September 28, 2006

"If you think you've been wronged, it shouldn't take 100 years to investigate the conduct...."

Said Judge Richard Posner at oral argument in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today in the slavery reparations lawsuit.

64 comments:

Too Many Jims said...

Posner is absolutely right. Then again it shouldn't have taken nearly 100 years to pass something like the civil rights act to make sure that rights afforded by the post-civil war amendments were actually observed. But it did. And it took more time in some places for even that to sink in.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm sorry, but the normal term for this sort of case is "greenmail". In this case of course it's "blackmail". That doesn't make it any more reasonable and appropriate a remedy.

This case is all about a culture of victimization and seeking the deepest pockets available for blackmail.

I love the line in the article:
Porter said bringing the issue to an appeals court isn't about the money.

Jim said...

We're going to end up making the Jews pay for helping the Romans crucify Jesus.

Revenant said...

Porter said bringing the issue to an appeals court isn't about the money.

So find for the plaintiffs and award them $1 in damages. That way everybody's happy.

We're going to end up making the Jews pay for helping the Romans crucify Jesus.

What I'm curious about is why they aren't suing the African blacks and Arabs whose ancestors sold American blacks' ancestors into slavery in the first place. Why are the retailers and consumers culpable and not the wholesalers and producers?

Also, given that my ancestors never lived in slave states but DID fight in the Civil War, where can I send my bill to the black community for my ancestors' role in their liberation? :)

The Drill SGT said...

What I'm curious about is why they aren't suing the African blacks and Arabs whose ancestors sold American blacks' ancestors into slavery in the first place. Why are the retailers and consumers culpable and not the wholesalers and producers?

You already know both of the reasons.

1. Those guys don't have deep pockets.

2. Those guys are "people of color" and by definition can not be racist, party to racist activities, and of course multi-cultural standards require us to excuse any behavior by cultures other than ourselves as "acceptable within their cultural norms".

same with cutting off heads today.

"the bigotry of low expectations"

downtownlad said...

I say let's give reparations. And then end affirmative action immediately after that, since we'll have made amends.

Jake said...

Go the Gettyburg Battlefield and you will see the reparations we paid to the slaves during the Civil War.

PatCA said...

"If you think you've been wronged..."

Depends on the definition of "you," to Clinton-parse it. Since when does an entire race have standing to collect for damages suffered by a non-specific co-member of that race who lived 200 years ago? I'm thinking the black judge recused herself because she would rule against the plaintiffs and doesn't want to be called names for it.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

At this point, it would seem like the damage theory would rest on the disparate impact of slavery on the descendants of those enslaved vs. those from the population not enslaved. Since, on a cursory analysis, the American black is better off than his African relative the case would seem to be settled on the merits in favor of the defendants.

Tim said...

I'm willing to give a billion tax dollars to each surviving victim of slavery.

Tim said...

And if a billion dollars for each surviving victim of slavery isn't good enough for the plaintiffs, then $1 million for all claimants, including attorneys, followed by permanent deportation to any nation that would take them and revocation of citizenship.

Make them choose citizenship or money. Hell, I might be willing to support buying back the citizenship of anyone who'd rather have a million dollars than be an American. At least those that would be left would be here by choice.

Jim H said...

Seems like a flimsy cause of action to claim that one has been harmed by wrongs done to his ancestors, when in fact if his ancestors had not been brought here unwillingly, they would not have reproduced with the same persons at the same times that they did. And so on down the line. Imagine an alternative history and the individual plaintiffs would never have been born.

What's the offset for that?

Our existences are a product of the good and the bad of history.

JohnF said...

If this suit is allowed to go forward, the next thing you'll see is some Arabs wanting land that Israel captured from their ancestors.

Eli Blake said...

