I would like to suggest that the Democratic Party seek to make “amends” for the crimes of slavery and racial discrimination, rather than grant any form “reparations”.
Reparations, if I understand the term, would involve a one-time award of damages to black Americans for the racial crimes committed against them and their ancestors, including those who were slaves. Valid objections can be made to reparations on grounds of principle and of expediency.
On grounds of principle, it can be objected: that any award of damages would be arbitrary in value; that reparations would trivialize our country’s race crimes by suggesting that an award of damages could balance them out; and that reparations would tempt white America to believe that the issue of racial justice had finally been settled once and for all.
On grounds of expediency, it can be objected that: it would further alienate millions of white voters who already feel that the Democrats are allowing members of minority groups to “cut ahead of them in line”. If the Democrats are to prevent the rise of successors to Trump on the authoritarian and xenophobic right, it must win at least some of these voters back.
Amends, on the other hand, would consist of permanent changes of behavior, such as: putting an end to racial discrimination in housing, education, and jobs; ensuring that the criminal justice system treat blacks the same as whites; and remaining vigilantly opposed to language and actions that disparage blacks.
Making amends is obviously more radical in nature, and involves more work, than awarding reparations. But it acknowledges that we cannot buy our way out of our past but must confront whatever in it contradicts our country’s founding principles — those words about all men being created equal and being equally entitled to life, liberty, and happiness.