A Seattle-based conceptual artist recently launched a new website that pushes for reparations for “persons of color.”
Natasha Marin launched the site as a “social media experiment” that will run until the end of the year. The “Reparations” website carries the subtitle “There is something you can do,” and Marin gives us an idea of how she’d like this experiment to work:
I invite People of Color to ask for what we need to feel better, be happier, be more productive by posting in this space. These may be both material and immaterial requests. I invite people who identify as White to offer services or contributions to People of Color in need of time, energy, substantive care, and support.
Because people of color are unhappy, Marin argues, “people who identify as White” should offer something to alleviate that unhappiness.
The experiment’s Facebook page is even more telling. A young woman named Tashi Ko advises: “A great offering is Leveraging Your Privilege (anyone can do this).”
In response to these manipulations of white guilt, parties have come forward to answer the call. One woman posted on Facebook:
White LGBTQI individual… interested in helping persons of colour in a non-monetary manner (I’m flat broke and can barely afford rent and food, but would not mind personal services within my abilities). Please PM me if you think I can help you.
She followed this up with this shocking statement: “ Seriously, even if you want to yell at a white person, I’m down. I deserve it, and you deserve the chance.”
Another woman has offered birth services. She posted, “It is my experience that my whiteness can act as a bridge between families of color and the predominately white medical establishment here in ******.”
The site contains many more similar examples. Many black people ask for money, and many whites answer, eager to expiate their guilt.
But this push is for a very different sort of reparations, fit for an era of online Social Justice Warriors. In the past, activists demanding reparations plead with the government to force a wealth transfer from whites to blacks. This resembles Ta-Nehisis Coate’s words: “Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.”
Manipulation of guilt for economic profit is morally disgusting. The facts of the past are not in dispute, and nothing may be done to change them now. This fact is typically why demands for reparations have failed.
However, this new sort of reparations could spread similarly to other online campaigns. It will start with a small segment of society. As it spreads, the social pressure to conform by confessing the sins of whiteness will build. When white guilt reaches critical mass, it will be followed by calls to relieve that guilt. Specifically, white people will be called on to pay indulgences for their sins by giving money to people of color.
I am white, and I feel no guilt for the sins of other whites, just as I feel no guilt for the sins of other men. Nor should I carry any such guilt. Neither should anyone else. The evils of the past stand as a warning of what we are capable of, and a reminder that human evil will always be with us. It is unwise to drown ourselves in guilt over the evils of a past which we cannot change. It is better by far to learn from that past and endeavor to not repeat its’ mistakes.
I will not make reparations for crimes which I have not committed, against people whom I never wronged, in an age in which I did not yet exist.