YOU SAY YOU WANT A REPARATION: Reparations for Slavery

Monday, May 21, 2001

In recent years, a movement has been calling for the United States government to pay reparations for slavery in America. What does the federal government owe the descendants of slaves in this country? Should such reparations be viewed as a gesture of recognition for past wrongs or as an attempt to actually correct those past wrongs? Would payment of reparations erase the lingering economic problems in the African American community or would they do more harm than good? And if reparations are a good idea, who should receive them, all African Americans or just those descended from slaves?

Recorded on Monday, May 21, 2001

Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I'm Peter Robinson. Our show today, Reparations for Slavery. This past June, Germany began mailing out checks for the equivalent of up to sixty-five hundred dollars apiece to a million people whom the Nazi's forced into slave labor during the Second World War.

In recent years, a movement has gotten under way to have the United States do much the same, making reparations to the descendants of American slaves. Of course, the suggestion is no sooner made than the questions arise. Who should receive reparations? Not all African-Americans are descended from slaves. And who should make the payments? Just as we have descendants of slaves among us, so we have descendants of people who fought with the Union to end slavery during the Civil War. On the other hand, if Germany is making reparations for slavery, can the United States do any less?

With us today two guests. John McWhorter is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of California at Berkley and the author of the book, Losing the Race, Self-sabotage in Black America. McWhorter opposes reparations. Alfred Brophy is a professor of law at the University of Alabama. Brophy favors reparations. So should the United States reach for its checkbook?

Title: You Say You Want a Reparation

Randall Robinson who led the movement to boycott South Africa a decade ago has now written a book entitled, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. Robinson's argument, I quote him, "Well before the birth of our country, Europe and the eventual United States perpetrated a heinous wrong against the peoples of Africa. It was only in 1965, after nearly three hundred and fifty years of legal, racial suppression that the United States enacted the Voting Rights Act. Contemporary America must shoulder responsibility for those wrongs." Closed quote. Should the federal government recognize and pay such reparations? Al?

Alfred Brophy: Absolutely.

Peter Robinson: Absolutely, no--not a shadow of hesitation or doubt?

Alfred Brophy: I don't think there's any question that reparations are due, both because of the centuries of unpaid labor, as well as the continuing effects of slavery.

Peter Robinson: John?

John McWhorter: Yes, they should and they already do and it's unclear to me exactly why we need more.

Peter Robinson: Already do in what form?

John McWhorter: Welfare expanded in the late 1960's for unwed Black mothers was a form of reparations. Affirmative action is reparations in every single contour of it that you could think of. Community development corporations, the Community Re-investment Act, all of these things are reparations. They simply haven't been titled reparations. We've already got them and they're working.

Peter Robinson: And it's enough?

John McWhorter: And frankly, yeah. It's enough.

Peter Robinson: You wish no lump sum transfer payment?

John McWhorter: We need no such thing.

Peter Robinson: Fine. Al, the argument rests in various ways--the argument for reparations rests in various ways on a claim on the American sense of justice. So let me first give you a little exercise in justice. It involves my children. On their father's side, they are descendant from people who fought for the Union to free the slaves in the Civil War. On their mother's side, they have grandparents who were immigrants to this country, who didn't even arrive until nearly a century after slavery had ended. Why would it be just for the federal government to take money from my children to give to John?

Alfred Brophy: I think because of the federal government's corporate liability. There're many instances in which corporations are liable for, and the shareholders, which in this case means the taxpayers, are liable for the acts of the corporation. Let me give you another example. When Rodney King was assaulted in Los Angeles, there were very few people who actually were responsible for the assault, and yet all of the taxpayers of Los Angeles had to pay for the acts of the very limited number of police officers who assaulted him.

Peter Robinson: Well, but that's pretty direct, right? The police officers were employees of Los--the City of Los Angeles, or of L.A. County, I'm not quite sure to whom they report…

Alfred Brophy: Sure.

Peter Robinson: And it was demonstrable who--whom they injured. You knew exactly the people--in the Rodney King case, they beat up Rodney King. In other cases of police abuse, those who are abused come forward in their own person to make claims. We are now trying to untangle a historical skein retching--reaching back centuries.

Alfred Brophy: Centuries, centuries. And I mean, I think that's part of the problem and one of the reasons why I think reparations are so necessary in this…

Peter Robinson: Are so necessary?

