Time to “Flip the Script” on Reparations

A recent congressional hearingfocusing on the idea of reparations payments to black Americans as part of an official apology for slavery, went nowhere.

While it did not produce credible ideas, it did encourage anger and confusion. It did not find solutions for healing race relations that got worse over the course of the Obama Administration, nor develop plans that would maintain the economic recovery that has been particularly beneficial to black Americans since Obama left office.

Addressing the reparations issue in a commentary published by prominent website The Federalist, Project 21 member Emery McClendon is especially critical of those who consider themselves black leaders who he believes have allowed the quality of life in black America to decline despite plentiful available opportunities. He writes:

We failed after the Civil War, during the civil rights era, and with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s implementation of the Great Society and its major welfare initiatives. Those were supposed to be revitalizing times for blacks. Yet, in the last case, welfare only increased dependence and destroyed families. What happened?

Over the years, black leaders failed to bring their communities to prosperity by promoting and teaching sound principles for economic growth. They also failed to help people use the resources that are available to every American regardless of their ethnic background….

Reparations are treated as the cure for inequality. But they are not.

Emery further notes that prominent black writers and wealthy black actors are perhaps not the best messengers for the assertion that black Americans are being deprived of the ability to succeed. He blames lawmakers for trying to use the situation to score political points rather than promote solutions:

Why should blacks want to seek reparations in the 21st century when slavery was ended by the Civil War more than 150 years ago? Why are Congress and others suddenly getting in on the act? It’s merely politics.

Reparations should not be a topic of discussion in today’s America. Progress and success should be our focus as we strive to achieve the American Dream. We should focus on keeping America great, not looking for another huge socialist payout.

Congress should instead be reminding black Americans that opportunities already exist for them as they have existed for generations.

But what really frustrates Emery is that these politicians used the observance of Juneteenth to push the reparations agenda. While Juneteenth commemorates the end of American slavery and is supposed to help promote self-improvement and community involvement, the partisan nature of the congressional reparations hearing was exactly the opposite:

It’s significant that the congressional hearing for Jackson Lee’s House Resolution 40 on this issue was held on June 19. Known as “Juneteenth,” it is the anniversary of when blacks in Texas first learned about the end of the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and their freedom. It is now celebrated nationwide to commemorate the end of black enslavement in America. It is also a day when black Americans are supposed to celebrate opportunity and self-determination—values prized by those newly freed slaves in Texas.

It is ironic that blacks are still calling for reparations in 2019, and using Juneteenth to do it. We have had many opportunities to put ourselves on equal footing with other Americans and pursue the American Dream. But too many of us have failed to do so.

Emery instead suggests “flip[ping] the script from reparations to personal responsibility” to bring about “lasting results that a reparations check can never do.”

To read Emery’s entire commentary – “African Americans Don’t Need Reparations. We Need To Take Responsibility For Our Lives” – at The Federalist website, click here.



Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.