Sen. Obama’s comments earlier last week concerning reparations were swamped by the attention devoted to the “dollar bill” controversy. Nonetheless, the comments deserve at least as much scrutiny.
Speaking to a crowd of minority journalists at the Unity ‘08 conference, Obama responded to a question about reparations as follows:
I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.
Members of the press haven’t asked Sen. Obama to explain what he means by saying that the U.S. government should offer deeds regarding reparations. A charitable guess is that Sen. Obama wants more money to be spent on improving education, health care, alleviating poverty, etc. That is, more government programs.
But that’s the point — it’s just a guess. Many people think of reparations in terms of cash pay-outs, and not insubstantial ones at that. For example, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations has estimated the total value of reparations to blacks at $8 trillion. Others have put the annual price tag at $100 billion. What’s Sen. Obama’s price tag for the “deeds” the U.S. government should offer? What form should the deeds take? Do they include cash transfers?
These aren’t idle questions.The House passed a slavery apology resolution this week. In the past, a congressional apology has been the predicate to reparations. Further, Rep. John Conyers bill to establish a Reparations Commission is expected to pass and be enacted should Sen. Obama win in the fall.
Sen. Obama may be president. The media may want to treat his comments a bit more seriously.