Analysis: "Conservative" David Brooks Endorses Reparations for Slavery (and some Thoughts on the Issue)

Ok, I’m using the word “conservative” really loosely at this point, but Brooks does still claim to be a true conservative fighting against the scourge of Trumpism. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that he’s adopted liberal orthodoxy on almost every major issue, from abortion to gun control to climate change. Brooks is also one of our moral betters who fluffed for Democrats before the 2018 election. That’s working out about as well as his 2016 predictions.


The march continues for Mr. Brooks as he has now endorsed reparations for slavery.

New York Times columnist David Brooks is endorsing reparations, compensation to descendants of slaves and victims of discriminatory government policies.

In a Thursday column, Brooks admitted that nearly five years ago he disagreed with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article in the Atlantic on “ The Case for Reparations.” But Brooks, who came to the Times in 2003 as a conservative columnist, wrote he sees reparations as necessary to make amends for past and ongoing discrimination.

“Slavery and the continuing pattern of discrimination aren’t only an attempt to steal labor; they are an attempt to cover over a person’s soul, a whole people’s soul,” Brooks wrote.

“That injury shows up today as geographic segregation, the gigantic wealth gap, the lack of a financial safety net, but also the lack of the psychological and moral safety net that comes when society has a history of affirming: You belong. You are us. You are equal,” he continued.

If you had him as the first #nevertrumper to do this, collect your winnings at the window. This is probably tied to his tacit endorsement of Kamala Harris back in February, who has already endorsed some version of reparations (I say some version because the media failed to press her for details, as usual). I mean, what’s more conservative than cheer-leading Kamala Harris, am I right?

Brooks partially credits his change of heart to speaking with a woman who says her children are worse off today than she was as a child in 1953 (as well as a complete misreading of Lincoln’s second inaugural address).


Brooks, who considers himself a moderate Republican, said he changed his mind on the issue after traveling the country and speaking with people, including an elderly African-American woman who said children in her neighborhood are in a worse position than she was as a child in 1953.

There are a few disconnects here that I think are worth exploring. If this woman’s children are worse off than she was in the 50s, that would logically point to past generations of slavery not being the cause of her children’s current decline. Its likely that if we were provided more details, far more relevant factors could be seen in their situation. That’s the problem with anecdotes.

Secondly, we should note the political party and the policies that are predominant in these poor, urban areas most cited when talking about reparations. A few thousand dollars in one-time payments is not going to solve any of these issues. It’s not going to stop the corruption and ineffectiveness of current policy. It will likely only exacerbate it, as so often happens with these programs billed with the purest of intentions. Change starts with the individual and branches out into our representation. If you live in a place where Democratic policies have led to a sharp decline for your children, perhaps trying something different would be prudent?

While some critics will simply dismiss this discussion with prejudice, that’s not my intention here. I recognize that oppression has existed in the black community. I recognize that it can be a roadblock in some ways. But I also believe there is no quick fix here. This country does do a laundry list of things to help these communities, including medical care, food stamps, welfare payments, free college,  jobs programs, and much more. Tacking on another temporary hand out is unlikely to accomplish anything of note.


At the end of the day, the individual has to chose a different path and take advantage of the upward mobility that does indeed exist. The many black individuals who’ve extradited themselves from tough starts didn’t do so by sheer luck. For many in the inner cities, that means shunning some cultural aspects that are corrosive and resisting temptations that will come. That’s not comfortable for a lot of people to discuss, but handing out more cash isn’t going to fix this either.

Lastly, some supporters of reparations will argue that it will bring about societal healing, saying that they aren’t as concerned about the monetary results. I’m skeptical given the exasperation of racial tensions we’ve seen over the last 10 years and fear it would just breed deeper division. The current inter-sectional ideology promulgated on the left simply won’t allow there to be an endgame because their future power depends on the continued exploitation of past actions. While you could legitimately argue that black Americans hold a unique place in America’s history of faults, inter-sectionality relegates them to just another in a long list of aggrieved to exploit.

Look no further than the “anti-hate” resolution recently passed by the House. For instance, Latinos are mentioned prominently (2nd in the resolution). You are already seeing a push describing Latinos as the next “historically oppressed” group by politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. To be frank, this begins to stretch the meaning of the term and demands a level of historical perfection that no nation has ever lived up to. To spin centuries old wars for Texas and the like as oppression is to render the term meaningless. It also ignores that many Latinos are direct decedents of the conquering Spanish. Even if someone claims Mayan or Aztec heritage, for example, those societies are guilty of enslaving people. That begs the question of whether Latinos are historically oppressed or have actually been the oppressor? Where does this exercise end? To be sure, I’m not offering an answer nor do I believe any such collective weighing of Latino history is necessary. I’m simply pointing out the impossible, contradictory standards that inter-sectionalism demands and why it’s so dangerous. It quite literally never stops.


America is not perfect and never has been. Perfection is not attainable. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t demand punishment for the past transgressions that he was acutely aware of. He asked that America live up to it’s already stated ideals, which include equality for all men and women. That’s what we should be striving for every day. That is attainable, perfection in every individual outcome is not. Trying to re-litigate the past wrongs of slavery by paying off modern day decedents will only further destroy our social fabric. If you take money from people who had nothing to do with slavery and reshuffle it to those who also did not personally suffer slavery, it will bring resentment and that’s just the best case scenario. Anyone in support of reparations must think critically about all the repercussions because they matter.

This topic is not going away. It’s going to be a big issue in 2020 and going forward. Republicans need to be able to properly communicate real solutions on this issue because the question is going to be asked. The President shouldn’t just scoff anymore than he’s scoffed at rust belt dwellers or opioid addicts (who you could also argue weren’t doing everything they could to fix their own situations). He needs to do his best to hear the concerns and articulate a better way forward than what’s currently being suggested.

As for David Brooks, him once again flip-flopping on an issue should surprise no one, especially one that requires billions of dollars toward a very questionable result. He never had any real principles. He simply saw conservatism as a path to power, specifically during the Bush years (Bushism itself has shown itself to be a very odd animal). I don’t expect him to be the last of his tribe to do this. A certain website, made famous for sending a pro-choice Democrat to CPAC to heckle pro-lifers, is probably next on the list.



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