Alfred Brophy: There has--there was governmental culpability from the mid-1600's. It's a little bit unclear when slavery begins here.

Peter Robinson: There may have been government culpability in the past, just as Alfred says, but how much responsibility for slavery should the federal government accept today?

Title: The White Man's Burden

Peter Robinson: How can you possibly hope to establish clear lines of responsibility? I started with Randall Robinson's opening statement in which he accused Europeans and those who lived in the--what would become the United States. True as far as it goes, but comp--but incomplete. Slave trade was conducted by Arabs on the continent of Africa, and indeed was conducted by…

Alfred Brophy: And by Europeans.

Peter Robinson: …by Blacks themselves. So why is the only…

John McWhorter: That is the default case.

Alfred Brophy: Yeah, Peter, I'm not exactly sure what--what the--the relevance of what was happening in Africa has to…

Peter Robinson: The point is, it cannot be demonstrated. You cannot establish clear lines of responsibility. And to the extent that there is an effort to pin it on White Americans, it is incomplete at best. Why is Randall Robinson not levying a claim against the European Union? Why is he not appearing in Cairo to levy claims against Arabs?

Alfred Brophy: Well, I think what…

Peter Robinson: They're absurd cases, but the case he's making here is no less absurd.

Alfred Brophy: Well, he's--he's making a claim for reparations from the--the federal government which was responsible for a…

Peter Robinson: Which he says didn't even exist for most of the period.

Alfred Brophy: Well, it's--the--the federal government's the successor to--to--to the colonial governments and much--much of the harm obviously continued out--after the revolution. So you've got a government…

Peter Robinson: Who's--who's persuading you on this point, Al or me?

John McWhorter: Well, I…

Peter Robinson: You make a different argument against reparations, but what about this point that--that--that--establishing clear lines of responsibility are simply im--impossible?

John McWhorter: Well, actually, to tell you the truth Peter, establishing these clear lines would be extremely difficult, but it seems to me that reparations have been paid in some cases where the situation is the same. It's not necessarily the exact…

Peter Robinson: Name a case.

John McWhorter: Well, for example, if we can talk about the whole Tulsa situation. If reparations are to…

Peter Robinson: Sure.

John McWhorter: …be paid for the situation in Tulsa in 1921, when race riots destroyed the Black business district there…

Peter Robinson: Okay, stop action. Somebody just tell us about the race riots of 1921. Give a short paragraph of description. What happened?

Alfred Brophy: The--the riot began in end of May 1921, when a young Black man was accused of attempting to assault a White woman. A lynch mob appeared at the courthouse. Some World War--Black World War I veterans showed up at the courthouse…

Peter Robinson: To protect the…

Alfred Brophy: …to--to protect him. And said, we're not going to let our--our brother be lynched. What White Tulsans interpret that as a Negro uprising. They think--they--they can't abide Blacks with guns showing up at the courthouse…

Peter Robinson: So they retaliate how?

Alfred Brophy: And--and so the police department deputizes about two hundred fifty people, tells them to go in and help put down the Negro uprising.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so there's a mass deputization of White citizens.

Alfred Brophy: Mass deputization, and then every Black person in Tulsa is--that--that the police department and their deputies can lay their hands on, is arrested and brought to what the newspaper calls concentration camps. And then after that--after Greenwood has been depopulated, some people, some of them, as they…

Peter Robinson: Greenwood was the Black part of town?

Alfred Brophy: Green--Greenwood is the Black part of town. The Oklahoma Supreme Court, in a case in 1926, says there were a number of people, some of them wearing dep--police badges, some of them wearing police badges go in and burn it down.

Peter Robinson: All right, the wrong is undoubted, and the point is…

John McWhorter: Right. Now what this means is that if reparations are paid there today…

Peter Robinson: And they are about to be paid, is that correct?

Alfred Brophy: It's a little bit unclear what's--what's going to happen but it looks like there'll be at least some private reparations.

John McWhorter: And if that happens, many of the people who are paying these reparations are not descended from White Tulsans, or any of the people who were specifically responsible. Nor can we ever know exactly who did the wrongs in Tulsa, but there's an idea that the wrong was clearly done by a large, if you will, corporate body of people and that some attention must be paid, in the words of Arthur Miller. I think there's something to be said for the general argument.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so--so I'm not persuading either of you then. Would you then favor reparations--you've argued that the whole country should pay reparations; we've explored that, but let me ask you the other side of it. Would you then favor repa--would you favor quite a discriminating, to use the word, filter on the current African American population, such that people who just immigrated from Africa or from the West Indies since some point in time, let's say since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act is enacted, that nobody who arrives, whatever the color of his skin, even black, after 1965 gets reparations because lord be--it's simply impossible to demonstrate a wrong?

