• Ben Silvian

Negative Sample Case: Reparations

Updated: Aug 10

We Negate: Resolved: The United Stated Federal Government Ought to Pay Reparations to African Americans


We Observe That: As Award-Winning Journalist Gary Stein writes in June of This Year our country is moving toward racial justice in the status quo. If reparations disrupt this trend towards racial equality, a con ballot is in order.


Contention 1 is that Reparations Incite Public Backlash:

As Lawrence Bobo of the University of California explained in 1993, Americans categorically oppose social policies that are justified on the basis of race. That’s supported by a 2014 YouGov poll, which found that 68% of americans oppose reparations. The payment of reparations directly contests these views, turning the public against the African American community. As Nyhan of the University of Michigan finds in 2004, when people’s beliefs are contradicted, those beliefs become entrenched.


Reparations paid after the holocaust offer a perfect example. Schoenfield of the Hudson Institute writes in 2000 that reparations to Israel have unleashed “a tide of anti-Semitic hate unseen since before World War II [...] complete with “hate mail, death threats, and physical harassment on the streets.” The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs writes in 2003 that reparations to Israel only perpetuated racist stereotypes, turning the public against jews. Reparations to African Americans would do the same, and swell the tide of racism in our nation.


There are two key impacts


First, entrenching racism in our government. Hana Brown of Wake Forest University concludes in 2013 that when race-based policies anger the white electorate, politicians are able to exploit the racial tensions that are brewing in society to pass racist policy that oppresses lower-class African Americans. Brown cites the example of Georgia, wherein the public backlash to a race-based welfare program offered politicians the opportunity to pass punitive policies that only reinforced racial stratification.


Second, mobilising anti-progressives. Marshall Ganz of Harvard found in a 2006 study that those opposed to progressive change can count on highly motivated grassroots movements support them, whereas those in support of progressive change lack the same sweeping support. When those opposed to reparations are angered, anti-progressives will mobilize in large-scale grassroots movements. The terminal impact is explained by Anthony Chen of the University of Michigan in a 2004 study. He finds that a one standard deviation increase in the mobilisation of a given social movement makes the government three times more likely to pass policies they favor. In this case, that means three times more policy that reinforces racism in our society.


Contention 2 is that The Media Prevents Progress


There are two ways that this happens.


First, the media perpetuates the white perspective. Joe Feagin of Texas A&M University writes in 2004 that the media frames reparations through a decidedly white, anti-progressive lense. According to YouGov in 2014 the white view on reparations is one of overwhelming opposition. Unfortunately, Feagin finds that the media controls the general public’s perception of racial issues and their support for policy reform. That’s why Stuart Soroka of McGill University finds in 2012 that the media’s presentation of issues has a direct impact on policy outcomes. Negative media coverage leads to harmful policies.


Second, the media undermines civil rights movements. As Sara Turner of Indiana University writes in 2013, civil rights groups cannot succeed unless they are portrayed as legitimate by the media. Unfortunately, reparations ruin the image of civil rights groups. As Jacqueline Bacon of Fair Media Watch writes in 2002, the media portrays civil rights leaders and movements that push for reparations negatively, in an attempt to appeal to white audiences. She finds that the media uses Personal attacks on civil rights leaders and depicts reparations as driven by revenge rather than justice, both of which delegitimize civil rights groups, and lead to their collapse. Civil rights groups are crucial; Rosenberg of UChicago writes in 2005 that “the future of anti-discrimination [policy] depends on [the mobilisation of civil rights groups]”


Because one step forward is not worth ten steps back, we urge a con ballot.