Unless ten trillion dollars can change four centuries of behavior, it may not be enough.
The election of Barack Obama to the highest office in our country 13 years ago, certainly did scare the bejesus out of a lot of white people—so much so that when given the opportunity, they elected Donald Trump, a candidate whose only platform was a return to the white America that flourished in the racist imagination.
Trump is gone now, sequestered in his tropical hidey-hole where he continues to spin his fantastical tales of stolen elections and extraterrestrial voters, but the stink he left behind continue to foul the country—from his treasonous insurrection in January to his continued attempts to convert any remaining conservative Republicans into crazy-eyed conspiracy theorists.
But it is the malodorous stench of his racism that haunts us daily: a century and a half after the Civil War, and six decades after the Civil Rights Act, it appears that Trump's 2017 Charlottesville Manifesto supersedes everything. And while Americans give a fair hearing to white supremacy as Trump suggested, we have seen the killing of Black Americans by police become practically pro forma: we forget about one murder only when another wrestles it from the headlines. Names that once leaped off the pages (Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown) eventually become clichés and talking points, while in more than half the states in the Union, open attempts to hinder black voters lie waiting for some racist governor's imprimatur.
And into this jumble comes talk of reparations. Evanston, Illinois, recently became the first city to craft such a policy—$10 million over the next ten years in $25,000 housing assistance payments to qualifying descendants of Black residents who were victims of housing discrimination. You can call it a start. And with roughly 400 Evanston-sized cities in America, the cost to rehabilitate all of them would come close to four billion dollars. Since we so often speak in trillions these days, four billion seems like pocket change. But when you factor in all the other cities, larger and smaller, and all the other discriminatory and often murderous tactics of the last 400 years...well... some proponents of the new House-introduced H.R. 40 are admitting that the price tag may be $10 trillion. Someone else commented that $10 trillion may merely make a good starting point.
(Apropos of nothing except to prove what an all-time dolt he is, Texas's Louie Gohmert wants the Democrats to pay for it because they're the party responsible. His idiocy really knows no bounds, but people like him render all corrective measures absurd.)
As for the reparations themselves, they may be worthwhile and purgative, but I fear that talk of them may be either premature or simply meaningless when, in real life, we await with justifiable dread the outcome of a trial where a policeman killed a man on video and may still go free, and recoil in horror as a 26-year veteran police officer kills a young black man by mistake, and struggle for words as another shoots a 13-year-old who had just dropped a gun and was raising his hands. What does the $10 trillion dollars prove when we continue to commit acts that require further atonement? when an offhand comment in 2017 from a bigot in the White House rouses more people to action than 150 years of legislation?
A payback of enormous proportions may send a proper message, but it is one that the next traffic stop-turned murder will undo in the length of time it takes the bullet to leave the chamber.