A New Idea For Reparations: Weighted Voting

The author likes the idea of America paying reparations to blacks to repair the damages of slavery, but doesn't want money. He wants a bigger vote. Specifically, he wants to repair the 3/5th compromise by giving black Americans a 5/3rds vote.

It's a more interesting piece than it sounds like from that summary, as he tries to wrestle with some of the complications of the idea.
And then the problem of who exactly is eligible must be addressed. Would a biracial voter qualify? A black immigrant? And what exactly is an election official to do when Rachel Dolezal shows up to claim her five-thirds vote? The government shouldn’t be the sole arbiter of who gets to be black — nor flirt with archaic prescriptions such as the one-drop rule in determining a voter’s race. The most straightforward approach would be to limit access to weighted voting to those American-born citizens who have demonstrated through government documents, such as drivers’ licenses or birth certificates, that they identify, and are identified by others, as black or African American. There are bound to be instances where this approach is challenged, and one answer would be to model guidelines after the general requirements for establishing American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry as outlined by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which involve establishing that a lineal ancestor belongs to a specific tribe and then producing vital records that document a relationship to that ancestor.
The 3/5ths compromise didn't give blacks 3/5ths of a vote, though: it gave states representation in the House of Representation based on counting slaves as 3/5ths of a person. (I suppose we all understand that the South wanted to count slaves as whole people, and the North wanted not to count them at all.) If you wanted to do this in a way that mirrors what was done during the slaveholding era, to count blacks as 7/5ths of a person (a more obvious standard than 5/3rds, being 2/5ths off in either case), it would be purely to determine how many representatives in Congress each states get.

Now, that would doubtless increase black representation in Congress somewhat. It wouldn't have the wild swings that are posited in the article, though, because it wouldn't affect the Senate or the Presidential election at all. It would only mean that places like Georgia would have more congressional districts, and because black voters were considered 7/5ths of a person, more of those districts would end up being gerrymandered into black-majority districts than currently is the case.

The author points out that 90% of white Americans are opposed to the idea of reparations. I am not among them: it satisfies my Viking sense of justice, because it is a parallel to the weregeld. That was also inheritable by the family (indeed, it was often paid in cases where the person wrongly offended had been killed). We used to help the tribes in Iraq negotiate diyya payments to settle similar feuds. Assuming we can work out a deal of that kind, I would not be opposed to making the deal. The terms are, though, that the payment resolves the debt in full -- honor is satisfied, and we discuss it no more.

For that reason, the proposed 24-year period of weighting doesn't strike me as the right approach. The payment should be a one-time thing, something everyone agrees to accept as a settlement of the debt, so that we can finally put it behind us forever.


Eric Blair said...

We are not Iraqi tribesmen, we are citizens of a constitutional republic. Not no, but HELL NO.

If you think such a thing is inheritable, go find them whose ancestors owned slaves and hound them.

If you say that the country has some sort of communal debt, I say it's been paid already, in blood too. I've been to Gettysburg, I've seen the graves of the men who were in the regiments I served in.

I am somewhat surprised that you actually entertain the idea.

Grim said...

Well, I'm from the South. The idea that we bear a continuing moral debt over slavery and racism has been impressed upon me by America my whole life. It's taught in our schools, it's in our movies and on television, and in our public discussions and commentary.

At the moment, we're asked to bear the debt eternally. The idea that we could put the matter behind us forever is one that I find quite attractive, assuming that a suitable weregeld can be settled upon.

raven said...

Sure, I will pay reparations- as long as every single benefit the White Male Patriarchy has supplied is taken away also.
Like polio vaccine, for example. Or cell phones. Open heart surgery and the Luther Burbank potato. The baseball cap and facebook.
I am sick to death of the guilt trip being imposed on a tiny proportion of humanity that has worked it's ass off to supply the highest standard of living ever seen on the face of the earth, by a bunch of people who gladly reap those benefits without the slightest idea of who, when , what or how they came into being.

E Hines said...

His argument fails from his false premise--that reparations are warranted.

There's nothing else to consider.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

I'd like to see this fleshed out. Are the reparations to be for slavery or for "white privilege"? Within the answer to that question, who gets and who pays? What about ethnic groups that don't fit into the white/black dichotomy; e.g., must Asians bear part of the debt? And I'm especially interested in how we could insure/enforce the idea that "the payment resolves the debt in full -- honor is satisfied, and we discuss it no more."

Years ago I read an excellent opinion piece arguing for reparations. Unfortunately, the final paragraph in the piece concluded by arguing that such reparations would restore dignity to those who received them. That seems impossible to me, that dignity would be bestowed by the payment of money. So I think the answer to how we insure/enforce the idea of no further discussion requires an clear understanding of what we as a country believe we would be buying with the payment of reparations.

E Hines said...

who gets and who pays?

With particular reference to black slave owners.

...reparations would restore dignity to those who received them.

This is a crock, proceeding from a cynically false premise, not merely a misunderstood false premise. The slaves never lost their dignity, only their freedom to exercise their dignity, their endowment.

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I partly get Grim's argument that there is some inheritance of sin and victimhood. I see it a slightly different way. I cannot see this as applying to individuals in any way, neither as donators nor recipients, because of the difficulties outlined above. Two persons might be descended from the same slaveholder; one is slightly more white than the other. What then?

But the US government is an ongoing institution. Insofar as the government took something from others, it should pay back. But who to pay, as individuals are too ambiguous, and no agency or entity represents the victims accurately?

BTW, I once read a rule of thumb which stated that one should immediately stop listening to anyone who believes that the 3/5ths Compromise meant that blacks were considered only 60% of a person. There is no point in hearing anything else they have to say.

Eric Blair said...

The US government was the instrument of the slaves' emancipation. Whatever might have been owed is long been paid.

All of this reparations talk has always been attempts by various con-artists to profit off other people.

E Hines said...

...it [government] should pay back.

With what, exactly? The government has no money, only that which it takes from others--others who have nothing to do with what went on those centuries ago. Disregarding, for now, the fact that there are no recipients alive today from those past centuries.

Eric Hines

Tom said...

Eric Blair: We are not Iraqi tribesmen, we are citizens of a constitutional republic.

I'm not so sure anymore. The Constitution has been compromised since the 1930s, at least, and Americans act increasingly like tribal members rather than citizens.

I agree that reparations are not called for by justice, but I would be willing to pay if the issue would forever go away.

Elise has, however, pointed out the problem, there. It won't go away as long as it's politically useful for someone to keep re-opening that wound.

E Hines said...

I agree that reparations are not called for by justice, but I would be willing to pay if the issue would forever go away.

I'll pay no ransom to anyone, for any reason, at any time.

Eric Hines

Ymar Sakar said...

Democrats gonna get even more votes, just like back then.

Ymar Sakar said...

Just stack the bodies of Democrats up to the moon like PProfit did with babies, and maybe you can get rid of it forever and ever.

Paying a Danegeld is not really going to work for long.