Reparations or Preparations?

Thanks to Alan Keyes, I've had the opportunity to sit down and think about reparations. Nothing too in-depth, still, because it's such a distant prospect that it doesn't warrant my immediate attention. That's like me worrying about what brand of shoe I'm gonna endorse when I'm running back kickoffs for the Eagles. Even before I stop to consider the likelihood of it happening (or the lack thereof), I think there are lots more pressing things to worry about. Even more, there's something we can do in the meanwhile. I don't think I'm against reparations in principle. I've seen lots of arguments, both pro and con. I'm not gonna rehearse them all here, and I'm not gonna borrow anybody else's points. I'll just say that labor deserves to be paid. Don't tell me about the Civil War, like that was payment, because the enslaved fought in that war, as well- on both sides. My great-great (great?) granddaddy can't pay his own reparation. And don't tell me about Affirmative Action, like that's supposed to fill the bill, because it's not like Jim Crow didn't happen. If anything, Affirmative Action was meant to redress racist actions in the 20th century, not the 19th. But whatever. Labor deserves payment. If it's not, then a debt is incurred. The debt remains until it's paid. I don't really see a whole lot of room for debate in that aspect. As a practical matter, it's something altogether different. Whenever I hear about reparations, the first thing I think of is the Reparatons Day skit on the Chappelle show. In Alan Keyes' formulation, there wouldn't be any money actually distributed, there would simply be no witholding of income tax. This way, General Motors and Phillip Morris (or whoever sells Newports) won't get all the money and there won't be 20,000 new record labels. (That skit is classic. I highly recommend it.) Again, I don't have a problem with the proposal in principle, but some questions remain. Principal among them being the matter of who would get the exemption. Last spring, Carol Channing came out and said that she had a Black relative, and there was no money at stake. I'm betting that for a 40 year tax exemption, people all over the country would be finding that one drop. But again, that's so far down the line (?) it's not even worth worrying about. The question the Chappelle Show toyed with is really something we can concern ourselves with right now. Yesterday, Booker Rising fixed the GDP of Black Americans at 728 billion. That's a lot of money, y'all. What are we doing with it? And I'm not really coming at it with some nationalistic bent, like all Black money should be spent in the Black community, although I definitely believe it should stick around a while before it leaves. For a lot of us, the money is gone as soon as we get it. There are many possible explanations; the truth is probably some combination of all of them. Certainly conspicuous consumerism plays a role, as does lack of home ownership, bad credit, which leads to higher interest on loans, and other, more general unwise spending decisions. That's a point we can start on right now. I remember a few months ago, Jabari Asim of the Washington Post pointed out that even though the income gap between middle class Blacks and whites is closing, the gap in wealth remains the same. Quoting researcher Thomas Shapiro, he says:
Income is the money people receive from our jobs or substitutes for jobs such as Social Security or unemployment," he said. "For most people it's a paycheck, which the majority of us use to reproduce our existence," i.e., buy basic necessities and keep a roof over our heads. "We use wealth as much more of a storehouse of assets rather than a stream," Shapiro said. Wealth typically takes the form of home equity plus savings accounts, stocks and bonds.
Wealth doesn't come quickly, cheaply, or easily. Given that the Black middle class is really just now achieving income parity, I don't know that it's reasonable to expect parity in wealth yet. However, this should be our focus. We know it's attainable. Not that I'm not planning to wear adidas if I ever make it to the Linc.