’t provide racial reconciliation or justice, only a demand for more entitlements and more racism. Racial reconciliation, not reparations, is needed to reduce racism and provide for the common good. Racial reparations would further divide races in America, not reconcile them.
Americans have trouble distinguishing between the cause and effect of racism, and there are no serious efforts to address the negative attitudes that cause racism and the resulting violence. The churches expected to promote moral principles of justice and reconciliation are part of the problem, since most congregations are racially segregated.
Pluralistic democracy is being tested globally by numerous forms of discrimination and prejudice, with racism at the top of the list. The first requirement for justice in a pluralistic democracy is finding peace among political adversaries. That requires making racial reconciliation a moral priority. So far, American democracy has failed the test.
The fabric of America’s polarized democracy is coming apart at its racial and partisan seams. Racial, religious and ethnic divisions are threatening the demise of democracy, with increasing gun violence an indicator of the anger rising from real and perceived forms of racial, religious and ethnic discrimination. Reparations would only create more violence.
The greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions is a moral imperative to seek reconciliation. It doesn't require consensus on all issues, only a commitment to seek the common good. As a moral imperative taught by Jesus it should be a priority of Christianity, but the church has made exclusivist beliefs a priority over reconciliation. That’s not likely to change since most congregations avoid racial and partisan political issues.
On A California panel calling for billions in racial reparations for descendants of slaves, see https://www.npr.org/2023/05/07/1174627337/a-california-panel-has-called-for-billions-in-reparations-for-black-residents.
One commentator has opined that “There simply is no legitimate claim to ‘equity’ from anyone [e.g. illegal immigrants] outside of Americans descended from slaves.” See Biden's Open Border Hurts Black Americans Most of All—and We Know It at https://www.newsweek.com/bidens-open-border-hurts-black-americans-most-all-we-know-it-opinion.
On this day 141 years ago, a new [immigration] law began reshaping America. More than a century later, Congress apologized for it. See https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/06/us/chinese-exclusion-act-1882-cec/index.html.
Counterpoint: The Danger of Racial Reparations as a Means of Restorative Justice, at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/02/counterpoint-danger-of-racial.html. See also, Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Overcoming Racism, at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/04/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.
On religion, race and politics:
(7/5/15): Reconciliation as a Remedy for Racism and Religious Exclusivism
(7/12/15): Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/07/reconciliation-in-race-and-religion.html
(7/19/15): Religion, Heritage and the Confederate Flag
(3/12/16): Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America
(3/26/16): Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(7/16/16): The Elusive Ideal of Political Reconciliation
(10/22/16): The Need for a Politics of Reconciliation in a Polarized Democracy
(11/19/16): Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation Based on Shared Values
(11/26/16): Irreconcilable Differences and the Demise of Democracy
(2/18/17): Gerrymandering, Race and Polarized Partisan Politics
(8/19/17): Hate, History and the Need for a Politics of Reconciliation
(11/11/17): A Politics of Reconciliation that Should Begin in the Church
(12/9/17): Religion, Race and Identity Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/12/religion-race-and-identity-politics.html.
(1/6/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Diversity in Democracy
(10/20/18): Lamentations of an Old White Male Maverick Methodist in a Tribal Culture
(12/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Justice in Religion and Politics
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(7/6/19): Musings on Democrats, Busing and Racism: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors?
(11/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Polarization and Reconciliation
(7/11/20): Musings on America’s Culture War, Racism and Christian Morality in Politics
(8/1/20): Musings on Echoes from 1860 as America Seeks Truth and Reconciliation
(8//8/20): Musings on Religion and Racism: Belief in a White Jesus and White Supremacy
(8/15/20): Musings on Racism, Reparations, Racial Disparities and the Federal Reserve
(9/12/20): Musings on the Demise of American Democracy: Is It Deja Vu All Over Again?
(9/19/20): Musings on Law and Order, Reconciliation and Racial Justice
(12/5/20): Musings on the Preference of White Christians for Demagoguery over Democracy
(1/16/21): Truth and Reconciliation in Politics and Religion in a Maze of Conflicting Realities
(2/15/21): Counterpoint: The Danger of Racial Reparations as a Means of Restorative Justice
(4/3/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Overcoming Racism
(6/12/21): From Hammond and Tillman to Trump: A Legacy of Shame for South Carolina
(6/26/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project
(7/3/21): Musings on Slavery and Systemic Racism on Independence Day
(7/10/21): Musings on the Need for Racial Reconciliation in America’s Divisive Democracy
(2/19/22): Musings on Reconciliation to Resolve the Dilemma of Diversity in Democracy
(8/6/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Moderating Hatred in Partisan Politics