There are actually things Congress could be doing, you know.
Things which are of more value than putting on demagogic expositions like allowing Sheila Jackson-Lee, the utterly moronic Democrat congresswoman from the slums of Houston, to stage a hearing on the urgent necessity of paying reparations to the black community for slavery.
This wasn’t a hearing to discuss a true reparations plan, mind you. No, what Wednesday’s circus involved was a hearing to talk about creating a commission — surely a blue-ribbon outfit that will be! — to create a study of whether reparations would be practical. From the text of the bill Jackson authored (and a number of other lesser lights in the Democrat Party)…
To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
In other words, a dog-and-pony show and a pity party for Black America, sponsored by the Democrat Party which defended the “peculiar institution” from its formation to the end of the Civil War — and then wholly owned the racial oppression which followed for the next 100 years. More on that later.
And Lee’s circus, as anyone might expect, was an opportunity to trot out media and pop culture celebrities for some high-level bloviation. That’s why we got to see Danny Glover, the washed-up zillionaire mediocrity who earned his reputation playing straight man to Mel Gibson and Chris Rock in the Lethal Weapon movies (his most believable role was of the abusive moron husband in The Color Purple), babble about the iniquities visited upon black people. This is the Danny Glover who spent a decade touting the social-justice and economic achievements of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela; he has less to say on that subject now that Chavismo is exposed as an unmitigated, miserable disaster.
Not to mention Ta-Nehisi Coates, who might be the most overrated scribbler on the American political scene.
Not everyone on the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which put on this ghastliness, was enthused about She-Jack’s exposition. The ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), who was a noted constitutional scholar and a highly successful attorney in constitutional cases, thought he’d offer a critique of exactly how well an idea like the one being discussed would pass muster on its immediate court challenge…
…Any monetary reparations that might be recommended by the commission created by HR 40 would almost certainly be unconstitutional on their face. The reason for that…
At that point Johnson had to stop, because he was being hooted down by the assembled rabble in the hearing room. When the gavel came down and quieted the boo-birds, he continued…
The reason for that is a legal question. See, the legal question is: the federal government can’t constitutionally provide compensation today to a specific racial group because other members of that group, maybe several generations ago, were discriminated against and treated inhumanely.
The holding of the 1995 case Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. is that racial set asides and other entitlements are only constitutionally permissible to remedy the present effects of the government’s own widespread in recent discrimination. The federal government is not allowed to provide race-based remedies that are “ageless in their region of the past and timeless in their ability to effect the future.”
This wasn’t overly well-received, which is understandable — the boo-birds and hecklers were there because they’d been promised free stuff from Uncle Sugar and they’ve been trained to hurl epithets at anyone who tells them no.
But Johnson’s critique wasn’t the most colorful. That one came from former NFL defensive back Burgess Owens, a Fox News contributor and frequent critic of the Left on racial and economic issues who took to the witness stand with a rhetorical flamethrower in tow.
“I used to be a Democrat until I did my history and found out the misery that that party brought to my race,” he said. “Let’s point to the party that was part of slavery, KKK, Jim Crow, that has killed over 40 percent of our black babies, 20 million of them.”
He wasn’t done.
“Let’s pay restitution,” he agreed. “How about the Democratic Party pay for all the misery brought to my race and those, after we learn our history, who decide to stay there, they should pay also. They’re complicit. And every white American, Republican or Democrat, that feels guilty because of their white skin, you should need to pony up also — that way we can get past this reparation and recognize that this country has given us greatness,” Owens said.
There was more. “Look at this panel,” he noted, seeing a row of rich black people in the witness chairs. “It doesn’t matter how we think. It doesn’t matter our color. We have become successful in this country like no other because of this great opportunity to live the American dream. Let’s not steal that from our kids by telling them they can’t do it,” he added.
And Owens wasn’t the only one to note that the discussion of slavery reparations was an entirely counterproductive idea. Coleman Hughes, a Columbia University college student and columnist for a range of publications, questioned the purpose of the hearing…
In 2008, the House of Representatives formally apologized for slavery and Jim Crow. In 2009, the Senate did the same. Black people don’t need another apology. We need safer neighborhoods and better schools. We need a less punitive criminal justice system. We need affordable health care. And none of these things can be achieved through reparations for slavery.
Nearly everyone close to me told me not to testify today. They said that even though I’ve only ever voted for Democrats, I’d be perceived as a Republican—and therefore hated by half the country. Others told me that distancing myself from Republicans would end up angering the other half of the country. And the sad truth is that they were both right. That’s how suspicious we’ve become of one another. That’s how divided we are as a nation.
If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today; we would insult many black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors; and we would turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction — from a union between citizens into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants.
Two things should be said about this issue, which is a waste of America’s time and yet another stain on the escutcheon of the Democrat Party to even bring it up in 2019. First, America didn’t create slavery, we inherited it from every other society on earth — the Europeans, the Africans, the Turks, and the Arabs, most specifically. We spent 600,000 lives in shedding that inheritance.
And second, the reason we inherited slavery from all of those other societies is that before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which may have started in Europe but was perfected in this country, slavery or something like it was a sad economic necessity in all human societies. That’s not to minimize the moral degeneracy of the institution, which by the way is still alive and well in places like Libya and Somalia — something nobody at Wednesday’s ridiculous hearing seemed interested in discussing. It is to say that the prosperity and technological innovation brought on by free-market capitalism is what made slavery obsolete.
And the same political party which promoted slavery and racial oppression in America throughout its existence has spent the last 30 years trashing the capitalism which ended it.
Which is something very much in evidence watching the Democrats in Congress and on the presidential hustings — at least when they’re not attempting to pander to the descendants of their old policies.