In 1988, the American government officially apologized to the Japanese American community for the mass internment of about 110,000 people of Japanese ethnicity, who had been denied their civil liberties from February 1942 to late 1945 during World War II.
It was the proper and moral thing to do to recompense the 50,000 survivors of those internment camps with $20,000 compensation for each survivor.
But no payment was made to the offspring and later generations of Japanese Americans who had not lived in the camps.
Now a movement has begun to call for reparations for African American slavery, and it is making steam among many Democratic Presidential aspirants.
There is no question of the horrors and abuses visited on 4 million African Americans, who were born slaves, emancipated at the end of the Civil War, and suffered segregation, lynchings, denial of civil rights, and economic exploitation.
An attempt was made to provide “40 acres and a mule” for each black family after the Civil War, promoted by the Republican Party, but it never really got off the ground.
That was an historical wrong, and compensation similar to this brief attempt should have been pursued in the late 19th century, but sadly it was not done.
But all those who were in slavery are long dead, and many of those who suffered under segregation, lynchings, denial of civil rights, and economic exploitation are also gone.
The African American experience has put that community at a disadvantage, but how can anyone figure out how to, in theory, compensate people who were not directly the victims of past wrongs?
Who would qualify, and how would one decide what an appropriate response in economic terms would be? It could lead to every ethnic and racial group demanding the same, and there is no way the US government could implement such a compensation plan, and not alienate those groups that would feel they were being blamed and assessed for something they had no role in bringing about.
Certainly, economic opportunity and new civil rights enforcement should be provided, but to have a compensation package in money terms would be an endless situation subject to much fraud.
So the answer is NOT to provide any specific compensation, because for the victims of slavery and segregation, their lifetimes have passed, and instead work on promoting fair and equitable treatment for all those whose ancestors were so shabbily treated.
This would include compensation for marijuana drug convictions for possession, and compensation for those imprisoned for years on the basis of failure to provide for a fair trial on various other charges, as often has happened in many states, particularly in the South.