John McWhorter: And what about people who are only one-eighth Black?

Alfred Brophy: Well, I think part of the problem is…

Peter Robinson: Do you--do you make an effort to--to--to screen those who receive the reparations?

Alfred Brophy: I--I don't--I don't. It--it strikes me as though part of the problem is that the racism attaches to people based what they look like rather than whether you arrive from the West Indies in 19…

Peter Robinson: John just gave us a possibility line, but what--but answer that question too, what about people who are one-eighth Black? Do they receive a one-eighth lump sum?

John McWhorter: What is Black?

Alfred Brophy: I--I--I think you'd have to have some kind of cut-off. The--the--the United States…

Peter Robinson: You sure would but aren't you then going to get into very insidious questions probing how Black is Black?

Alfred Brophy: Well, the United States government was very good at drawing distinctions--the United States government was very good at drawing distinctions based on race, you know, sort of, you want more than one-eighth, if you…

[Talking at same time]

John McWhorter: And you want to encourage that to keep going out?

Peter Robinson: You want to bring back the regime…

Alfred Brophy: No, I--I'm merely suggesting that there's--there--you have to draw some dis--some lines. Ob--obviously, one has to draw lines and…

Peter Robinson: And you don't think the drawing of those lines in itself will be inflammatory, racist?

John McWhorter: Black is a very ambiguous concept. We tend to forget that more in this country than in say, the Caribbean. I am probably five-eighths African. There are a lot of Black people who are much less. Do they deserve reparations? There was an early book on reparations written by Boris Bittker, which you might be aware of…

Peter Robinson: Sure.

John McWhorter: …from 1973. He makes a very constrained argument that the people who get reparations should be the ones who suffered under segregated schools before Brown vs. Board of Education. For him, those were the only people where there was a legally demonstrable, possible case for reparations. That's more narrow than any of us…

Peter Robinson: John just brought up the next topic, the lingering effects of slavery.

Title: The Long Shadow of Jim Crow

Peter Robinson: Randall Robinson says--talks about when the--when living Blacks suffer real and current consequences a result--as a result of slavery and segregation, contemporary America must shoulder the responsibility. Real and current consequences. Describe those.

Alfred Brophy: Sure, a lot of people think, oh, slavery ended in 1865, that was more than a hundred years ago. The--the system of slavery was not dismantled until--in many ways, until well into the twentieth century in…

John McWhorter: I would agree with that.

Alfred Brophy: …in--in the South. There was debt peonage, which was permissible into the 1910's, systems of--of--of sharecroppers, very little opportunity for economic advancement. In fact, it was the New Deal…

Peter Robinson: It's television, you're going to have to fast forward because we want to get you to 2001 and those lingering effects.

Alfred Brophy: The--the effect of race in America has extraordinary adverse consequences for Blacks. There's extraordinary differentials in income, opportunity for educational advancement, differences in incarceration of rates based on Black and White.

Peter Robinson: John?

John McWhorter: We are constantly told that Black Americans as a whole are doing much worse than they are. One in five African Americans today live in the inner city. That's too many, but it's by no means a majority. One quarter of African American families live below the poverty line, or more to the point, no matter who you consult, no matter what political stripe they are, there are more middle class Black people than poor ones, which was not true in 1960. That's a very important point. As far as the income differentials, this is television so I can't get into it, but once you factor out certain things, that differential is actually very small and we are making progress and never is there a move back. The incarceration rates are very difficult, but essentially they are the result of our war on drugs and we can argue about how that goes, but the laws that put those Black men in jail were heartily supported by the Congressional Black caucus in the late 1980's. There are few historical data points that are more mercilessly suppressed than that very important one, which means that Black Americans have done very well and we have reparations to address the problems that still remain. But we are not, as Randall Robinson puts it in his book, hulled empty. I don't feel hulled empty. I don't think most Black Americans feel hulled empty.

Peter Robinson: Grant that there are some differences in income and grant that you've got twenty percent, roughly, of the African American population living in…

John McWhorter: Hideous conditions.

