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Even the non-woke should support just demands for reparations

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Even the non-woke should support just demands for reparations

White House officials this week indicated that Team Biden is ready to “start acting” on the question of reparations for African Americans. The news is sure to set off speculation about a civil war on the left over the issue, between progressives and “moderates.” But a more interesting question is whether conservatives should oppose reparations?

The answer is no. Reparations are the most straightforward means of acknowledging the historic injustice inflicted on African Americans, which is why such proposals have been made in some form or another almost continuously since the end of the Civil War, when Andrew Johnson unilaterally revoked the “40 acres and a mule” policy that would have gifted valuable property to 40,000 freed slaves.

More than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, we have black professionals and CEOs and even black billionaires. But most descendants of slaves have never had access to the broad-based prosperity of the middle class. For the vast majority, especially before the 1960s, there never was an American Dream.

This is true despite the fact that in the last decade and a half we have elected a black man and a black woman to our nation’s two highest offices. The rise of former President Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan economist and a white anthropologist, and Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican economist and a high-caste Indian scientist, testifies movingly to the success of our immigration system. Successive generations of immigrants, including those from sub-Saharan Africa, have leapfrogged over Americans whose ancestors were held as property on these shores — but that only reminds us that the situation of African Americans is unique.

This brings us to two of the most common objections to reparations. The first is that we shouldn’t expect Americans whose ancestors were soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Chinese peasants to answer for crimes committed here two centuries ago. The second is that reparations won’t put an end to the persistent wealth disparities between black and other Americans.

Both of these objections miss the point, which is that reparations aren’t a question of inherited guilt for sins, which is the shared condition of the human race, or simply a means of reducing income inequality. They are in part a symbolic gesture and an immensely valuable one.

Money is sometimes more than just a medium of exchange, which is why your grandmother still sends you a birthday card with a $20 bill tucked inside long after she knows that you don’t need it.

Such gestures aren’t limited to the personal sphere. Civilization has always depended on virtues such as courtesy, munificence and magnanimity. Just as we don’t refrain from using racial slurs simply because they are politically incorrect, we shouldn’t insist that reparations can only be valuable if they right every injustice or if they are paid for by those whose ancestors were slave owners.

Being willing to do the right thing doesn’t require having previously done the wrong one.

One other great virtue that civilization demands is particularity. While progressives sweep these issues into their boutique obsessions about language and the liberation of ever-more-exotic sexual identities, conservatives should recognize the sound and particular demands for justice from those whose forebears were brought to this country in chains. Demands for reparations don’t arise from silly campus woke-ism.

Blacks and whites in the post-industrial Midwest face similar plights today, but the difference is that the grandfathers of the latter likely had good-paying union jobs at a steel mill at which the ancestors of the former couldn’t have been hired as janitors. Why not address this, as we have the singular experience of American Indians? My Czech great-grandparents were no more responsible for the Trail of Tears than they were for slavery, but I do not begrudge my Indian friends their land and free tuition.

There are other serious questions about reparations — the amount to be paid, and when, and how to determine eligibility. A realistic plan would likely involve cash payments to proven descendants of slaves. The details are vexing and serious. But they are also beside the point until we accept the humane and decent case for some form of reparations.

Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine.

Twitter: @MatthewWalther

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Opinion

Teachers’ unions don’t care that closed schools are a harmful inequity

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Teachers' unions don't care that closed schools are a harmful inequity

In New York City and nationally, school shutdowns without question do the most harm to minority, low-income and special-needs students. And it’s beyond outrageous that the teacher-union leaders who are behind the most egregious public-school closures pretend the opposite.

They’re making things easier on the members, knowing full well that it hurts the kids they claim to care about. How convenient, and how obscenely cynical, for the likes of Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, to say that reopening schools would harm black children.

Once again: All the science shows that schools are highly COVID-safe. Much of Europe has kept its schools open all pandemic long, at least for preteens, who almost never contract the bug and so don’t transmit it. In this country, only areas with over-powerful teachers’ unions have suffered prolonged school shutdowns. All that would have provided ample horror stories for the unions to cite if there were any danger at all.

