John Leo

Many conservatives have the sense that corporate America has trapped itself by capitulating so often and so easily, not just in payouts and buy-offs, but in indoctrinating employees ("diversity training") and installing large and unproductive diversity bureaucracies inside their own companies. Perhaps it is too late for a spinal transplant. But the cost of caving in this time would be staggering, possibly in the billions.

So far the activists have not made enormous headway, but reparation is no longer considered the absolutely wacky issue that it was four or five years ago. Sectors of the media are now treating it as a legitimate issue, particularly media companies that have been identified as having some financial tie to slavery in the old days (Gannett, Knight-Ridder and The Hartford Courant, for example).

The nudge of guilt is being applied to another constituency the reparations people will need: the universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown and the University of Virginia have all been identified as having embarrassing connections to slavery. All will likely be sued. This raises the specter of idealistic students annually denouncing their own universities as racist, and demanding pro-reparations action by adminstrators, the keepers of university stock portfolios and all those professors on corporate boards. David Horowitz's book "Uncivil Wars" is a revelation about how far some elite campuses were willing to go just to suppress a newspaper ad opposing reparations.

So it's possible that the reparations issue could take off. We should all hope it doesn't. This campaign is the work of an aging and backward-looking black leadership that can't seem to extricate itself from victim politics. The not-so-subtle message is that black Americans are so mangled by the legacy of slavery that they must be paid off massively to compensate for their incapacity. It undermines the positive message that blacks can compete with anyone in any field and rise on their own, without crutches or patronizing handouts. When the issue is reparations, just say no.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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