Chairman Cohen, Ranking Member Johnson and Members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to share this testimony as you consider the creation of a reparations commission. I respectfully suggest that this approach will lead to further injustices and harmful division in our nation. The proposed commission structure in H.R. 40 will effectively be 13 members who hold the same views and advocate for the same inappropriate responses to deeper cultural issues.
There will be nothing restorative or constructive in such an approach. Virtue signaling approval to begin cash payments to descendants of slaves is not a strategy that will bear fruit.
It’s true that enslaved ancestors of blacks were robbed. They were robbed of their labor, their happiness, their lives, their property and their families. And this continued into the 20th century through racist laws that excluded blacks from opportunities available only to whites.
The core problem with the idea of reparations is the notion of collective guilt. Payment of damages is an appropriate legal concept, but also involves identifying exactly who caused the damage and identifying exactly who suffered the damage.
According to the U.S. Census, the population of the United States in 1860 was 31,443,321. Let’s identify the official end of slavery in the United States with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.
According to the Library of Congress, between 1870 and 1900, 12 million people immigrated to the United States; between 1900 and 1915 another 15 million immigrated. This means by the second decade of the 20th century, approximately half the American population had no ancestor that was present in the United States when slavery was legal. Of today’s some 330 million Americans, the overwhelming majority had no ancestor in the United States when slavery was legal.
Even if one wanted to make the bizarre legal case that an individual is legally responsible for damages committed by their ancestors of many generations ago, this strange argument would still not hold water today because most Americans today do not have ancestors that were present in the days when slavery legally existed in the United States.
How about the era of Jim Crow? Do we also want to blame all Americans for those injustices? That would be an insult to the country and the millions of fine, moral Americans who opposed racist laws that persisted in the country at that time.
According to the documentary “Freedom Riders” that was aired on PBS, half the freedom riders in the south in the early 1960s were white.
Of three young men murdered during this period documented in the film “Mississippi Burning” – Chaney, Goodman, and Schwermer – one was black and two were white Jewish Americans.
Our nation ended racial hierarchies. We had a war and later a march, a brutal struggle for every American to live the American Dream with equal rights under the law — a very American idea.
Since then, certain activists determined they could hold power by stoking the cold embers of institutional racism. We are now witnessing the emboldened Left push a dangerous idea that will fracture our freedom by organizing our society by the sins of our fathers.
When the government determines whether you deserve your property and wealth, we lose our freedom. We cannot let that happen.
Since the Great Society began in the 1960s, we’ve watched out-of-wedlock births for blacks increase from 23 percent to 76 percent today. We’ve watched the Left steal trillions of dollars from Americans’ pocketbooks to give away to voters with nothing to show for it. After all, the poverty rate remains the same today as when the Great Society began in 1964.
I call government dependency “Uncle Sam’s Plantation” — and wrote a book about it. It was a pastor who dared to tell me to get off welfare and change my life. I listened to him and turned my life around. We can touch so many more Americans like me who are hungry for truth.
When Supreme Court Justice John Roberts ruled against racial classifications in Parents Involved in 2007, he wrote, “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
The promise of the American Dream belongs to all of our citizens, regardless of their race, creed or national origin. Let’s come together in the cause of freedom and reject misguided ideas like racial reparations. Only then can we realize the unifying goal that all of our nation’s people be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
There is no question that much work needs to be done in America regarding race. But fixing the situation of race in America will not be achieved by furthering the distorted idea that drives racism to begin with.
That is, viewing individuals as a collective rather than for what they are in reality and in the eyes of God – unique individuals.
Racial inequities cannot be addressed in America in any way other than making sure that every American enjoys what our Constitution guarantees – freedom in life, liberty and property, and that each individual American can and does take personal responsibility and take full advantages of the beauty and wonders of freedom.
Black Americans suffer disparities today because of too much government involvement in their lives, rather than not enough.
Glaring examples of distortions caused by government policy that limit freedom of black Americans to pursue freedom of life, liberty and property include the Social Security system, housing and education policy.
The U.S. Social Security system forces every American to pay a payroll tax into the system, despite the fact that wealth is built through savings and investment. The Social Security payroll tax takes the little low-income Americans have to save and invest, thereby denying them the opportunity to grow their own savings for retirement.
Taking the example of a low-income couple where one earned over a lifetime 45% of national median income and the other 25%, that couple would receive in retirement a Social Security benefit of $21,035 per year. If that same couple could have invested 10% of their paycheck in a highly diversified portfolio of stock, using actual historic data from 1971 to 2015 (a theoretical working life of 45 years for that couple), they could have accumulated wealth that would generate income at retirement of $40,610 per year – almost double what they receive from Social Security.
Furthermore, confiscation of income in the form of the payroll tax confiscates ownership. Taking ownership of those funds would afford that same couple the opportunity to bequest wealth to their heirs.
According to the Federal Reserve, 29.9% of white Americans say they have received inheritance or another family gift.; only 10% of black Americans do.
Other areas where black Americans suffer as a result of having their freedom abridged through government policy are housing and education.
Government housing policies force black Americans into segregated neighborhoods. This needs to stop and we need housing policies that maximize the ability of individuals to choose where they want to live.
Similarly, African Americans are disproportionately forced into government run failing public schools.
Charter schools and policies that enable parents to choose where to send their children to school must be adopted.
Rather than going down the divisive and inequitable path of pursuing reparations, we need to show appropriate respect for the judgment of black Americans – and all Americans. We all deserve the opportunity to make investment decisions in retirement, housing and education that will allow our families to thrive and realize the American Dream.
Star Parker is the founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education and author of “Necessary Noise: How Donald Trump Inflames the Culture War and Why This is Good News for America.”
She hosts a weekly show called “Cure America with Star Parker.”