A small number of Negro "leaders" have demanded that "reparations" be paid to every Negro in America by the Federal government because of Southern slavery during the 18th and 19th century. However, to demand reparations to be collected and distributed on the basis of skin color, is to operate on racial premises.
A man is responsible only for his own actions. He has no control over, and therefore cannot share the blame for, the actions of others no matter what the skin color involved is.
The Southern racist declares that the Negro is inferior because his grandparents, or someone else's of the same color, were savages, and therefore owes the white a living. The ghetto bigot declares that the white is inferior, because his grandfather, or someone else of the same color, owned slaves, and therefore owes the Negro a living, There is no difference; a racist is a racist, whether his neck is red or black.
A reparation is a payment made by an aggressor to a victim, made by the man responsible for the damage, to the man who was damaged. It is one method of justice. A reparatlon demanded of an innocent person because he is of a certain color, is a mockery of justice. To legalize such a mockery, would be to sanction both slavery and racism—the very evils the Negroes should be fighting. So much for the "justness" of reparations.
"Black Control of the Black Community"
It is unfair, the complaint goes, that most, if not all, the stores and buildings in the predominantly Negro residential/business areas, are white-owned. Why is it unfair? Because the Negro has a right to a fair share of America's wealth, especially that portion within walking distance from his flat. A fair share? By whose standards? A right? Does a man, because he is black and lives around the corner, have a right to another's property? "Black Control of the Black Community" represents a return to explicit racism in America and as such, should be opposed by any self-respecting individual, particularly, the ghetto dweller, since it is his house, apartment, or business that may go up in flame otherwise.
Negroes have the right and good reason to band together into voluntary, non-coercive organizations for economic purposes. Organized, they can more easily break down the very real legal and economic barriers that they face. Some of these barriers were self-created—such as the economic effects of the ghetto riots. Some are thrown up by whites—however, as long as these are not given the sanction of law, as in the South, they are the easiest to overcome. Most are the result of government meddling and restriction—the minimum wage, perhaps the worst. As long as these organizations are not funded or otherwise subsidized, either directly or indirectly, by any government agency, they are both commendable and desirable.
However, I must repeat, voluntary and non-coercive. When white store owners sold out to Negro bidders immediately after the April burning of Washington—how "voluntary" were these transactions?
It is deplorable. Why?
(1 ) Simple discrimination on the part of the owners.
(2) By carefully allowing their buildings to approach complete collapse, slumlords receive substantial cuts in property taxes. At the same time, the conscientious landlords are penalized for their efforts.
(3) Urban Renewal projects have been consistently removing, but not replacing, low-cost housing in Negro districts.
(4) Citizens have failed to explore alternate solutions to the problem of housing. Instead of thinking up new solutions, they have run to the government, which has responded with the same old hash—"public" housing.
(5) Countless government policies, programs, and laws tend to slow, stop, or reverse capital accumulation, which leads, immediately or ultimately, to situations where there isn't enough to build new buildings.
(6) There are people who prefer low cost housing, because they would rather spend their money on other things.
And the solutions?
(1) In his book, Crisis in Black and White, Silberman described one possibility. Disgruntled tenement dwellers were organized, supplied with, placards, and transported to the landlord's northern Illinois suburban neighborhood. There they marched on the pavement before his home, holding the posters high: "Your neighbor is a slumlord!" Within a few days, their building was repaired.
(2) Either allow ample tax deductions for improvements, while levying a flat rate tax, or eliminate the property tax altogether.
(3) Develop articulate opposition to specific projects, with the ultimate goal of repealing the law. See: the Federal Bulldozer, by Martin Anderson.
(4) The Wall Street Journal (Jul 8) reports that the cost of mobile homes is dropping. Enterprisers are able to sell them on time at the rate of payment the average ghetto dweller forks over now as rent for a grimy tenement apartment. In 7 years, the home is paid for, and the ex-ghetto dweller has spent those years in a suburban neighborhood, Residents could get to work by private bus or car pool. As might be expected, the Journal sees a rosy future for mobile homes. So do I.
(5) Judicial repeal of those policies, programs, and laws.
There are two forms of police brutality—too much force and too little. During the riots, in different cities, at different times, the police were guilty of both.
In Detroit (67), National Guardsmen machine-gunned apartment buildings in an insane attempt to route out (alleged) snipers, murdering innocent victims. While in Wash, D.C. (68), policemen watched, arms crossed, as young hoodlums smashed windows and looted the contents in the most fashionable downtown shopping district. In Newark (67), police shot and killed 4 fleeing looters and 15 bystanders, expending, together with National Guard and other agents, 13,326 rounds of ammunition (see Rebellion in Newark). While in cities where arson was prevalent, some National Guardsmen were sent in with unloaded weapons.
When a policeman shoots an unarmed looter in the back—that is brutality. But when a policeman allows an arsonist to escape rather than shoot him—that, too, is brutality—brutality against the store owners, apartment dwellers, innocent victims, whom the arsonist will be free to kill or ruin.
There are dozens of grievances and dozens of "reasons" for the riots. But the basic cause is the rioters' desire for the unearned. Who nurtured such a desire? The liberals, who, for years, have told the Negro that he has a "right" to housing, education, and a job. The liberals never expected him to take it seriously—but he has. The riots are the results.
If he has a right to a certain standard of living, why should he wait months, years, or decades for the government to give it to him? The store windows across the street are already broken. The mayor has called off the police. Why shouldn't he cross the street and exercise his rights?
The liberal cannot answer the Negro, and they both know it; the liberal, when he feebly cries for "law and order"; the Negro, when he carts off the loot.
But no man has a right to another's property, the liberal's assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. A man has a right to his life, his liberty, his property, a right to what he has earned, no more, no less. Until the Negro sees this, until he rejects the liberal's hypocrisy, the riots will continue, weather permitting.
But education is not an automatic process. Someone must do something. Your cities are on fire, and your government, comprised mainly of liberals, is helpless. Do not expect the government to solve the problem. It is your country and your job, if you decide to take it. It is your profit, if you succeed.
Some people want to help the Negro/ghetto dweller because they believe he is ignorant, stupid, incompetent, and dependent. Others want to help him because he is presently, or potentially, healthy, happy, productive, self-confident, and self-supporting. Some want to help him because it secretly makes them feel superior. Others want to help him for the same reason they admire a Sidney Poitier. Some want to help because they think he is of no value. Others will help him because they believe he is.
Some will help him selflessly. Others will help him for the most selfish reason—because he is worthy of it. Some will refuse any notion of profit. Others will not—they recognize the value of their efforts, and the value of those on whom they expend it. Some will count black noses in a suburban school and feel their work done. Others will count their profits and know that it's just begun.
Some people envision the ghettos as a place of poverty, disease, and despair. Others see: potential. Some look at the street and can see no further than the trash in the gutters. Others see; unrecognized talent, unfound ability, stifled ambition, murdered pride, untapped ideas.
Those of you who are the others, those of you who have been largely ignored in favor of the phonies, those of you who really care, but are never mentioned in the news, will you write me? If you remain silent, the racists, the altruists, the stormtroopers, and the socialists will win by default. The racial strife will grow. Hundreds more will die. The agony will rise. The centers of our cities will fall into decay. The government will continue to bulldoze. Violence will spread. Destruction will increase. Unless the trends are stopped.
Those of you who have ideas on how to solve the ghetto problems, you ought to speak out. It is either you or another dozen Presidential commissions. Or, in other words, either you or nothing.
I would appreciate hearing from anyone interested in talking about ghetto enterprises.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "More Grievances and Some Demands, Too".