The Payback Machine

My father died when we were both too young. He was a mechanic at a GM dealership. Among my few memories of him is him driving to work in his sky-blue Buick Skylark wearing grey overalls and coming home with grease-smudged hands that he washed vigorously before we ate dinner. His brother worked for McDonnell Douglas for 25 years. He built MD-80 passenger planes and F-15 fighter jets. When he retired, he spent his time building motherboards and making computers for his neighbors in Compton. 

I cannot turn a screwdriver three times in a row successfully. Asking me to use a ratchet is like asking me to swim to Japan­—theoretically, if given enough time and preparation, I could do it, but I am extremely unlikely to pull it off. I lived a long time envying my uncle’s brilliance and wondering why I did not inherit even a smidgen of my dad’s simple skill. 

It was not until I was in my 40s when my oldest brother (by 14 years) was visiting me that I learned the truth: my dad was a terrible mechanic. 

“Dad was a klutz. I do not think he ever did anything above an oil change on a car,” my brother casually mentioned when helping me assemble a lawnmower from the box. 

“You are just like dad—always writing and into art and reading books. He was not really handy with tools, but he had to do something. He had all us kids and nobody in Oklahoma was going to give him a job as a writer in the 1950s.”

I was staggered. I think I stopped breathing for a while. It is a wonder I did not pass out. 

My brother continued. 

“Dad was always writing essays. I have a lot of them saved. I sealed them up in Ziploc bags.”

Now I was having an out-of-body experience. I did inherit something from my father. We are “just alike.” My dad wrote essays and my brother had been keeping them stored away like leftovers—what?

Jim Crow had put a wrench in my father’s hand when it really should have been holding a pen. 

Hand Over The Cash And Everyone Gets Hurt

The Biden administration has put forth Michigan State economics professor Lisa Cook as a nominee for a board seat on the Federal Reserve. Ms. Cook is an arsonist, and she would use her position on the Fed to burn this country to the ground.

Ms. Cook is a racial essentialist. What I mean by that is that she filters her every thought through race. In her words, regarding government policy, “All relevant ideas must address racism.” Among her big ideas for the Federal Reserve is reparations for American blacks. Paying out reparation from the public purse to a wronged racial group for injustices done to their forbears will be the precise moment the American Republic goes over the waterfall and disintegrates upon contact with the boulders at the bottom. 

Reparations are a colossally bad idea, but we all understand the appeal.  We live in the “you owe me” era of the American Republic. Dial 1-877- GET REPARATIONS NOW will soon be a jingle blaring from your screens. Some of you, I fear, have been pulled into thinking reparations are what is owed for past sins as a just solution. You hope that paying out reparations so every black man has a Cadillac (an old Chris Rock joke) means America’s debt will finally be paid and we will have peace in America between the races. 

I will make a long argument short: you are wrong. 

Reparations will only stir up more racial strife. Exhibit A is the Biden administration’s proposed payment of $450,000 per person to each member of families separated at the border when crossing illegally during the prior administration. I can report to you that black people did not respond to that idea with feelings of joy on behalf of the Hispanic, African, and Asian people who would receive that money. 

I cannot predict the individual reactions every black person would have to the news that the U.S. government is stuffing nearly half a million dollars of cash into the pockets of lawbreakers for temporarily separating their families while in the commission of a crime. I can tell you that generally such an act would, for many if not most, extinguish the last embers of affection they have for America and her laws. You can work out what actions would follow from that. You are not imagining harmony, I am sure. 

The reverse of that scenario is just as bleak. Most Americans alive today are descended from people who arrived after the Civil War or after the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The spectacle of a deeply indebted government taxing them and borrowing even more to pay off a debt they did not create to a people receiving the money on behalf of long-dead ancestors would not be received as an occasion for celebration. There is no harmony to be found in that scenario either.  

Of course, reparations will not be paid to individual black Americans. You know this if you have been paying attention the last few years. Reparations will be administered like the PPP loans were during the coronavirus panic of 2020. Money will go to the NAACP, the Urban League, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), homosexual rights organizations masquerading as black civil rights groups (e.g., Black Lives Matter), large politically connected black churches that have set up Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), the NFL, the NBA, and the political coffers of selected black politicians. Millions will flow to Ivy League universities and left-wing non-profit groups. 

Although they will be sold as elixirs for poor black Americans, reparations will not bring back black Meccas such as Harlem or Watts. Reparations will not revive Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland or Lowndes County, Alabama, but they will be a boon to luxury condo builders in Miami and real estate agents in the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Malibu, and La Jolla.

