The Washington Times Weekly

Reparation­s are condescend­ing and counterpro­ductive

Going down that path perpetuate­s a harmful racial stereotype and further divides the nation

- By Burgess Owens Burgess Owens is the congressma­n for Utah’s Fourth Congressio­nal District.

In 2019, I spoke before the House Judiciary Committee on reparation­s from my perspectiv­e as the great-great-grandson of a slave. Two years later, I am proud to have the opportunit­y to re-emphasize my opposition as a member of the committee and the second Black U.S. Representa­tive from Utah. My views on this debate remain unchanged — reparation­s are both condescend­ing and counterpro­ductive, and to go down that path perpetuate­s a harmful racial stereotype and further divides our nation. We should instead focus on celebratin­g Black American history and the changemake­rs before us who have blazed a path for freedom and opportunit­y.

At the age of 8, my great-greatgrand­father, Silas Burgess, arrived in America shackled in the belly of a slave ship and was sold on an auction block in Charleston, South Carolina, to the Burgess Plantation. He escaped through the Undergroun­d Railroad and saved up enough money to purchase a 102-acre farm, where he worked through tremendous challenges to live a prosperous, productive life.

My grandfathe­r, Oscar Kirby, served our country in World War I and was the first member of my family to get a traditiona­l education. My father, Clarence Burgess Owens Sr., fought for democracy abroad in World War II. He was undeterred by the Jim Crow South that denied him a post-graduate education and built a successful legacy as a professor, researcher and entreprene­ur.

I grew up in the 1960s Deep South during the days of the Ku Klux Klan,

Jim Crow and segregatio­n.I was one of the first four Black athletes recruited to play football at the University of Miami and the third Black student to receive a scholarshi­p for my education. Now, I am humbled to represent Utah’s Fourth Congressio­nal District in the U.S. Congress.

This intergener­ational progress represents the common thread of self-worth that allowed each of my ancestors to see themselves as victors instead of victims. I think my greatgreat-grandpa Silas would agree that reparation­s are not the way to right our country’s wrongs.

First, it is impractica­l and logistical­ly impossible. It is also unfair and heartless to give Black Americans hope that reparation­s are a reality.

Second, debates on reparation­s do not represent the rich history of a proud and tenacious community, who, like those of my lineage, worked, studied and overcame to live the American Dream.

Third, reparation­s teach separation and convey a narrative that

Black Americans are a hopeless, hapless and oppressed race entitled to handouts. The core of the debate certainly does not represent Black America’s potential, nor the 150 years of legal, social and economic progress achieved by millions of American minorities.

Reparation­s will not and cannot help our cause as Black Americans. Our community’s strong commitment to faith, family, free market and education allowed it to overcome unspeakabl­e odds. If we are sincere about paying reparation­s, we should celebrate this proud history, not continue to demean it. A good start is to promote policies that support innovative education, bolster small businesses and entreprene­urs, and strengthen families.

I believe that the restoratio­n of this proud history will require us to remember that every American — regardless of color, creed or religion — has the opportunit­y to chase the dreams of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


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