Peter Robinson: …permanent, permanently hideously out of class, and that's a higher proportion than of any other ethnic group in the country.

John McWhorter: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Okay, let's grant that much. We know that children are put at a severe disadvantage with regard to their life prospects if they're raised in a family with one parent present. And we ha--we know that the out of wedlock birth rate among African Americans in 1960 was twenty-two percent. That in 1994, it was seventy percent and that, although the rate has increased fro--for Whites from two percent to twenty-five percent, it is still the case, I quote the sociologists Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, quote "a social pattern with devastating economic consequences has become the norm in the Black community, while it was the deviant pattern--minority pattern--deviant pattern among Whites." Become is crucial, the timing is crucial. That explosion in single parent households in African America begins at the moment when these grievances end…

John McWhorter: And when we see the…

Peter Robinson: The voting rights actually placed in 1965--sorry, go ahead.

John McWhorter: And when we see the first instances, I hate to say, of reparations, because what--what he just described was the creation of the expansion of welfare for poor Black people under the idea that Blacks couldn't fend for themselves…

Alfred Brophy: John, you…

John McWhorter: …even though Black unemployment was shrinking at the time.

Alfred Brophy: It's so difficult to figure out what--what leads to out of wedlock births. I don't--I don't think you can contribute that to…

Peter Robinson: Well, let me tell you this, it wasn't slavery. It wasn't slavery and it wasn't racial segregation because it explodes when those problems…

John McWhorter: Al, that's a very important point here. You can't look at North Philadelphia and say this is the result of slavery. It has a certain theatrical glamour, but North Philadelphia wasn't like that before, roughly, you and I were born.

Alfred Brophy: John, if you were looking at--no, you--you would be looking at what Mississippi and Al--what rural Mississippi and Alabama looked like before we were born.

John McWhorter: What created all of that misery?

Alfred Brophy: And then you would be doing the comparison.

John McWhorter: It's reparations that are aimed at just making people feel good and giving handouts instead of reparations aimed at making people make the best of themselves. That's the kind of reparations that we need.

Peter Robinson: One more point on the lingering effects of slavery. A point no one likes to talk about or even think about.

Title: The Thorn of Africa

Peter Robinson: Your argument rests on the notion that African American's today would be better off if slavery had never existed, right?

Alfred Brophy: Oh, absolutely.

Peter Robinson: Okay, then in that case, you need to compare them to African Americans in Africa. That complicates things terribly because Africans--Africans--excuse me, not African Americans in Africa, Africans in Africa, the people who stayed behind…

Alfred Brophy: No because--no because…

Peter Robinson: are A) tremendously poorer than African Americans in the United States. B) still many of them subject--I saw a report, a fairly credible report that estimated tens of millions of people still live in conditions of slavery, not perhaps precisely the form of slavery we had here, but the point is, as I said, this is distasteful. I'm not defending slavery…

Alfred Brophy: No, Peter…

Peter Robinson: …but the point is African Americans are better off than their distant cousins in Africa.

Alfred Brophy: You can't use--you can't use Africa as the comparison because…

Peter Robinson: Why not, that's where they came from!

Alfred Brophy: Because Africa was transformed by the institution of European-American slavery.

Peter Robinson: Oh, we are responsible for poverty and slavery…

Alfred Brophy: Absolutely.

Peter Robinson: …poverty in Africa as well!

Alfred Brophy: Absolutely. The--the--the destruction of the local…

Peter Robinson: Would you care to join me on this one?

John McWhorter: So, in other words--in other words, Al, before--before the evil White man came, Africans were living in this period of beautiful Kunta Kinte roots harmony. They weren't killing each other, they weren't fighting each other, they weren't overrunning one another. As soon as the evil White man came, then the Africans were devoid of personal agency and started selling one another into slavery, which was the main way that slaves were caught. It was not a matter of going in and lassoing people while they were out on walks. Wouldn't have people stopped taking walks?

Alfred Brophy: John, certainly…

John McWhorter: …this was something that Africans did. They were human.

Alfred Brophy: …human--human history is replete…

John McWhorter: They were human.

Alfred Brophy: …human history is replete with terrible events. In Northern Europe, in Asia, in Africa.

John McWhorter: And in Africa.