Consider this analogy: You are on a football team. For a road game, the referees don't show up so they pick some hometown fans. You are yourself on the bench for the first half, but during this time, your team is drubbed, not by the other team but by the refs-- every time your team makes a big play, it comes back on a 'ghost' penalty. The other team can play dirty, break the rules, etc. but nothing gets called as the referees make intentionally biased calls. Anyone who argues with them gets ejected. As a result of this hometown calling, your team is down 40-0 at halftime. Then at halftime, two things happen-- the real referees show up and agree to call the game fairly from that point on (but the score stays), and you finally get to play. Now, are you going to sit there and tell me with a straight face that you still have as much chance to win as the people on the other team-- in other words that since you personally weren't in for the first half what happened then won't affect your chances of winning the game? Because that's what the argument that most of you are making sounds like.

In this situation the right thing for the referees to do would be to start the game over with the score 0-0 and work the whole game.

We obviously can't restart history. However, under the circumstances I would argue that reparations is reasonable. Further, and incidentally they have already been named: FORTY ACRES AND A MULE WAS PROMISED to former slaves after the civil war, so I think if you will simply calculate the value of forty acres and a mule X the number of freed slave families X interest compounded at the prevailing interest rates up until the present day and then divide them among the black community in the U.S. it would come out to a very large number per person (though I'm too tired right now to calculate it. Trust me, it's not peanuts.)

So either make good on the 'forty acres and a mule' (as just described) or don't complain about an alternative (which frankly, instead of a direct cash payout, how about an ongoing program spread out over two or three generations that included things like college scholarships, start-up money for small businesses and money paid to lenders to lower the interest and/or down payment on home loans? It seems to me that this would be more likely to be the kind of thing that would end the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow than just a direct cash payout.

Eli Blake said...

John F:

They still do demand that. And in many cases they do have a very good case. Which is part of the intractability of that conflict.

The difference of course is that this suit is going forward in a court of law but some of those arabs prefer to push their claim by wrapping bombs around themselves and walking into crowded restaurants and detonating themselves.

Would you prefer that as a solution? I would not-- I'm glad that we have a legal system FOR the redress of grievances.

Revenant said...

Now, are you going to sit there and tell me with a straight face that you still have as much chance to win as the people on the other team

That's a stupid analogy.

First of all, all of the original "players" are dead and it's 141 seasons later. So the people you'll be shafting will be an entirely different team that never did anything wrong.

Secondly, blacks and Americans are not two different teams.

Thirdly, it is not demonstrable that slavery is the major cause of the poor performance of American blacks compared to members of other races.

Finally, black Americans are better off than black Africans. So where's the cause for complaining about slavery? If it wasn't for slavery they'd all be poorer, shorter-lived and worse-educated. Them complaining about slavery makes about as much sense as me complaining that the Romans invaded Gaul and Britannia and oppressed my ancestors.

Revenant said...

Further, and incidentally they have already been named: FORTY ACRES AND A MULE WAS PROMISED to former slaves after the civil war

The only place black people were ever promised forty acres and a mule was in Gone with the Wind.

In real life, Sherman ordered that freed slaves in the southeastern USA be given land taken from white owners. He had no legal authority to do this, and his order was promptly revoked by the President. But at no point did Sherman or any other official of the United States Government ever promise freed slaves "40 acres and a mule", nor would the promise have been in any way binding if they did.

That blacks are still repeating the "40 acres" myth almost a century and a half later says a lot about the poor state of education in the black community -- but nothing about American financial obligations to black people.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Palladian said...

I think people who believe "reparations" are justified should pay them. Start writing some checks, Eli. Or do you expect the rest of us taxpayers (many of whose families didn't even emigrate to the United States until after slavery had been abolished) to foot the bill? In that case, as a gay American, I demand reparations for the oppression of my people, an oppression which continued long past the end of slavery and in some ways continues to this day! Do you support me in this fight to cash in...er, I mean repair a centuries-old injustice? If not, why is my struggle for cash.. I mean JUSTICE any more ridiculous than slavery reparations?

Joan said...

I can not imagine a system in which reparations are fairly calculated and distributed. Eli comes up with a formula for determining the total amount (based, unfortunately, on a misconception), and then proposes that we divide them among the black community in the U.S.

But wait a minute. What about the blacks who immigrated after slavery ended? Surely they and their descendants are not entitled to reparations, are they? Or maybe they are, because all black people have been discriminated against equally, right? Right?

