Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin. (Deut 24: 16)

Deuteronomy refers to human justice as administered in a court of law. How can mere mortals decide the extent to which one person’s crime was induced by the influence of others? Clearly the judicial process must limit itself to the observable facts. The person who committed the crime is guilty. Those who may have shaped his character are not.

The guilt of previous generations would not be attached to them.

So how did we devolve into blaming the people of today, for the sins of their fathers, and then suggest reparations from generations far removed from the event?

A movement supporting reparations as a way to make amends for the atrocities of slavery and to reduce the persistent wealth gap is gaining momentum. One hundred and forty-two members of Congress support H.R. 40, the bill to study reparations. William Darity, professor of public policy at Duke University  and his wife, Kirsten Mullen, made the most comprehensive case for a reparations program in their latest book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.” They argue a meaningful program to eliminate the existing Black-White wealth gap requires an allocation of between $10 trillion and $12 trillion, or about $800,000 to each eligible Black household.

Darity’s proposal, meanwhile, is premised on the idea that reparations are not exclusively for slavery but also for legal segregation and post-Civil Rights Act mass incarceration; police killings of unarmed black people; credit, housing and employment discrimination; and the racial wealth gap. He believes that for both “symbolic and substantive reasons, a major portion of any reparations fund should constitute direct payments to eligible recipients.”

“It is time to really have a serious conversation about restoring the wealth that’s been extracted by racism,” Andre Perry, a fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and co-author of the April report “Why we need reparations for Black Americans,” told MarketWatch.  “It’s becoming more and more obvious that black communities have been robbed of the money that they’re owed from slavery, from Jim Crow racism and from systemic racism in things like housing and criminal justice,” he said. “You can call it reparations, but at the end of the day, it’s about giving people what they’re owed and what’s needed in order to make communities less vulnerable to economic shocks and policy disasters in the future.”

The Asheville City Council apologized for the city’s role in slavery, discrimination and denial of basic liberties in a unanimous vote. According to Councilman Keith Young,“It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature.”

The resolution doesn’t mandate direct payments, but will make investments in areas where Black citizens face disparities, such as increasing minority home ownership, closing gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, and neighborhood safety.

Evanston, Illinois, made a similar move in 2019, using tax proceeds from recreational cannabis sales to fund the program.

Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson called for $14 trillion in reparations to atone for slavery, government-sponsored discrimination and “permanent emotional trauma” experienced by black Americans. The proposed reparations, he said in a statement, would take the form of direct cash payments over 10 to 20 years to descendants of African-American enslaved people. Younger adults are substantially more likely than older adults to support both an official apology from the federal government for slavery and reparations in the form of cash payments, according to an AP-NORC poll conducted in September.

Governor Newsome signed Bill AB 3121 — the first of its kind in any state that will create a nine-member task force that will inform Californians about slavery and explore ways the state might provide reparations.  Joe Biden told The Washington Post he supports studying how reparations could be part of larger efforts to address systemic racism. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, has co-sponsored a bill that would study the effects of slavery and create recommendations for reparations.

The mayor of Providence Rhode Island signed an executive order to pursue “truth, reconciliation and municipal reparations” for Black Americans, Indigenous people and people of color in the city. Most formulations have produced numbers from as low as $17 billion to as high as almost $5 trillion. Reparation funds could also be used to provide one-time endowments to start museums and historical exhibits on slavery.

Then there is Burgess Owens, a former NFL player now running as a Republican to represent Utah’s 4th congressional district. He argued that the reparations movement was premised on “a divisive and demeaning view of both races” in a 2019 Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined “I Didn’t Earn Slavery Reparations, and I Don’t Want Them.”

So who is paying for all of this? Descendants of white slave owners? Descendants of immigrants to America since 1865, recent immigrants? Will it be immigrants of all colours or just white?

What do these people have to say about the dozens of people killed or injured in the “recent” violent unrest, and thousands of businesses and properties, many minority-owned, that were looted, torched, or otherwise vandalized. Portland’s downtown has been devastated first by the impact of the coronavirus lockdown & then months of violent BLM-antifa riots. Over 20 businesses have closed for good, 80 retail locations are empty, and 170 are temporarily closed. Only now are we beginning to realize the full cost of the destruction. New reporting from Axios reveals that the total insured property losses incurred during the George Floyd riots will come in at $1 billion to $2 billion. “[This will] eclips[e] the record set in Los Angeles in 1992 after the acquittal of the police officers who brutalized Rodney King.” Insurance is no panacea for the societal ills imposed by rioting.  Seventy-five percent of US businesses are under-insured and about 40 percent of small businesses have no insurance at all. Their untold millions in losses don’t show up in the $2 billion figure. Looking at mere insurance totals fails to factor in the lost sales revenue and unpaid labor that businesses victimized by rioters face.

The destructive George Floyd riots have disproportionately damaged black communities in Kenosha, Wisc., Minneapolis, and Chicago. The riots destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 26 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.

And that’s all without even considering the long-term economic impact rioting has on a community. Riots leave a lasting shadow on a city that haunts its economy for decades. The afflicted areas face higher insurance rates, lower property values, higher prices, reduced tax revenue, and decreased economic opportunity.

So who will pay reparations to the families who lost family members, their businesses? For the stores that were looted and /or burned?

How about the children, grandchildren, the great grandchildren of the politicians who turned a blind eye to the riots, who failed to protect their citizens?

The sins of the fathers.

From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”