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Explain Like I’m a Racist 5-Year-OldLike the popular subreddit “Explain Like I’m 5," which simplifies complex issues into easily understandable, digestible bites, “Explain Like I’m a Racist 5-Year-Old” breaks down complicated subjects on the intersection of race, economics and politics, making them so simple, even a bigoted toddler could understand them.  

Hello again, Racist Baby! What are you doing here?

Well, now that Jesus is about to come to get all the black people, I just wanted to tell you I appreciate all the time you took to explain racism to me.

Wait ... Who told you Jesus is coming back? And why would he only come back for black people?

Well, I’ve heard my dad talking and he was pretty upset. He said Democrats are talking about black Revelations. We discussed that book of the Bible in racist Sunday school, but I didn’t know there was a separate Bible for black people.

No, Racist Baby. Those people aren’t talking about Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, they’re talking about black reparations.

What’s reparations?

Reparations is “the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.”

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In this case, we are talking about reparations for slavery and it’s cumulative after-effects. Many of the candidates in the Democratic Party’s upcoming presidential primaries have announced that they are in favor of reparations in some form or another.

My father told me that even though he thinks slavery was a good idea, it happened a long time ago and he had nothing to do with it.

Let’s say that’s true. Aside from being a racist, what does your father do for a living?

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I don’t know. I think he’s a real estate agent because he’s always talking about keeping the black man in his place.

OK, my little baby bigot. It doesn’t really matter. Let’s say that your father discovered that the people he worked for had been underpaying him his entire career. Let’s say he worked thousands of hours for which he wasn’t paid. Should his employer pay him back?

Of course, they should.

But what if your father died and you discovered that he had been underpaid? Should your father’s employee pay you what they owed your father?

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Yes! That could have been my college tuition, my inheritance or my Junior Klansman dues. I want my money!

But what if you discovered it, and then you died years later? Should those people pay your children what was owed?

Yep. They should. I might have passed down more money to them if I had my father’s money. Plus, my Junior Klansman dues are late.

OK, last question: What if you discovered that your father was never paid for countless hours of work because there was a rule that said employers had to pay everyone who worked, except for your father. What if—because of this law— the company made millions and became a global superpower?

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Years later, if someone challenged that company and determined that the anti-father payment rule was wrong, should the company repay the people who worked, essentially for free, even if the people currently at the company are not responsible for what the company did in the past?

Hmmm, the company is still benefitting from the labor of my father. I say they owe me something.

Well, America is that company.

From 1619 until 1865, this country transformed itself from a colonial outpost into the biggest economy in the world. A lot of that was because of free labor. We like to think about the riches we received from industries like cotton, but even people who didn’t own slaves benefitted from slavery. Northern shipbuilders made fortunes building boats for exporting cheap American products. Retailers profited from the goods that slaves produced. America enjoyed cheap food and clothing because slavery made labor costs zero.

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The military became the world’s strongest partly because farmers could leave plantations to fight for their country without worrying about their farms failing. The sons of farmers went to college and became educated instead of staying home and working the fields, creating a new class of intellectuals and industrialists.

Everything that America was, is, or will be, is partially due to the fact that this country had the advantage of sustaining itself using two-and-a-half centuries of free labor. Not only have the people responsible for building this country not benefitted from their own labor, but they have been oppressed because of it.

And still, America hasn’t paid its bill.

Well, when you put it like that, I guess you have a point. But has anyone ever received reparations from like what you’re talking about?

Yes. As recently as 1988, the U.S. paid $20,000 to each survivor of Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. The family members of the Tuskegee Experiment were paid a total of $10 million in reparations by the U.S. government and the state of North Carolina a paid $10 million to the victims of forced sterilizations. Florida paid $3.36 million to the victims and survivors of a 1923 mass lynching in Rosewood.

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The U.S. has also supported German payments to victims of the Holocaust and the treaties that ended World War I and World War II included reparations. And when Haiti took its independence from the French, the U.S. sent warships to ensure that slave owners received reparations. Plus, the U.S. is still making reparations to the descendants of Civil War veterans.

But how can America just cut every black person a check? Who’s going to pay for it? After all, the government’s money is basically our money, right?