But none of my ancestors even lived in this country until the early 20th century, so we had nothing to do with slavery! Explain again why I should have to pay? If those corporations are forced to pay, how will they finance the reparations? How many people will lose their jobs, and how many of them had anything to do with slavery? This whole thing is ridiculous.

Seven Machos said...

I love the use of the passive voice made by Eli. "Forty acrse and a mule was promised?" Promised by whom, Eli? Under what law was the promise made? The law was signed by which president and voted on by which Congress?

I'm trying to stop using the word "idiot," to tone down the rhetoric. It's so hard when you see such thoughtless, flat-out wrong crap.

Joe said...

Slavery was terribly wrong everywhere it was practiced. But a civil war fought over it (yes it was not just a war of Northern agression) that paid the blood debt, at least in part. I agree that the slaves should have gotten their forty acres and a mule--but for their decendants to start claiming for damages now is misguided (at best) and just perpetuates victimization.

It is interesting how they dealt with crimes in South Africa after aparthied ended. You could go and testify in public about what you had done and you were exonerated. There you had crimes that actually could have been prosecuted against the actual perpetrators. Instead, they could bear witness and be forgiven.

There is no making 100+ year events right other than moving on and living well.

class-factotum said...

My ancestors were oppressed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I want compensation. Whom do I sue?

Anonymous said...

I have a serious question:

Slavery was legal. Then it was outlawed.

How is it possible to bring suit against people who do not exist, by people who were not wronged, for behavior that was legal at the time? Am I missing something?

Fenrisulven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fenrisulven said...

My ancestors were oppressed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I want compensation. Whom do I sue?

Line starts over here. You can cut in front of me. I'm filing a court order to enforce all treaties return all stolen lands to their native tribes.

Everyone else, you can figure out that reparations thingy after you move back east.

MadisonMan said...

I'm with revenant -- my great-great-grandfather spent the last 40 years of his life crippled because he was fighting to abolish slavery (although he did it to preserve the Union). Where's my cheque?

Fritz said...

This is the saddest legacy of the anti-American left taking over the civl rights movement. The indoctrination of US citizens to believe that they are involuntary immigrants. This lingering poison taught to innocent children has done more harm than any Jim Crow law. I wish we could bring back an emancipated slave that traveled all over the South in search of their family to discuss with their decedents why they use his plight to abandon theirs. We are all decedents of slavery, but I am here today because 2 people procreated and I chose to live.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure my descendants are going to be terrorized by radical Islamists, funded and encouraged by the Saudis. Can I sue proactively?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and "my people" were promised "no new taxes" by GHWB. Bush lied ... err, profits died!

Who do I see to get my tax reparations check?

Smilin' Jack said...

We can do even better than reparations--we can restore the descendants of the slaves to the position they would have been in had slavery never existed. I.e. take everything they have and ship 'em to Africa.

dreamingmonkey said...

If it wasn't for slavery they'd all be poorer, shorter-lived and worse-educated.

Sounds great, where can I get enslaved?

Fenrisulven said...

Sounds great, where can I get enslaved?

There should be a DNC Plantation in your area. If not, contant Rev Jackson.

Abraham said...

I think for the football analogy to work, the biased referees would have to be ejected at the cost of hundreds of thousands of the home team's own players' lives.

R Riley said...

There's plenty wrong with the slavery reparations movement and lawsuit, but Posner's dig is not part of it. Plaintiffs' counsel's response was right - it took the last 100 (and more) years for society, the law, and the entire legal culture to evolve to recognize his claim even in theory. Again, I don't think it's a good claim, but it's silly to say that it could have been brought 100 or 150 years ago.

The Jerk said...

Finally, black Americans are better off than black Africans.

I wonder why Africa's in such bad shape.

The Jerk said...

There should be a DNC Plantation in your area. If not, contant Rev Jackson.

So you think you know which party serves the interests of black people better than they do?

Fenrisulven said...

it took the last 100 (and more) years for society, the law, and the entire legal culture to evolve to recognize his claim even in theory.

Evolve being the key word. We're judging actions of the 18-19th centuries from a 20-21st century perspective. Cultures evolve and cast off evils like slavery, oppression of women, child labor, cruelty to animals, etc.