Alfred Brophy: The--but you can't say what Africa--we don't know what Africa would have been like had there not been the systematic colonization.

Peter Robinson: Why is it that the historical line from slavery and rac--racial segregation leads directly to reparations when you're making the--that argument?

Alfred Brophy: Because the…

Peter Robinson: But when you're talking about Africans, oh, who knows what is the effect. We can't establish cause and effect. We're talking about complicated human history.

Alfred Brophy: Well, Peter because you can talk--you can talk about the effect of slavery on people once they were here, right? We--we know the effect of slavery…

Peter Robinson: No, no, no, no. We're talking--the question is there--the effect in 2001, of events that took place back then.

Alfred Brophy: The--the reason we need--we need to compare--be looking at what America is doing for people who are--once they are here. That strikes me as--as…

Peter Robinson: Onto the psychology of reparations.

Title: Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Country

Peter Robinson: It seems to me that there is a creeping argument--you're not aware of the creep but it creeps, and that the motive force is patronizing. It runs as follows: First we'll try giving those people welfare. After a little while, it turns out there's still a gap. Let's give them affirmative action. No, after a little while, there's still a gap. Now let's give them a huge lump sum payment so that--permits everybody to go out and invest in a mutual fund or buy a Cadillac Catera, but the point is, in every case, it's what White America does for Black America. There's not--it just seems to--the whole mindset is patronizing. The question is how do we make sure they get good schools so they can do what other Americans…

[Talking at the same time]

Alfred Brophy: Sure, Peter, I think--I think there's a whole, there…

Peter Robinson: Am I--is that not patronizing in the face of it?

Alfred Brophy: I think there's a whole series of reparations that make sense. Some people, not many, seriously talk about lump sum payments but what--what people are talking more seriously about…

Peter Robinson: Okay, what kind of…

Alfred Brophy: Increased funding for schools, opportunity for educational advancement, not--not--not enough of it though, right. There's gross disparity in funding…

John McWhorter: Very briefly, pouring more money into those rotting public school bureaucracies would actually make change? Thirty years has shown it wouldn't work. Continue.

Alfred Brophy: More oppor--there--there's more opportunity. You're--you're--John, you're the person who's been saying the great society was successful. I think in many ways it was successful. It wasn't successful enough. I think that's the problem.

Peter Robinson: You oppose a lump sum payment, or--you want to set up a trust that…

Alfred Brophy: I--I--I think a lump sum payment is--is not--is not practical.

Peter Robinson: What kind of reparation do you think would be the final reparation?

Alfred Brophy: I--I think there's a series of things that needs to be ongoing commitment to educational funding, opportunity for economic development in communities and another…

John McWhorter: We already have that.

Peter Robinson: More than--more than what we've already got?

Alfred Brophy: Sure.

Peter Robinson: What do you want to do, double it? Double the expense?

John McWhorter: Do you know about community development corporations and the Community Re-investment Act of 1977, and…

Alfred Brophy: Sure, yes, yes and…

John McWhorter: …what more would you ask?

Alfred Brophy: It's--it's…

John McWhorter: Giving people the wherewithal to apply for small business loans, which has worked miracles. And communities all over the United States that were previously inner city sinkholes are getting better because of these foundations.

Peter Robinson: Okay, now lets turn it on you. He does--I mean--the--what--what--what Al won't let go of is that the gap exists and several decades now of one form or another, we're all using this term reparations, let's go ahead and call it that, several decades of reparations haven't worked. What do you do to close the gap?

John McWhorter: What I would do, for one thing, is that we really need to wait a little longer. And I'm not just saying that as some sort of Pollyanna, but we've only been dealing with about thirty-five years, technically that's not even two generations. We have a minority of African Americans who are still left behind largely because of misaimed largesse, the excesses of the great society in the late sixties, so the question is what we do about that? We're aiming these reparations at a small segment of the population and we need to see if they can work. The inner cities are improving. This is something that you don't read in the New York Times, but they are improving. We are trying to improve education. You know, I don't know how you feel about vouchers, but there's some small evidence at this point that vouchers can help schools teaching poor Black children to do better. These are the things. The fact that they're not called reparations does not make them not reparations.

Alfred Brophy: I agree. There've been--there are many reparations movements in American history, many of them have been aimed at Whites. After the war of 1812, the United States government made sure that slave owners who lost their slaves were compensated for that. The slave owners received a form of reparations. After the Civil War, the only serious discussion about compensation was whether Whites were going to receive compensation for their slaves, not whether African Americans were going to get forty acres and a mule.

