It is fine for Jeff Jacoby to argue that companies of today should not have to pay reparations for sins of slavery, especially when the sins in question weren't even carried out by the company in question. On the other hand when he starts to talk about how the companies that did own slaves did so in an era where it was a legal and widespread practice his argument jumps the rails of reasons and heads over to "Massively insensitive fuckwad-ville."
Slavery was legal and common in the South, and it was a HUMAN TRAGEDY. These people who whine incessantly that legalized abortion is genocide (Genocide against the unborn carried out by the most brutally evil people on the face of this earth....MOTHERS) cannot seriously argue that legalized slavery was morally acceptable.
But they do.
Because deep in their conservative hearts a lot of Southerners think that slavery should still be legal today. They don't see what the big deal was with emancipation. That's part of what the glorification of the confederacy is, and anyone who says different is a LIAR. The confederacy was ABOUT slavery, and modern "rebels" are would-be slavers.
I had a white southern woman once tell me that "They" (The negroes) were happier during slavery than they are today. She looks around at the ghettos and drug problems and sees not, as a reasonable person does, the remnants of man's inhumanity to man, an unhealed sore caused by slavery, but rather a bunch of niggers who can't handle their freedom.
She is not alone.
I think Jeff Jacoby is with her.
Jacoby argues that blacks today never suffered from slavery so they don't deserve reparations. But our contemporaries have suffered from slavery. They suffered during reconstruction when they were second-class citizens or worse (Many blacks from those times still survive today.) They suffer from injuries done their families which caused generations of harm. They suffer from their ancestors having no property or education to pass down to them. Those who immigrate here from Africa in the post-slavery era suffer from racism and marginalization.
To fail to recognize this is to implicitly give slavery the nod of approval. That is something we should not do. It is fine not to support reparations, there are many legitimate arguments against them, but it is not fine to ignore or trivialize the wounds of the past.
Later in his article Jacoby claims that to hold America to be in debt for slavery today is equivalent to holding African Americans in debt for being freed. This is a ludicrous statement. For one thing freeing the slaves was undoing a harm that had already been done to them, it did something to balance the ledger but it hardly made up for the years of harsh servitude. For another the Northern whites didn't just swoop in and free the slaves. They initially didn't want to do so at all, and only made that choice out of strategic necessity*, and they did not do so alone. Thousands of black soldiers marched with them and lost their lives in the process.
Jacoby has a patronizing attitude towards slavery and its fallout that is typical of many conservatives. A fundamental part of the confederacy was the belief that blacks were inferior people and deserved their lot in the world. It was endemic to the confederate philosophy, and remains so among confederacy worshipers today. It is a dark dark undercurrent running beneath much modern conservatism.
And it is ugly. So ugly.
Conservatives, DEFEND YOUR BOY.
*This does not mean that the civil war was not about slavery. It was. It was about expansion of slavery into new territory, an issue that both rankled abolitionists and, perhaps more to the point, would have politically benefited the South over the North.