Its like punishing someone at 40 for mistakes they made as a teenager.

Fenrisulven said...

Jerk: So you think you know which party serves the interests of black people better than they do?

My bad - enslaved was a bit harsh. I know that the Democrat Party uses African-Americans as share-croppers: do as we say or you will starve; flee the plantation and we will demonize you to keep the others in line

Fenrisulven said...

Jerk: I wonder why Africa's in such bad shape

Mostly because of corruption by local despots and tyrants. I saw alot of that in Somolia.

You should read "Guns, Germs and Steel". Africa never had a fair chance, mainly b/c of factors beyond their control.

/Ann, I wish blogger accepted underline and strikout tags...?

The Jerk said...

I know that the Democrat Party uses African-Americans as share-croppers: do as we say or you will starve; flee the plantation and we will demonize you to keep the others in line

And yet they vote overwhelming DemocratIC nonetheless. I wonder why that is. Guess they're just not as smart their would-be Republican benefactors.

I've read GG&S. It deals with the pre-colonial period. Doesn't have much to say about Africa in the last 400 years.

Revenant said...

"Finally, black Americans are better off than black Africans."

I wonder why Africa's in such bad shape.

Because it had never been in good shape to begin with. It was poor, disease-ridden and ignorant when the local African and Arab slavers first started selling slaves to America, and it pretty much stayed that way until Europeans colonized it and introduced modern medicine, technology, and education. But since Africa was hundreds or thousands of years behind Europe, it is not surprising that it hasn't caught up yet.

Fenrisulven said...

And yet they vote overwhelming DemocratIC nonetheless. I wonder why that is.

Likely for the same reason Palestinians have followed Hamas and Hezbollah off a cliff: support us or the evil Jews/neocons will destroy you/repeal the civil rights act, etc.

Anonymous said...

Fen,

I just wanted to say how much I've appreciated your comments at Althouse.

You are without a doubt the coolest Norse wolf I know.

Carlo said...

"I'm just glad my grandaddy got on that boat."

The Jerk said...

Likely for the same reason Palestinians have followed Hamas and Hezbollah off a cliff: support us or the evil Jews/neocons will destroy you/repeal the civil rights act, etc.

So most blacks are dupes tricked by Democratic lies? Sound pretty implausible. I bet they just have a better idea which party will serve their interests than you do.

Fenrisulven said...

Are you trying to say that blacks are racist?

Simon said...

How can these people possibly have standing under Lujan?

"[T]he irreducible constitutional minimum of standing contains three elements. First, the plaintiff must have suffered an "injury in fact" - an invasion of a legally-protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized … and (b) actual or imminent, not ‘conjectural’ or ‘hypothetical’. Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of - the injury has to be "fairly . . . traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party not before the court." Third, it must be "likely," as opposed to merely "speculative," that the injury will be "redressed by a favorable decision." [And] The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements."

Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 560-61. They need to jump all three hurdles, and so far as I can see, they're face down in the dirt in front of the starting blocks.

Simon said...

"So most blacks are dupes tricked by Democratic lies? Sound pretty implausible. I bet they just have a better idea which party will serve their interests than you do."

Democrats offer short-term gain by affirmative action; Republicans offer long-term gain by hard work. It's not hard to understand why given the choice, people in a tight spot want to take the easy way out.

Simon said...

Even if they had standing, I'd disagree with Eli. There is simply no way to make the case that it is just to demand that the present generation to pay for sins visited upon blacks generations past, a fortiori in a nation of immigrants where many citizens had no ancestors in the country until after slavery was already over. For example: what is the logic in asking Italian-Americans to pay slavery reparations, when Italian immigratioon to the United States did not begin in earnest until two decades after the passage of the fifteenth amemdment?

I agree with Justice Scalia. "Individuals who have been wronged by unlawful racial discrimination should be made whole; but under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. That concept is alien to the Constitution's focus upon the individual ... To pursue the concept of racial entitlement -- even for the most admirable and benign of purposes -- is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American."

The Jerk said...

Are you trying to say that blacks are racist?

