Reparation Rackets

Reparation Rackets

Reparation Rackets

Recent posts from our readers forum.
Sept. 13 2000 11:30 PM

Reparation Rackets

Subject: Irony-Free and Proud

Re:
" Assessment—Spike Lee"

From:
Ivan Webster

Date:
Tue Sept. 5  6:54 a.m. PT

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"Wrongshore" writes in The Fray:

David Plotz scorns Spike Lee's speechifying. This demand for humor in black movies is typical of white audiences—slightly tinged with a sense that we could live a little easier with white guilt if we heard the occasional "just kidding." Well, no serious storyteller of black America owes any audience a "just kidding." (And any is free to provide one if it suits the ends of the story.)

Not only that: What Plotz apparently doesn't understand at all about black culture, and what Spike Lee understands so well, is that we blacks have indeed throughout our history always made speeches. That's what the marginalized and powerless and scorned do. They often can't do much else. And they are often ridiculed in their own communities—and in their own minds—for doing so. But this is a crucial feature of black self-identity and survival. It's also much of the subtext of the black comedy that Plotz claims to understand and admire. And it's why Lee's Get on the Bus is such a moving piece of work: That movie showed black men trying to talk their way into recognition and dignity and respect because they were having so much trouble securing those things in real terms in the real world.

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Subject: A Math Lesson for James Q. Wilson



Re:
" Q—Legalizing Drugs Makes Matters Worse"



From:
Ananda Gupta



Date:
Tue Sept. 5  2:32 p.m. PT

Perhaps I am not understanding James Q. Wilson's math, since it seems to undermine his argument. He suggests that the actual level of drug-related crime will rise after legalization, since we'll end up with many more "zonked" people who can't hold jobs to finance their habits. In fact, he gives us a number—instead of the 200,000 incapacitated addicts living under prohibition, we will have a million living under legalization. Therefore, five times as many people will be stealing to support habits. And part of the reason for this increase in addicts, he argues, is the decrease in price. And here Wilson gives us a number too—the price of drugs will drop by a factor of 50.

Wait a minute. We'll have five times as many people stealing, but they'll need to steal 50 times less money? That is, if Wilson's numbers are accurate, we will see a tenfold decrease in drug-related crime. I can live with that. (This leaves aside, of course, the reductions in non-theft crimes that would accompany legalization—that is, the benefit of allowing drug dealers to negotiate turf wars in court instead of on public streets.)

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Subject: Indian Gambling—Don't Blame Tort Lawyers



Re:
" The Breakfast Table—Errol McDonald and Debra Dickerson"



From:
Andrew W. Cohen



Date:
Wed Sept. 6  5:25 a.m. PT

Errol McDonald writes that "the special casino dispensation to Native Americans is a condescending form of reparation." To which his "Breakfast Table" partner, Debra Dickerson, asks, "Why is it palatable for [Native Americans] to get reparations (albeit indirect) but not black folks?"

Indian gaming may seem like a form of reparations in our tort-minded culture, but this is a false analogy. Indians are permitted to operate casinos because they have sovereignty over their reservations by treaties signed in the preceding centuries. When the federal courts ruled that states could not bar tribes from running casinos, states negotiated agreements with them regulating their operation (restricting alcohol, for example). Indian gaming, fishing rights, and sales-tax exemptions are not gifts of guilty white liberals. They are an acknowledgement of legal obligations from another era.

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