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Would Reparations Go On Forever?

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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks about her policy ideas with Anand Giridharadas at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festivals in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Flores

On the campaign trail, several leading Democratic presidential candidates express support for the concept of reparations paid to black people to compensate for the crimes of slavery. The most uncomfortable question about this terrible suggestion isn’t what it says about the past, but what it means for our future.

Most advocates want reparations paid out over time, not in a single lump sum—but when would the payments end? And what about an African-American baby born in, say, 2050: would she be entitled to reparations, too?

Affirmative action was supposed to be a temporary program, terminated once equality was achieved, and yet it’s continued to give preferential treatment based on race for more than 50 years. If government bonuses, like race-based preferences in college admission and some hiring, go on indefinitely, then that would perpetuate racial differences rather than unifying the country.

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