“Gaslight” — psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator –Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Neither history nor common sense mean anything to those demanding “racial reparations.”
Slavery in America was definitively outlawed upon ratification of the 13th Amendment to our Constitution in 1865. The right to vote was secured against racial discrimination by way of the 15th Amendment just five years later. Federal legislation, including the 1871 criminal deprivation of civil rights law, the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and many other statutes, provide robust legal vehicles by which to ensure the principles embodied in the Constitution had real meaning, and were enforceable in courts of law.
Judging by the way the “racial reparations” movement is gaining steam in California, none of these several constitutional and statutory mechanisms ever really existed. Reparations proponents are attempting to gaslight the American people into believing our country sleepwalked through those eras and never addressed the evils of slavery or racial discrimination.
That this reparations movement is gaining notoriety mostly in California, which still ironically claims the moniker of “the Golden State,” should not surprise us. One of the state’s former chief executive, Jerry Brown, was known as “Governor Moonbeam” for his eccentricities and “hippy” image during his first two terms, from 1975 to 1983.
However, the fact that the state’s current governor, Gavin Newsom (who sees a future U.S. president in his mirror each day as he shaves), has elevated such a scam to an official policy level, truly is a wonder to behold.
In much the same way that “junk science” has provided the justification for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to ban the use of natural gas in new construction, “junk history” is at the center of the racial reparations movement. And, as the July 1st deadline for the Newsom-created “California Reparations Task Force” to issue its final report approaches, the rhetoric becomes ever more inflammatory and unhinged.
For example, at a recent public forum where Californians could comment on the proposed handouts, a “Reverend Tony Pierce” boisterously demanded that the only fair dollar figure to be apportioned to him and his fellow Black citizens, was $200 million apiece. The response to such inanity by the Task Force spokesperson was a meek, “Thank you, Reverend.”
That episode encapsulates the junk history on which reparations advocates appear to justify their case – that the anecdotal “40 acres and a mule” of 1865 is today worth a cool $200 million. It is doubtful Rev. Pierce or many of the others clamoring for massive monetary reparations for past – and, in fact, continuing — wrongs understand or much care about the actual historic context or meaning of the “40 acres and a mule” narrative.
The idea of taking 400,000 acres of coastal land seized by Union forces and apportioning it to a limited number of freed slaves in South Carolina and Georgia, was in fact incorporated in a January 1865 “Field Order” signed by Gen. William T. Sherman.
Sherman’s Field Order, signed while he was headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, after completing his “March to the Sea,” was never intended to have any effect beyond the coastal area his forces then occupied (much less thousands of miles away in California), and its terms were never enshrined in law (it was in fact revoked by President Andrew Johnson the same year it was issued). Such factual historic details, however, have no place in the increasingly bellicose rhetoric surrounding the call for reparations to atone for all manner of economic, medical, educational, property, law enforcement, and other wrongs on the long list of factors to which reparations proponents have assigned arbitrary – but extremely large – dollar amounts.
Notwithstanding Newsom’s recent vacillating about the massive monetary payments recommended by the Task Force he established, the political storm he launched is not likely to subside anytime soon. In fact, a former chairwoman of the “mostly peaceful” Black Panther Party already has called on reparations supporters to start protesting. Buckle your seatbelts.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.