A ‘Reparations’ Plan Designed to Help the Activist Left, Not Minorities

POLITICS & POLICY
Statue in Prospect Terrace Park overlooking Providence, R.I. (SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images)
Providence’s municipal-reparations scheme helps left-wing activist groups, not students trapped in Rhode Island’s union-dominated schools.

It used to be referred to as the soft bigotry of low expectations: the unspoken bias among many liberals, who subconsciously believe that minority populations are not capable of succeeding on their own. For these liberals, this belief made it understandable, and therefore socially acceptable, for people of color to underachieve. This long-held bias was also their undeclared motivation for massive government-intervention programs.

However, in recent months, this unspoken belief — and its inherent and systematic prejudices — has been exposed for everyone to see. It is now obvious that it supported a system designed to finance the Left’s larger agenda.

Earlier this month, Jorge Elorza, the mayor of Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, took a concrete first step to implement a municipal-reparations program — a ridiculous idea many thought would never come to pass. Not only is this policy of “reconciliation” biased in and of itself — as it presupposes that minorities require a government handout in order to reach equity with whites — but it also appears that the program’s implementation will follow the Left’s playbook of funneling funds to institutions already aligned with it.

Whether it’s global warming cap-and-trade fees, Obamacare navigators, COVID-19 relief funds, or now, reparations payments, taxpayer money spent on the Left’s “equity” programs always seems to end up in the hands of those advocacy or academic institutions that would reinforce or advance left-wing hegemony. In this case, Providence awarded $100,000 in grants to the private Roger Williams University, in Bristol, R.I., to design and oversee the eventual program.

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For many years, Roger Williams University has bought into the woke agenda. It is the ideal politically correct partner for a social-equity program such as reparations. With more government money likely to follow, more RWU students are almost certain to be brainwashed by well-funded professors. But let’s not neglect that a subcontractor slated to receive some of the grant money is an obvious left-wing advocacy group called the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative.

Mayor Elorza, who is a member of a national group of about 50 calling itself “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income,” further exposed his attitude of low expectations when he also announced a pilot program to provide a “guaranteed income” to 110 Providence families living at or under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In addition to reparations, this clear step toward universal incomes exposes his paternalistic, condescending belief that underprivileged communities need him to succeed, and should advance themselves only on terms dictated by the government — of which he is in charge.

Like virtually every progressive-policy push, always accompanied by a massive price tag, the stated goal is secondary to reinforcing the progressive project. When the solution to the problems progressives identify — rising global temperatures, Americans’ health-care woes, or lifting disadvantaged families out of poverty — always involves expanding the state and empowering left-wing activist groups and institutions, it seems obvious to conclude that progressives are just checking the wealth-redistribution box, buying votes, and putting public dollars into the hands of their allies.

But it’s the sinister undercurrent that has only recently surfaced. The Left has worked hard to convince us that historical “white supremacists” are to blame for the general substandard quality of life in minority communities, and that reparations payments are one way to heal such communities of the wicked legacy of our nation’s evil past. However, the reality is that it’s woke Americans, white liberals, and leaders who claim unjustly to speak on behalf of entire minority groups — from former President Lyndon Johnson to Mayor Jorge Elorza — who are the true root of the problem.

The only kernel of truth to Elorza’s justification for his reparations scheme is that minority populations in Providence are disadvantaged in one significant way: the lack of meaningful K–12 educational opportunities. For decades, with over 90 percent of students coming from minority families, it was well known that Providence public schools have been a miserable failure. In 2019, the prestigious Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy issued a scathing 93-page report on the capital city’s school system, which was dubbed by the Wall Street Journal an “Education Horror Show.”

But it’s not conservatives who are to blame for the inaction that supports the decrepit educational status quo in Providence, which has kept African-American and Hispanic children undereducated and ill-prepared for life, or who oppose school-choice policies that threaten this status quo. In fact, the Providence school system has long been controlled by powerful teachers’ unions and left-wing Democrats, and more recently by progressive-left state officials after it was put under state control. And if critical race theory, which is openly supported by national teachers’ unions and which posits that structural disadvantages built into America itself make it impossible for minorities to succeed (without help from the Left, of course), makes further headway in schools, things will get even worse — and even more left-wing. Again, inconveniently for the Left, conservatives can’t be blamed.

Conservatives do believe, however, that empowering underprivileged families is a worthwhile goal. And the best thing that can be done for minority families in Providence is to enable their children to escape the city’s horrid municipal public schools: not as compensation for the sins of the distant past, but rather to circumvent the more contemporary progressive-left policies of “low expectations.” These are policies that keep disadvantaged children trapped in government-run schools, suppressing entire populations and leading to multigenerational poverty.

Educational freedom, an idea that would allow public funds to follow the student to the school of their family’s choice — private, home, or public — would provide significant and life-long benefits to underprivileged youth, as opposed to the minimal and ephemeral effect of government handouts.

The far-superior alternative to reparations payments is private school choice. This kind of educational freedom costs nothing, as existing educational funds can be easily repurposed to follow students. And it will provide for longer-lasting prosperity than any temporary cash handout.

But this kind of educational-choice policy would not enrich left-wing advocacy groups. Instead, it would directly empower parents! So the Left sees no benefit to this proven solution, preferring to resort to a gimmick such as reparations.

The once-subtle condescension of those who claim to be the champions of communities of color has now exploded into a brazen display of their own overt bigotry and inexorable thirst to enrich their political allies.

The Left is desperately trying to perpetuate false race wars so that it can covertly fund its socialist agenda via fake reform programs such as reparations. But its cover has been blown. To see the real systemic racism that they claim needs to be dismantled, all liberals have to do is look in the mirror.

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