John McWhorter: And so on the basis of these ridiculous and subhuman sorts of policies, today we're supposed to hand Black people things which wouldn't help them? I mean, the reparations that you described, I don't see how they would help.

Alfred Brophy: John, why do you keep saying this isn't going to help people? You--you're the person who keeps saying the great society did a lot of good things. I agree with you.

John McWhorter: No, but Al--but Al, the great society did a lot of bad things as well and pouring more money…

Peter Robinson: Commentator Charles Krauthammer has proposed something he calls, A Grand Compromise. Let's see what our guests make of it.

Title: Closing the Book

Peter Robinson: Are you aware of Charles Krauthammer's Grand Compromise, his terms?

John McWhorter: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Let me put it to you. Krauthammer says look, affirmative action is damaging because in the--in its very nature, it makes distinctions based on race and that is inimical to the ideals on which this nation was founded. Here's the deal: I, Charles Krauthammer, will support reparations. Let's get it over with. He mentions a figure of fifty thousand dollars per African American household, which comes to about four hundred and forty billion dollars and in return, we'll bring affirmative action to an end. What do you think? Will you go for that deal?

Alfred Brophy: I--I--I--I can't Peter. It strikes me as--as I think we need a much longer commitment on--on the basis of society than--than a--than a single lump sum payment.

Peter Robinson: Yes, because his point is that all of these commitments have--are patronizing in and of themselves and the time has come simply to make it clear that people succeed in this country, whatever the wrongs against their ancestors by getting educations, by working hard, by recognizing the sanctity of family life. No, you just don't buy it?

Alfred Brophy: John, no, I agree with that. You--everything you've said is absolutely correct, but fifty thousand dollars is--will barely pay for a year at Stanford.

Peter Robinson: A hundred thousand dollars. In other words, are we dickering over price?

Alfred Brophy: The--I--I think what we need is a societal commitment to--to looking at…

Peter Robinson: Of how much?

Alfred Brophy: Diff--it--it--it needs to be a commitment until we've eradicated these effects and I can't tell how long that's going to take.

Peter Robinson: Ah, a blank check. What you're suggesting then is massively increased programs aimed at African Americans, which would be expected to last some decades at a minimum. Is that a fair way of putting it?

Alfred Brophy: Peter, before the Civil War, Thomas Roderick Dew, who was the leading proslavery writer, argued against the abolition of slavery, saying it will take decades to remove the effects of slavery, right? And that was a basis for arguing against the abolition of slavery. Everybody, when they were being honest, said it will take generations to correct the effects of slavery.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so that's your position?

Alfred Brophy: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Take additional generations. Do you favor the Krauthammer compromise?

John McWhorter: I actually thought a lot about that and the problem with it--let's say it was a hundred thousand--give every Black family a hundred thousand dollars. Frankly, given everything that we've seen since about 1965, twenty years later, Black America would be precisely where it is right now. Because simple money will not solve the culturally ingrained legacies of racism that we're fighting. As a result, on Black talk radio, everybody would be saying, they think they can just give us reparations and be done with us. And White people would be thinking, well, we gave them reparations, what are they still complaining about? There'd be no point. We do need a societal commitment and thank god, we've already got one.

Peter Robinson: It's television, we have to close it out. Let me ask you each to make a prediction. Congressman John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, has year in and year out introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on which no action has ever been taken. The bill would, I quote, his own language, "acknowledge the injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies." Everybody recognizes that bill as representing the first step toward some sort of serious reparation. Will that bill ever pass? John?

John McWhorter: I seriously doubt it and I'm going to help make sure that it doesn't.

Peter Robinson: Al?

Alfred Brophy: I think it will pass and I think that, in and of itself, is a form of reparations, just talking about how we arrived at this stage.

Peter Robinson: Al and John, thank you very much.

John McWhorter: Thank you Peter.

Alfred Brophy: Thanks John.

Peter Robinson: Alfred Brophy wants reparations to be made until the socio-economic status of African Americans rises to equal that of White Americans, in effect, giving African Americans a blank check. John McWhorter argues that quite a few checks have already been written that amount, in effect, to reparations and he questions whether they've done much good. I'm Peter Robinson, thanks for joining us.