Tennessee Legislation Fights Identity-Group Policy

National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance strongly endorse Amendment No. 1 to Tennessee House Bill 474, which is now up for consideration in the Tennessee state legislature. The Amendment prevents local governments from spending funds on reparations for slavery. Neither a county, a municipality, nor a metropolitan government would be allowed to “expend funds for the purposes of studying or disbursing reparations. As used in this section, ‘reparations’ mean money or benefits provided to individuals who are the descendants of persons who were enslaved.”

Amendment No. 1 is somewhat outside of our organizational focuses of higher education and K-12 civics education. Yet the arguments for reparations, far more intensely than most political ideas, have been nurtured in the ivory tower and disseminated via the K-12 school system. Disciplines that actively dedicate themselves to activism rather than to the search for knowledge, such as African American Studies and Ethnic Studies, have devoted themselves to enacting reparations policies. The push for reparations has entered the K-12 system via such mechanisms as the College Board’s AP African American Studies course. Indeed, the California reparations task force called for adding African American Studies to primary education, presumably as itself a form of reparation. When a political issue is so inextricably intertwined with education policy, it enters our organizations’ remits.

Reparations is terrible policy. It replaces a republic of individuals with a republic of identity-groups and restores as tax policy “corruption of the blood”—the constitutionally prohibited punishment of relatives of individuals convicted of crimes. Morally, it ignores the terrible blood tithe during the Civil War that Americans already have paid for slavery—and it ignores the extension of citizenship to America’s former slaves, a gift more valuable than any sum of money. On those grounds alone, Tennessee’s policymakers should prohibit reparations; so too should policymakers in all the states.

Policymakers also should prohibit all “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) policies, which are the education policy equivalents of reparations. DEI and CRT both assume the primary importance of identity-groups. Their assumption of a permanent division of oppressor and oppressed is “corruption of the blood” translated into academic theory. Their assumption of a continuing, ineradicable debt owed to particular identity groups ignores every action in the past that a reasonable observer would take to have paid moral debts. DEI and CRT cripple the moral and intellectual foundations of higher education and K-12 education as reparations would cripple the moral and intellectual foundations of the republic.

Practically speaking, these ills rise and fall together. To get rid of the movement for reparations, you must remove DEI and CRT from our education systems. Likewise, DEI and CRT will not be eradicable if reparations become the law of the land. Practical necessity, as well as intellectual consistency, calls for jointly removing reparations policy, DEI, and CRT.

We strongly endorse Amendment No. 1—as a beginning of a wider campaign to remove identity-group policy, oppressor/oppressed distinctions, and permanent and unjustified assertions of moral debt from all aspects of American policy. These iniquitous beliefs should have no place in our colleges and universities, our K-12 schools, or in the republic as a whole.

Photo by RHF101 on Adobe Stock

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