Most people who discuss reparations seriously have never asked for a check in the mail. Some have suggested poverty assistance programs like education grants, small business loans and low-interest mortgages. Others think there should be college scholarships to HBCUs and state colleges. Another idea is college tuition grants for descendants of slaves. There are also people who have proposed temporary tax-exempt status.

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The money would come from the same place every other form of government reparations come from—taxpayers

But what if my ancestors didn’t own any slaves?

Even if you receive stolen property, you are still a beneficiary of the original crime. Everyone in America benefitted from slavery and still does. Plus, should you not have to pay the portion of your taxes that fund schools if you don’t have children? If your house doesn’t burn down, should your tax money go to the fire department? Should you only pay for the roads you drive on?

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That’s not how society works.

So who would receive these reparations?

That is still up for debate. The logical conclusion is that the American descendants of slaves (ADOS) should receive the bulk of reparations, which has sparked the #ADOS movement and hashtag. Others disagree, saying that all black people in America are subject to the effects of slavery, Jim Crow and anti-black discrimination. White people don’t give a damn about whether or not your great-great-grandmother was stolen or came here willingly.

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I guess it comes down to what reparations mean. Are they a back payment for the free labor for which slaves were never compensated? Or, are reparations a compensation for slavery, housing discrimination, Jim Crow, unequal schools, lynchings, redlining and the cumulative effects of 400 years of codified, anti-black white supremacy?

But my mom says America will never give black people reparations. Do you think she’s wrong?

Again, we have to remember one thing: Your mom is a racist.

However, most black people—even the most adamant proponents of reparations—agree that it is a long shot at best.

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If it’s so improbable, then why are serious politicians discussing it?

It’s simple. The Democrats want the black vote. The Republicans want the anti-black vote from people like your parents.

My parents are not anti-black, they’re pro-white. Plus, you just said that black people know reparations aren’t likely, so why are they making it such a big political issue?

Well, racist baby, that’s how politics works.

The Republican platform supports a “human life amendment to the Constitution” that would outlaw abortion. Even though they privately acknowledge that it will never happen, they cater to pro-lifers because it is a large part of their base.

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Progressives support a 70 to 90 percent tax on the rich, breaking up the big banks and comprehensive gun control. Bernie Sanders advocates for free tuition and wants Congress to double the minimum wage, which will never take place as long as there is a Republican party. Elizabeth Warren wants to break up Wall Street and big banks. Kamala Harris is calling for the decriminalization of the sex worker industry. The entire Democratic party is now onboard with Medicare-for-all even though the country can’t afford to pay for Medicare-for-some.

All these things are as likely to happen as your parents joining the Nation of Islam. Despite knowing these policies are somewhat implausible in the current two-party system, politicians still advocate for those tenets because they need the votes of the groups who support these ideas.

And guess what happens?

There are incremental changes. We don’t have Medicare-for-All but we found a way to expand healthcare. We didn’t break up the banks or Wall Street, but we got financial regulations like Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. States across the countries are raising the minimum wage and making it harder to get an abortion because politicians listen to the relatively small pro-life movement.

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Yet, when it comes to policies that specifically affect black people, we are expected to be pragmatic. Everyone—even the Democratic Party—tells black voters to be reasonable while politicians bow before the altars of the white women’s movement, the pro-life movement, pro-choice movement, the gay rights movement, the religious freedom movement, the environmentalists, the industrialists, soccer moms, blue-collar workers and every other set of voters except for the ones who actually built this country for free.

Republicans know black voters aren’t going to vote for them en masse, so they don’t care. Democrats assume black people are going to vote for them en masse, so they don’t feel the need to deliver on their promises. Neither side considers black voters to be a movement.

What do they consider you to be, then?

Niggers.

Wow, that’s exactly what my father calls you!

I know, racist baby. I know.

So will black people ever get reparations?

If I had to guess, I’d say no. But, although it is not likely, it doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it. The discussion has value even if the end result isn’t wholesale reparations.

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OK, I get it. Well, I have to go now. I told my dad I was going to find out about black Revelations, not reparations.

OK, my little mini-Nazi. You might want to make sure your dad doesn’t read the original book of Revelation.

Why not?

Because when he finds out that Jesus is black, he’s probably going to be pretty upset.