THE RESPONSE OF THE MAINSTREAM media to the leftist censorship of David Horowitz’s anti-reparations ad has been heartening. The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today and Atlanta Journal-Constitution have all come down on the side of free speech against liberal thought control. What is not so heartening is the response of conservatives to his arguments against reparations. Conservatives who have commented on this controversy are completely against the censorship and are, for the most part, against reparations. Still, some of the swipes they take against Horowitz’s arguments are not only wrong, they show a lack of understanding of the issues that make up the reparations debate.
At least two conservatives, John Leo and Debra Saunders, have taken Horowitz to task for point number eight: "Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and the advent of the Great Society in 1965, trillions of dollars in transfer payments have been made to African-Americans in the form of welfare benefits and racial preferences . . ."
Saunders, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, states that instead of censorship, blacks should, " . . . challenge some of the more offensive statements such as that welfare benefits constituted a transfer payment to African Americans. (More whites than blacks are on welfare)."
This is simply not true – and has not been true for some time. In 1990, the black-white breakdown for Aid to Families and Dependent Children (AFDC) was 41 percent black to 38 percent white. In 1999, the gap widened to 38 percent black to 31 percent white (with Hispanics constituting 25 percent). These figures are all the more jarring considering that at the time whites were over 70 percent of the population compared to blacks at just 12 percent. (For a complete demographic breakdown of welfare click here.)
US News and World Reports columnist John Leo takes issue with Horowitz on the welfare plank as well. "His text did include 1 or 2 sour touches almost guaranteed to irritate. One is that welfare benefits and affirmative action are already a form of reparations. For this he should expect criticism not censorship." In fact, he should expect neither as Leo misses the point.
Black demands for reparations essentially boil down to a racial transfer of wealth. But welfare and (less directly) affirmative action already constitute a massive transfer of wealth from white-to-black. According to Prof. Michael Levin in his 1997 book Why Race Matters:
"In 1990 the total outlay for Aid for Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, housing and other subsidies for the poor – what is colloquially called ‘welfare’ – was $215 billion. Blacks received 41.3 percent of this or about $88 billion . . .. blacks at 12% of the population collectively pay about 6% of the cost of welfare, or roughly $13 billion for a net annual white to black transfer of $75 billion. This is in effect a Marshal Plan for the ‘inner cities’ every three years."
Not to belabor the point but this number does not even take into account the massive amount of money spent on federal training programs, scholarships, fellowships, internships and awards reserved for blacks. Nor does it take into account the amount of private money that has gone from whites to blacks as in Bill Gates’ $1 billion program to get more blacks into engineering and the sciences.
Moses the Abolitionist?
The Wall Street Journal focused their criticism on point number nine, which states: " Slavery existed for thousands of years before the Atlantic slave trade was born, and in all societies. But in the thousand years of its existence, there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians – Englishmen and Americans – created one."
The Journal, calling both the ad and the attack on it "overwrought," sneeringly commented, "Excuse us, but didn’t Moses lead his people out of slavery in Egypt?"
Moses did indeed lead his people in a slave rebellion against the Egyptians. However, this was to end the slavery of a particular people – Jews in Egypt. After winning their freedom and returning to the Promised Land, the Jews practiced slavery against other people. The Old Testament is filled with references to slavery and does not forbid the practice. The abolitionist movement created by whites in England and the U.S. was different from a slave rebellion in that it recognized the right of all people, not just one’s own group, to be free. Indeed, whites were the first people to lead such a movement – primarily for the benefit of blacks.
Writing in National Review Online, Hudson Institute Fellow Stanley Kurtz takes issue with Horowitz on yet another point, number two, which states, "If slave labor created wealth for Americans, then obviously it has created wealth for black Americans as well."
Kurtz writes, "If there is one place where his argument is questionable (actually, there are a couple) it is his notion that black Americans themselves benefit from the national wealth created by slavery. It seems cruel – and beside the point – to say that someone should be thankful for wealth created by their ancestors’ enforced labor."
Of all the criticisms against the ad this is perhaps the most reasonable. Still, the overall point is valid. Blacks live much better in America than they do anywhere else in the world – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The "400 years of oppression" argument, which Horowitz seems to be responding to with point number two, is nonsense. Is it not cruel for blacks to continually accuse whites of "oppressing" them in the land where they thrive more than anywhere else?
Though the tone seems harsh in this plank, it should be remembered that Horowitz is responding to very aggressive – and racist – demands made by pro-reparation blacks. His last point makes it clear that he is looking out for the long-term interests of all Americans – including blacks.
It is a good sign that most of the media deplores the rampant censorship on college campuses. Liberals as well as conservatives seem to agree on this much at least. Still, the tepid and often wrongheaded responses by conservatives to his argument against reparations may indicate that Horowitz is in for a lonely struggle.