by David Horowitz
This book, subtitled “The Controversy Over Reparations For Slavery,” does more than examine the issue of atonement by whites over the bitter legacy of slavery. It looks at the response such a debate (or attempt at such) inspires — a debate that unfortunately tends to charges of racism and the near-total abandonment of the right of free speech. David Horowitz, former lefty turned conservative author, attempted in 2001 to place an ad entitled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations For Slavery is a Bad Idea — And Racist, Too” in college newspapers around the country. Why he did this — either to spark a debate or to garner press coverage — is not made clear in the book, but whatever the reason, the ad sparked a firestorm of controversy. Most colleges refused to run the ad, claiming the ad — and its author — was racist, the ad a form of hate speech. In today’s climate of political correctness ruling all else on college campuses, this could not be tolerated.
In describing the ordeal he went through with ad, Horowitz illustrates just how divisive the issue of race still is in our country, and how little today’s youth know of their history. The ten reasons he states against reparations may well be controversial, but none are lies. The black students who protested such statements as “There is no one group responsible for the crime of slavery,” he was only stating a fact. Black Africans and Arabs owned slaves, but only non-black Americans are being demanded to pay reparations. Slavery existed in Africa long after it was outlawed in America, but those who protest Horowitz and his ad ignore these issues, as well as many others. Instead, they paint themselves as victims of an institution that has long since ended — by white Europeans and Americans, another fact ignored by the protesters — and it is this attitude that perhaps strikes at the heart of the matter. Generations of minorities have been raised in this country to perceive themselves as victims. From the “Great Society” of Johnson to affirmative action, they have been told that without special treatment based on the color of their skin, they are unable to compete and contribute in America. When Horowitz states that perhaps some of the fears are based “…because they (black students) fear that the umbilical link to victimhood will be cut and they will be forced into the moral complexity of full citizenship — a status their mentors have purposefully withheld from them?,” he hits the nail on the head. Black figureheads such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan are not leaders of anything but their own bank accounts, while voices such as Thomas Sowell are ignored or chided by the black community.
When this book was written, reparations had been debated for years, but nothing formal had been brought about. This recently changed, however, with the filing of a class action lawsuit on behalf of all “black Americans descended from slaves” — a group that includes such persons as Michael Jordan, Colin Powell, and Oprah Winfrey, who by no stretch of the imagination can be called victims of slavery — against Aetna Insurance, Fleet Financial, and CSX Railroads, for an undetermined amount (but one that could reach as high as 1.4 trillion dollars, according to the filing). This makes Horowitz’s book and the debate it raises even more vital than before. While no one is saying that slavery was not an inhumane, horrible situation, it is markedly unfair to hold today’s non-black citizens accountable for something that ended years before their birth, nor is it correct to reward a group of people money for something they have not suffered from. It is a shame that anyone who questions the idea of reparations is branded a racist for doing so, for this limits free debate. It is not hate speech to state facts, or even contested opinions — it is free speech. This right, along with something known as the Emancipation Proclamation, are just a few of the things our forefathers left us. Both should be cherished — and observed. This book is a step in that direction.
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