Reparations are a crazy thought. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says: Native Americans should be “at the table” with African-Americans for a “robust discussion” about making some Americans pay reparations to other Americans to atone for misdeeds by still other Americans.
If reparations are owed to the descendants of all members of minority groups that experienced protracted discrimination, the Irish can apply, citing the widespread practice of employers posting admonitions that “Irish need not apply.” Italians, too: An 1895 advertisement seeking labor to build a New York reservoir said whites would be paid $1.30 to $1.50 per day, “colored” workers $1.25 to $1.40 and Italians $1.15 to $1.25. Asians on the West Coast were subject to severe discrimination and violence. And Jews were restricted from acquiring the momentum that elite universities impart on the path to wealth.
Native Americans and African-Americans experienced uniquely severe injustices. However, there must be some statute of limitations to close the books on attempts to assign guilt across many generations to many categories of offenders (racial, ethnic, class). How does one compute the compensation that can justly be extracted from persons who, although they participate today in the national prosperity to which slaves involuntarily made substantial contributions, had no participation in the injustices inflicted? What about all the free entitlements given?