joe biden
© Reuters / Jim Bourg
Joe-mentia bends the knee
Top Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is being asked to pledge that he will endorse $14 trillion in compensation for the slave years if elected. Will he make the pledge, only to brush it aside once he's in the White House?

If ever there was a time for the US black community to demand reparations for being subjected to the centuries-long slave trade, now is certainly it. In the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of a white cop, the country is convulsing from the fires of protest from coast to coast. At the same time, a large chunk of the population, when not adjusting their surgical masks, is hand-wringing over their purported 'white privilege'. To further complicate this nationwide nervous breakdown, we are just five months away from what promises to be the most contentious and momentous US presidential election in recent memory.

Enter Joe Biden, 77, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who may be tempted to turn on the money hose to pacify Black Lives Matter and end the looting, burning and general chaos that has shaken the United States to its very foundation. To this end, it didn't come across as a subtle form of bribery when Delaware State Senator Darius Brown strongly suggested that Biden do what he can to fund reparations.

"The people in this room, we love you," Brown gushed during a church event this week where Biden was guest of honor. "But we're here not only to love you, but to push you ...[to] support the African-American Democratic base. And it shouldn't be a study of reparations. It should be funding reparations."

The message was as unmistakable as it was disturbing: if Biden wants the blessing of the black community in November, promising reparations is the quickest way to their heart. So exactly how much money are we talking about to make amends for one of the most grievous chapters in American history? According to billionaire Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), a "wealth transfer" to the tune of $14 trillion dollars would set the historical record straight. Oddly, Johnson never revealed how he reached such a figure, which amounts to some $350,000 for each of the 40 million black people living in the United States.


This daunting request raises so many questions it makes one's head spin. First, many Americans, predominantly from the political right, will argue that the country has already made massive amends to the black community in the form of expensive social programs - like Affirmative Action, which granted special consideration to previously discriminated minorities in such areas as the workplace and education. This was all part of Lyndon Johnson's 'Great Society' domestic program that spent billions of dollars funding a welfare system for the disadvantaged, as well as programs that benefited all Americans, like Medicaid and Medicare.

Furthermore, there is no small irony in the black community looking to Joe Biden as their political savior. After all, it is no secret that many black people suffered major financial setbacks during the Obama presidency, when Biden was vice president. According to one study, the percentage of black homeowners who were falling behind on their mortgage rose 20-fold from 2007 to 2013, while only the top 10 percent of Americans - largely made up of white people - enjoyed increases in personal wealth thanks to massive bank bailouts that kept stock values above water.

At the same time, it has not gone unnoticed by many Americans - particularly by members of the Democratic Party - that Biden has done little to help the black community on the justice front throughout his lengthy political career.

Back when Biden was a senator, he supported the 1994 Crime Bill - officially known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act - which slapped repeat lawbreakers with heavy prison sentences even for relatively minor offenses. As a result, the judicial system witnessed an explosion in the prison population, mostly from among black people.

Senator Kamala D. Harris, who has been named as a possible Biden running mate, slammed the former vice president's record on crime.

"That crime bill... was the first time that we had a federal three-strikes law," Harris said. "It funded the building of more prisons in the states."


Aside from Biden appearing to be the wrong guy tasked with handing out reparations to the black community, there is a much more pressing issue with regards to the astronomical amount being requested. Has anyone considered that such a mind-boggling amount of money won't mean much if the United States goes broke as it struggles to pay such a debt?

Lately, the idea has taken root that America is an endless source of cash and can simply print its way out of any problem. From the $700 billion bailout of the financial system in 2008, to Trump signing the $2 trillion CARES Act to address the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, there seems to be no bottom to Uncle Sam's deep pockets. But sooner or later, somebody will have to pay these outstanding bills, and that 'somebody' will be the American taxpayer - which includes the black community.

Considering his questionable support for the black community in the past, Biden, true to political tradition, may quickly forget his pledge of reparations once in the White House. It certainly would not be the first time a politician forgot a pledge made on the campaign trail.

Finally, let's not discount the possibility - albeit a distant one - that Trump, who has displayed a willingness to spend a king's ransom in the course of his presidency, may decide to 'cut a deal' with the black community, resolving the reparations question once and for all. After all, he is known for the 'art of the deal'.
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. Follow him on Twitter @Robert_Bridge