The Case for ReparationsRoundup
tags: slavery, African American history, David Brooks, reparations
David Brooks became an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times in September 2003. His column appears every Tuesday and Friday. He is currently a commentator on “PBS NewsHour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
I’ve been traveling around the country for the past few years studying America’s divides — urban/rural, red/blue, rich/poor. There’s been a haunting sensation the whole time that is hard to define. It is that the racial divide doesn’t feel like the other divides. There is a dimension of depth to it that the other divides don’t have. It is more central to the American experience.
One way to capture it is to say that the other divides are born out of separation and inequality, but the racial divide is born out of sin. We don’t talk about sin much in the public square any more. But I don’t think one can grasp the full amplitude of racial injustice without invoking the darkest impulses of human nature.
So let’s look at a sentence that was uttered at a time when the concept of sin was more prominent in the culture. The sentence is from Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address. Lincoln had just declared that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. He was fondly hoping and fervently praying that the scourge of war would pass away. But then he added this thought:
“Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
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