An urgent argument against reparations is that instead of acting upon the American divisions as a positive and healing gesture, the issue would throw open a trapdoor out of which all manner of bigotries and bitterness, all the black bats of American history, would fly. It would push the country to angrier extremes on either side, stimulating fresh antagonisms. It would reconstitute America’s old racial conflict along new 21st-century lines.
The reparations debate would falsely impute guilt for centuries-old wrongs and would tempt those so accused into further invidious generalizations in an age of social media and hostile identity politics—an age that is too much given already to irresponsible generalizations.
Better to keep monsters, old and new, locked in the basement, and to let the conversation upstairs in the living room be as genteel as possible—even hypocritical. In matters of race hate, candor is overrated. Hypocrisy may be the moral way to go—until, as time passes, people become more civilized.