REPARATIONS: NOT ENOUGH
Thank goodness we have AOC to shock us out of our denial about how oppressive our society has been to group after group. We have a long history of brutality toward racial, ethnic and religious minorities that is unparalleled in human history. The sin of slavery has irreparably disabled and crippled the African American culture and has saddled it with a heritage that has left generation after generation with an intolerable barrier to achieve financial success and an equal footing in our society. But African-Americans are not alone in being victimized. We have relegated Hispanics to an inferior role in our culture and have trapped and stereotyped them into a world of menial work and dead-end jobs.
These two groups, though, represent a small number of populations that have been brutally targeted for discrimination and abuse. Jews, with all their success financially, have endured, seemingly forever, vicious Anti-Semitism and exclusion from much of mainstream life. We forget about the cruel decisions of the Roosevelt administration to turn back ships crowded with Jews fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany, in addition to the methodical discrimination and unending anti-Jewish propaganda supported by “heroes” like Henry Ford, Joe Kennedy, and Charles Lindbergh. In addition, our Muslim brethren have endured systemic discrimination and ridicule and have been narrowly defined as a backward people undeserving of the fruits of our culture.
The list of wronged groups could go on indefinitely – the internment of Japanese-Americans to site just one example – but the point is inescapable. Our country has mistreated and brutalized innumerable groups, who have done nothing to deserve what has been done to them. In fact, the Federal government lists 57 ethnic and national minorities that can qualify as oppressed groups and can petition the government for special help and redress from discrimination. Unfortunately, this systemic political and societal pathology cannot be remediated by the simple fix of reparations. It will require an effort and commitment on a national scale, never seen before in American history. The beginning, I would suggest, is the establishment of a cabinet level department of the Federal government whose sole purpose would be to methodically redress the grievances of all victimized groups. An appropriate name would be the Department of Oppressed Populations Services, or DOOPS. And furthermore, it would be paid for by a 10% tax surcharge on the income of White Protestants and Catholics; the greatest perpetrators of our institutionalized cruelties. I would hope that we would have the courage to face ourselves and do what should have been done long ago.