And remote learning, at least as regular US public schools have attempted it, is an unmitigated disaster. Most children barely interact with their teachers. The few educators who work their hearts out to actually teach are all-too-rare exceptions.

Without question, poor and minority students suffer most. Just for starters, they’re far more likely to have connectivity issues and to have started the pandemic without the devices needed for remote classes. And their parents are less likely to be in a position to fill in the gaps or even to ensure that children actually link up and pay attention.

Yet, thanks to the unions, they’re the ones most likely consigned to the “remote” tragedy. The American Enterprise Institute’s Return2Learn tracker revealed that as recently as January, one-third of white students were in fully remote districts, compared with about half of black and Hispanic students. About 47 percent of all Hispanic-American students attend school in majority-Hispanic districts where in-person learning is limited.

Plus, as Jack Elbaum noted recently in these pages, “while poor kids are locked out of in-person learning, the wealthy can place their kids in private schools that long ago reopened.” Catholic schools have opened safely, too — in the very same cities where unions have kept public schools shuttered.

The unions are increasing educational inequality all across America.

Education can be a lifeline for these children, offering skills and knowledge their parents aren’t in a position to share. Yes, New York City’s public schools, like those in all too many US cities, fall short for these children in normal times. But this is an entire year utterly lost.

So the unions resort to lies. Back in December, the Chicago Teachers Union — an AFT chapter — claimed that the push to reopen schools was “rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.” No evidence or argument, just name-calling, even though the student body is overwhelmingly minority. The union also sued to prevent the school district from moving forward with its Jan. 11 reopening plan and threatened a strike. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had to threaten a “lockout” of teachers working remotely to get the union to bend at all. Now the target date is April 19, and the union is still resisting.

To Lightfoot’s fury, the CTU even whined that discussing “learning-loss” is a harmful way to look at students. Harmful to the CTU, actually.

San Francisco city leaders even resorted to suing the independently run school district and education board in a bid to get kids back into public-school classrooms.

Heck, even putting teachers at the head of the line for vaccinations doesn’t move the unions. New York City educators have had three months to get jabbed, yet United Federation of Teachers boss Mike Mulgrew still resists any hint of making his members go back to in-person work.

At the unions’ behest, New York state has also made all standardized testing an opt-in affair. The clear goal: Make it as hard as possible for parents to realize how far behind their kids have fallen. Yet studies show that many young children have suffered grievously — and that doesn’t even consider the mental-health impacts, witnessed in rising teen-suicide rates.

At this point, it’s only teachers’ unions and politicians subservient to them that deny the obvious.

For decades, these unions have demanded ever-higher pay and ever-more perks in the name of better serving the children, with endless talk about social justice. But teachers’ unions this last year have proved that the kids come last; science and social justice are irrelevant.

They’re nothing but a pack of selfish pigs, mouthing pieties they refuse to live by. They care about nothing but their own most selfish interests.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — April 10, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — April 10, 2021

The Issue: The Post’s suggestions on how the city can recover from the pandemic and residents moving away.

Conspicuous in its absence from The Post’s advice to heal Gotham is the issue of people working from home (“How new leader can heal Goth­am,” Editorial, April 8).

For good or bad, the pandemic caused the flight of commuters from the city. The trickle-down economy that once flowed from the Midtown office workforce has paused, and there’s little evidence of a comeback.

If this exodus is not addressed, the entire economy of New York and other cities will be turned upside down, not unlike what e-commerce has done to the retail sector.

Richard J. Carhidi
Manhattan

The enforcement issues delegated to the NYPD is one of several items highlighted in The Post April 8 editorial.

No doubt, ineffective governing at all levels has resulted in legislation and guidelines that negatively affect the personal performance of NYPD officers and have contributed to the debacle.

Reduced membership, funding and the imposition of restrictive guidelines have affected job performance.

The City Council’s vindictive attitude is evident in its elimination of qualified immunity for the NYPD.

John Gargiulo
Whitestone

The fix for New York City doesn’t begin with more police, better schools or lower taxes, although that’s all needed — it begins with an electorate that realizes those whom they elect will determine what changes happen.