Huh? Not at all. You appear to be saying they're stupid.

Republicans offer long-term gain by hard work.

Uh-huh. Inheriting wealth isn't really hard work.

Simon said...

The Jerk:
"Uh-huh. Inheriting wealth isn't really hard work."

No, but generating it in order to pass on whatever's left after the death tax has taken its bite is a touch more difficult, and in any event - what's your theory, that all 62,040,610 George Bush voters are independently and massively wealthy? A very, very small percentage of Republican voters are sitting on a nice fat trust fund, which is something you'd grasp rapidly if you stopped reading MoveOn.org propaganda and actually thought about the numbers for a minute.

The Jerk said...

what's your theory, that all 62,040,610 George Bush voters are independently and massively wealthy

We're talking about what the GOP offers, not who its supporters are. It offers economic policies that are greatly beneficial to those who have inherited large amounts of wealth.

which is something you'd grasp rapidly if you stopped reading MoveOn.org propaganda and actually thought about the numbers for a minute.

See above. You failed to grasp my point. I've never been to MoveOn.org, by the way. Maybe you spend too much time reading blogs.

Jonathan said...

Thirdly, it is not demonstrable that slavery is the major cause of the poor performance of American blacks compared to members of other races.

So, what is the major cause of the poor performance of American blacks compared to members of other races? Ultimately it has to be either nature or nurture. If it's nurture, i.e. there's some "culture of victimization" that causes black Americans to do worse on standardized tests etc. than Americans of some other races, then look at where the culture came from. Even the existence of a black sub-culture is a hang-over from segregation and, before that, slavery. Such segregation and such slavery being perpetrated exclusively by the white race.

Or maybe it's nature. Ascribing fundamental traits to race is the definition of racism. You could say: so what, it's racist, maybe what Webster's defines to be racism isn't actually wrong - just like Murray and Hernstein did in the Bell Curve. But their argument for libertarianism with regard to race (opposing affirmative action, reparations, etc.) was circular and even their math in interpreting some of their statistics was wrong.

Maybe it instead has to do with economics. Libertarians in this argument say that the wealth gap should shrink over time if there's no governmental influence, but I think the opposite is true. Risk free interest rates, for example on T bills, are always higher than inflation, so people with money can become richer over time without taking any risk or doing any work. If you're poor, however, and you're spending all of your money on consumption goods, then you can't invest, and you don't benefit from the ever-expanding wealth generated by our economy. Furthermore, thanks to Rodriguez v. Plyler, it's constitutional to tie spending on education to property taxes. So, those in wealthy school districts get better education, which often leads to higher paying jobs, so the wealth gap gets carried on to further generations.

Paul Zrimsek said...

We're talking about what the GOP offers, not who its supporters are. It offers economic policies that are greatly beneficial to those who have inherited large amounts of wealth.

Ayah: all 62,040,610 of us.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Risk free interest rates, for example on T bills, are always higher than inflation, so people with money can become richer over time without taking any risk or doing any work.

Provided they don't spend any money.

Jonathan said...

Well... provided that they don't spend more than the difference between the interest they earn and inflation - chances are a rich person isn't going to sink all of his/her money into something with interest rate as low as T bills. Rich people can unquestionably afford to invest in more risky investments that have a higher expected value long-term since they have lower marginal utility for that money. In other words, they're not going to sacrifice eating if the stock market takes a brief downturn. The opportunity to invest makes them better off relative to the non-investing public.

Anonymous said...

So, what is the major cause of the poor performance of American blacks compared to members of other races?

Offhand, I'd suggest the War on Poverty. Black poverty rates decreaed by half between 1940 and 1960. Then the government decided to "fix" things and black poverty rates dropped 1% in the 70s. And now we have rampant violence, drug abuse, welfare dependence, and broken families.


look at where the culture came from. Even the existence of a black sub-culture is a hang-over from segregation and, before that, slavery ... being perpetrated exclusively by the white race.

To the extent that whites are responsible for government programs that have created unhealthy dependence and passivity, I accept your argument.

But to claim that whites are responsible for black culture is patently ridiculous.

