Alan Keyes for Reparations?!

Chicago TribuneKeyes has plan for reparations

Speaking at a news conference at the Hotel InterContinental in Chicago, Republican Keyes added to his now familiar talking points his stance on slavery reparations.
Prompted by a reporter’s question, Keyes gave a brief tutorial on Roman history and said that in regard to reparations for slavery, the U.S. should do what the Romans did: “When a city had been devastated [in the Roman empire], for a certain length of time–a generation or two–they exempted the damaged city from taxation.”

Keyes proposed that for a generation or two, African-Americans of slave heritage should be exempted from federal taxes–federal because slavery “was an egregious failure on the part of the federal establishment.” In calling for the tax relief, Keyes appeared to be reaching out to capture the black vote, something that may prove difficult to do, particularly after his unwelcome reception at the Bud Billiken Day Parade Saturday. The former ambassador said his plan would give African-Americans “a competitive edge in the labor market,” because those exempted would be cheaper to hire than federal tax-paying employees and would “compensate for all those years when your labor was being exploited.” Under Keyes’ plan, African-Americans would still have to pay the Social Security tax, because “it’s not a tax in the strict sense,” said Keyes, calling it instead a payment to support a social insurance program.

Keyes has discussed reparations before with statements that seem to contradict Monday’s comments. In 2002 on his short-lived MSNBC show, “Alan Keyes is Making Sense,” he argued with one of his guests, an advocate of reparations, asking, “You want to tell me that what they suffered can actually be repaired with money? You’re going to do the same thing those slaveholders did, put a money price on something that can’t possibly be quantified in that way.” And in a 2002 column titled “Paid in Blood,” Keyes called lawsuits on behalf of slave descendants against large corporations an “effort to extort `reparations’ for slavery from their fellow citizens” and said that “the truth of the Civil War is that the terrible price for American slavery has been paid, once for all,” when Americans gave their lives on the battlefield to end slavery. “The price for the sin of slavery,” Keyes wrote, “has already been paid, in blood.”

Obama responded to Keyes’ comments by saying that the “legacy and stain of slavery is immeasurable,” but that he did not believe that the form of reparations backed by Keyes was the proper method to repair that damage. “I generally think that the best strategies for moving forward involve vigorously enforcing our anti-discrimination laws in education and job training and other programs that can lift all people out of poverty,” Democrat Obama said.

I seriously question Keyes’ sanity. He has long been a rather odd duck, running for president and trying to crash debates just to get attention. His run for the Senate from a state to which he has no connection violates his own, rather recent, condemnation of Hillary Clinton for doing the same thing. Now, he’s adopted an extreme position on race relations that seems in direct contravention to his entire philosophy.

It is quite ironic indeed that Keyes is much closer to Al Sharpton than is Obama. Indeed, taken on its face the concept Keyes proposes is moronic. Regardless of what definition one uses, several generations have passed since slavery ended. The idea that people, many of whom don’t even have a connection to slavery, would be excluded from the most fundamental duty of citizenship for sixty-odd years at this stage is insulting.

Spoons calls Keyes a “racist nutjob bastard” and endorses Obama for the Senate. I haven’t researched Keyes’ family tree and, absent information to the contrary, presume that his parents were married. Otherwise, I must concur.

Update (0842, 8/18): Joe Gandleman has some thoughts on this as well, as a roundup of reactions from around the Blogosphere. If everyone from Oliver Willis to Michelle Malkin thinks you’ve gone off the deep end, there’s a good chance you have.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Spoons calls Keyes a “racist nutjob bastard” and endorses Obama for the Senate. I haven’t researched Keyes’ family tree and, absent information to the contrary, presume that his parents were married. Otherwise, I must concur.

    A self-made man, perhaps?

  2. KipEsquire says:

    We already have a reparations program in this country — it’s called Affirmative Action.

  3. McGehee says:

    If his purpose is to demonstrate that a Republican can race-pander with the worst of ’em, I have to concede that Bush has already proven that with some of his efforts aimed at Latinos.

  4. Teri says:

    If I’m reading this right, Keyes proposes to exempt people from federal income tax, but not from social security tax. Then he says that such employees would be “cheaper to hire than federal tax-paying employees”. That is not correct; the federal income tax withholding does not change the employer’s cost at all; it comes straight out of the pocket of the employee.

    The only way that it would be cheaper to hire such employees would be if they were willing to work for lower gross wages to get the same net wages – and then, bingo, we are right back where we started from, with “African-Americans of slave heritage” being paid lower wages than whites doing the same job.

    If he has been accurately quoted, then he has completely lost his mind.

  5. carpeicthus says:

    Can you point me to a phase when he had his mind to begin with?

  6. Nice try Ambassador. In the quest for political swagger, and payola, what Mr. Keys seems to be saying is that “Negros are still for sale – and that he can buy their vote, if he offers them stuff.” Illinois voters should reject this cynical nonsense, and say to Alan Keys, “Go back and tell your master that we don’t need your payoff. If they want to give the black community something as reparations, think about Grants for Higher Education.

  7. Christy Horne says:

    Here’s a quote from Keyes re Obama’s stance on abortion:

    “I would still be picking cotton if the country’s moral principles had not been shaped by the Declaration of Independence,” Keyes said. He said Obama “has broken and rejected those principles — he has taken the slaveholder’s position.”

    Obama, who has been basking in national celebrity since delivering the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, suggested Keyes is outside the moderate mainstream of state Republicans.

    Asked specifically about the phrase “slaveholder’s position,” Obama said Keyes “should look to members of his own party to see if that’s appropriate if he’s going to use that kind of language.”,2933,128477,00.html

  8. Ford Prefect says:

    Alan Keyes seems genuine, a rare and difficult approach for a
    politician. He appears to ignore “political correctness” and speak his
    real mind. There is some precedent for slavery reparations in the
    Exodus from Egypt, when the Egyptians were shaken down for gold,
    etc., when the slaves left Egypt. Since so much time has elapsed,
    however, I think a more rational reparation would be from the
    Southern States which had the segregationist laws, “Colored Sit in
    the Rear,” and legalized discrimination. Those states would they pay
    those who suffered under those laws.

  9. Christy Horne says:

    A lot of still extant corporations directly benefitted from the slave trade, including New York Life, AIG, J.P. Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank, Aetna, and FleetBoston. This talk of reparations isn’t going to go away. If the government is smart, they’ll plan some form of community-based reparations sooner rather than later, apologize again, and be done with it.