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Elusive remedies for historical grievances

Melvin B. Miller

In every session of the U.S. Congress during his tenure, John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced a bill to study and develop reparation proposals. Now Rashida Tlaib holds Conyers’ seat from Detroit, but HR40 is once again before the House. With the Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, and with liberals and people of color so dominant, a bill might be passed to establish the commission to study the issue. However, there is no assurance that such a measure will survive in the Senate. Still many believe that a resolution of the reparations issue would help to resolve the nation’s racial conflict.

Those expecting reparations to uplift the spirit and creativity of African Americans are probably underestimating the cumulative damage to the human psyche from sustained oppression. In a recent commentary in the New York Times, Paul Krugman claimed that the East Germans have not yet recovered from the Communist oppression. The Russians gained control of East Germany in 1945 and they built the Berlin Wall to exclude contact with the West. The wall did not fall until Nov. 9, 1989, only 44 years later.

According to Krugman, a recognized economist, West Germany has spent $1.7 trillion in the 29.5 years since the fall of the wall to revive East German productivity. That amounts to about $100,000 per resident, yet the economy still lags. National leaders with substantial resources have not solved the problem in Germany in 30 years. Black leaders should have little expectation for benefits that could result from reparations, even if adequate funds were made available. Blacks have suffered slavery, abuse and racial discrimination in the U.S. for more than two centuries. The impact on black culture has been extensive.

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