White people won't let blacks stay in school, study, and go to college? White people force blacks to stay on welfare, on drugs, and in gangs? White people make blacks have kids out of marriage and drop out of school?

It's my fault that other parents in my son's class keep their 1st graders up past 11 o'clock at night so they're too tired to pay attention?

It's my fault that black kids who try to do well in school are mercilessly harassed by other blacks?

And it's my fault that a black person who takes responsibility for his life, attains success, and challenges any black dysfunction is labeled an Uncle Tom, a "house nigger" or an Oreo?

It sounds an awful lot like you're the one who thinks blacks are somehow inferior -- apparently they can't take responsibility for their own lives or choices.

Anonymous said...

Let's simplify things.

In America, education is clearly the pathway to advancement in life.

Democrats won't do much to change the educational status quo, as one of their core constituencies (the NEA) fights education reform tooth and nail. But Democrats are also committed to shoveling out public assistance. So -- bad schools, but free money.

Republicans have made some attempts at education reform (performance standards, vouchers). But they also are (or were) opponents of welfare handouts. So -- some attempts at better schools, but less free money.

Now, I believe was the question was, "Why would blacks vote Democratic against their best interests?"

Hmmmm. Nope. Nothing here.

dklittl said...

It is so refreshing to hear white people say what they really mean. I mean c'mon slavery wasn't that bad. The African-Americans get to live here don't they. Slavery wasn't all bad, they got Affirmative Action out of it and of course that more than makes up for 400 years of oppression at the hands of white people, the government and big business in THIS COUNTRY.

Simon said...

Jonathan -
And by the same reasoning, they are in a better position to support new (and risky) companies which may thrive and drive the economy forward.

dklittl -
Slavery was an apalling blight on civilization, which is precisely why it was abolished almost a century and a half ago. No person alive today can seriously claim to have suffered the concrete and particularized injury required to get into Federal Court, and no person alive today can be considered to be guilty of involvement in slavery.

knoxgirl said...

It's my fault that black kids who try to do well in school are mercilessly harassed by other blacks?

I went to a public high school that was probably 50-60% black, and this dynamic was definitely at play. It was NOT cool to be in the "smart" classes or to be on honor roll. It was worse for guys, but there was even some pressure on girls not to do well.

As far as public schools, democrats deny them even the hope for a better option through vouchers--they would rather let them languish in schools that suck! They don't seem to believe blacks even have the capability to do better. It's utter horseshit.

Whatever, I get incensed on this topic.

Barley said...

Wow! I wish this topic was more about the abhorant and blantant degredation of generations of people, but instead we get comments like "citizenship or money." I personally don't feel that reparations are the answer. I do, however, think that it is a tragedy that people honor Stone Mountain in Georgia or still fly the Confederate flag with honor and to this day there is not a plaque, monument, or memorial that recognizes not only the loss of life and systematic dehumanization of generations of people. Money is not always the answer to problems, but I do think that an honest discourse on the dark stains of our nations history is well over due.

erasec said...

All posts here have validity. However they seem to be a bit myopic. While my ancestors were not in the Confederacy during the enslavement of Africans and African Americans, and the U.S. was not the U.S., there are legitimate, devastating and long lasting effects on a specific population due to legal slavery. Some behaviors that Europeans or others might find offensive, such as having children out of wedlock, or male figures missing from households, are direct effects of slavery. Africans, West Africans and the African regions where slaves were harvested did have marriages and family structures that honored women and protected children. Slavery destroyed those traditions leaving African women without male protection (as her slave husband had no financial or physical means to protect her), destroyed legitimate marriage (as slave marriages were not legal and spouses could be sold off), making female headed, poverty stricken and maleless households the norm.
Education was forbidden, and then systematically blockaded for generations making real progress difficult. Bandages have been put on this fatal wound and we wonder why decendents of slaves have not achieved what other, more priviledged populations have. We have economic wounds, emotional wounds and societal wounds to heal. If you think this is not your business I would ask you if you think conditions in the U.S. today are ideal. Crime, poverty and racial divide are the price we continue to pay. Collectively we need to find a way to stabilize society for the good of all of us.