Voters can’t continue to elect and re-elect Democrats, like Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo and those who dominate the state Legislature.

It’s like going go to a “Dr. Feel Good” who tells you to eat two Twinkies every day, instead of going to a medical specialist who tells you that you need to make changes in your lifestyle to live longer.

The public listens to the lies of the Democrats because they’re a tasty Twinkie, but The Post knows better.

John Brindisi
Manhattan

If the mayor of New York, or a candidate for mayor, wants to save the city from decline and darkness, he or she has to focus on and commit to just one thing: fighting crime — crime on the streets immediately, and eventually crime behind closed doors (meaning corruption) as well.

I am not being cute or simplistic. All those other things — education, housing, transportation, more — are important and not easy to fix, but people from all walks of life will come forward to address them if the mayor will commit to fighting crime.

It will not be easy to fix overnight, but it will be simple and achievable in a surprisingly brief period of time. But you’ve got to want it.

Brian Burke
Branford, Conn.

The Post article covered the main points on what’s needed to turn around this great city.

I would add that communities must be involved with policing their neighborhoods, and the teachers union needs more accountability, among other things. Yet these are just a couple of fine points.

But The Post hit the nail on head with its comments on the “crazy progressives.” They are the real culprits for most if not all the madness going on right now. They are but a small faction dictating to the masses.

I think most people will agree with The Post’s assessment: Time to flush them out with the dirty water.

B. Tonuzi
Wanaque, NJ

I couldn’t agree more with your solutions to heal Gotham, especially addressing the issue of the homeless, which includes not allowing public sleeping and living.

In Central Park this week, I saw a homeless woman go into the flowerbed bushes to do her business. The people sitting on benches to enjoy the beautiful spring flowers were treated to the smell and a hunk of nasty, used toilet paper blowing away.

It is too bad if they don’t want to go to a shelter to sleep. It’s often a mental illness and drug or alcohol problems.

And pulling all NYCThrive funding is a great idea.

Carol Meltzer
Manhattan

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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Opinion

De Blasio must order NYC teachers back to school

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De Blasio must order NYC teachers back to school

It’s past time for Mayor Bill de Blasio to reopen all public schools, full time, shut down hybrid learning and end remote instruction. Period.  

Instead, all he’s done is give parents one last chance to opt-in to in-person classes —because that’s the most United Federation of Teachers chief Mike Mulgrew will agree to.

But why is de Blasio still kowtowing to Mulgrew, when the union boss regularly insults him in public? Just this week, he said all the problems with reopening are de Blasio’s fault, and even got mayoral wannabe Andrew Yang to endorse that lie.

The union plainly has no use left for the lame-duck mayor, except as a convenient scapegoat. He dumped huge pay hikes on its members in exchange for . . . nothing, even awarding “retroactive” raises. When COVID hit, he caved to almost all of the union’s demands, such that the great majority of its members are still teaching from homes while earning full pay, tenure credits and priority for the lifesaving vaccine.

They’re also more immune from accountability than ever, with most grading standards suspended so parents have no idea what their kids might have failed to learn.

Teachers have had three months to get jabbed. With a few rare exceptions, they have no excuse for not going back. What’s the point of mayoral control if de Blasio can’t find the guts to order vaccinated teachers back into classrooms without Mulgrew’s signoff?

Even the mayor’s change in the “two-case” rule is pathetic. The rule of two positive tests shutting down entire buildings (and thus often multiple schools) was nuts, but he’s simply upped it to four positives in a week (albeit with a supposedly tougher “tied to the school” addendum) closing things down for up to 10 school days.

It’s a concession to Mulgrew that has no rational basis. School grounds aren’t transmission hotspots here or anywhere in the world.  

Mulgrew (like Randi Weingarten, the president of his national union) isn’t really worried about safety; he just doesn’t want his members to have to trek back to their workplace this semester.

De Blasio may think he needs the UFT’s support if he wants to, for instance, run for governor. But you know who he needs more? The votes of parents who are fed up with this intransigence. It’s your last months in office, Mr. Mayor — stand up to the UFT and stand up for New Yorkers.

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