Of all the mechanisms to be imagined for use to correct the wrongs of the past money is probably the worst vehicle. In the U.S.A. we presently inhabit, reparations will be a tool used to bloody ideological opponents in the name of faceless victims who are handy for nothing but creating guilt. Maxine Waters will have her thousands and Harvard will have its ten thousands. You and I will be left with the fiscal tab and with living in a society primed for racially motivated retributions and executions. 

Straight Outta Compton

I did not grow up in a house of letters. I was not inspired to a great career as an author by the published work of my late father. He did not leave behind a legacy position for me in the print media. I could not trade upon his name to get a foothold at a major magazine or newspaper. All he passed on to me was his faith in Jesus Christ. We were in church every Sunday while he was well. A photograph of him being baptized is an heirloom in our family. 

My stepfather was a hard drinking, loud talking little man from Louisiana who attempted to escape Jim Crow by lying about his age so he could join the U.S. Army at the age of 16 in 1942. He eventually became a tank mechanic in Patton’s 3rd Army. After the war he made a life for himself working on gunite crews that built the overpasses on Southern California’s mizmaze of freeways. He took that experience and started a business building swimming pools all over the San Fernando Valley. He took that money and bought a string of apartment buildings and houses in Watts. After the Watts’ Riot burned him out, he bought a farm 50 miles outside of Los Angeles where he eventually took in a widow and her ill-equipped-for-farm-life 11-year-old son. 

From this eighth-grade dropout I learned how to work. I learned that pining for revenge against others in the future is often used as an excuse for dodging work that needs to be done in your life now. I learned you can have as much of American prosperity as you were willing to work and sacrifice for. I learned to think of whites as equals and not as unwilling benefactors who had to be hustled or frightened into fulfilling their obligations to me. 

He did not leave me the farm when he passed but he did leave me the image of a dying man who renounced his pride a month before his death to accept the truth of the Gospel and plead for mercy from Jesus Christ. He spent his last days and hours reading the Bible, whereas before he would spend his free time smoking a pipe and reading the daily paper or a history book. 

I am joined with both men in the generations of faith the Lord kindly establishes among His people. I am living out my father’s dream here on the pixelated pages of the Heidelblog and in other places along the way where I have been fortunate to be published. He would be pleased to see his granddaughters following his steps behind Christ and seeing them emerge as writers as well. What the Klansmen thought they were destroying they were only delaying. 

Reparations replace the crooked lines that God weaves into beautiful scenes of redemption with the brutish stamp of revenge. It is simple score settling. That is not what we learn from Christ. Christians should reject the temptation to make things right by means of borrowed hundred-dollar bills. 

History is a mess of human entanglements that cannot be unwound by clicking send on an electronic wire transfer.  If the government is going to put a stack of dough into my bank account, then it ought to send out an equal amount to the descendants of all the people who drove away from my dad’s dealership wondering why the engine in their car was still knocking. 

©Wendell Talley. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. The Biden administration has put forth Michigan State economics professor Lisa Cook as a nominee for a board seat on the Federal Reserve. Ms. Cook is an arsonist, and she would use her position on the Fed to burn this country to the ground.

    This reminds me of David Goldman’s latest. We’re going to have to figure out how to store wealth and settle debts in monetary instruments besides USD.

    Time to be a Joseph.

  2. Compliments and thanks to the author here. Quite encouraging.
    a Yankee serving Christ,
    just north of Lowndes County

    • I spent a month in Lowndes County one week. You have a lot on your plate, I’m sure. Blessings to you, brother.

  3. one of the things I have been curious about is why reparations discussions have not factored in the history of reparations as part of termination and reparations policy in connection to Native American tribes. Reparations seemed to be an ineffectual debacle for Native Americans to the point that Nixon ended that approach in favor of tribal sovereignty but I haven’t seen that come up. David Treuer’s idea that the parks should be given to the federally recognized tribes seems unlikely to happen but a proposal of reparations via restoring annexed lands makes more sense than cutting checks in the age of fiat currency.

    In the Pacific Northwest my understanding is tribes lawyered up and petitioned for the granting of treaty-promised rights rather than ask for monies but that’s a topic I’m still doing intermittent reading in. The way David Treuer once put the point was saying that Native Americans never had a MLK Jr or a comparable figure but that they didn’t NEED that kind of a leader when they discovered that lawyering up and working through the courts to get on the books treaties honored worked better.

    But I have not seen or heard much to the effect that Te-nehisi Coates has dealt with his version of reparations compared to Native American experiences. I’ve seen some pretty trenchant arguments against reparations from Adolph Reed Jr. so reparations seems to be a dividing issue between progressives and at least some leftists in the last eight years.

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