During the past few weeks, much has been said about the concept of the payment of reparations for Black Americans who have suffered due to the legacy of slavery.
But what about those who suffered during the pandemic due to loss of work, vaccine-related firings, and the long-lasting negative impact of the social stigma attached to not automatically blindly following each and every government COVID mandate? Considering how immoral and unethical and culturally damaging and knowingly wrong the pandemic response was, should a similar form of compensation not be in order?
The ethical and, to an extent, legal claims involving any type of reparations are varied, but they tend to center on righting past government-sanctioned wrongs, acknowledging the damage done, and promising to never do it again.
According to the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL for short https://m4bl.org/ ,) rights to reparations are based on United Nations’ definitions, including this overarching statement: “Adequate, effective and prompt reparation is intended to promote justice by redressing gross violations of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
Delving deeper into the potential process, , M4BL again cites the UN and its task outline which starts with the stopping of the abusive activity and then moves into the ameliorative actions: https://www.ohchr.org/en/transitional-justice/reparations
- Restitution, which should restore the victim to their original situation before the violation occurred, e.g. restoration of liberty, reinstatement of employment, return of property, return to one’s place of residence.
- Compensation, which should be provided for any economically assessable damage, loss of earnings, loss of property, loss of economic opportunities, moral damages.
- Rehabilitation, which should include medical and psychological care, legal and social services.
- Satisfaction, which should include the cessation of continuing violations, truth-seeking, search for the disappeared person or their remains, recovery, reburial of remains, public apologies, judicial and administrative sanctions, memorials, and commemorations.
Using roughly these guideposts, California’s Reparations Task Force, created by Gov. Gavin Newsom, recently issued a massive report that calls for – among a slew of other things related to housing, education, business support, etc. – direct payments of about $223,000 each to Black Californians. https://californiaglobe.com/articles/gov-gavin-newsom-opened-a-reparations-can-of-worms/
San Francisco went even further, saying the individual figure should be in the $5 million range in addition to debt relief and the opportunity to pay currently-public housing units for $1.
The cost of these proposals is staggering – for example, the San Francisco program would cost about $200 billion, or about 14 times the annual city budget, or about $600,000 per non-Black family in the city. https://www.hoover.org/research/cost-san-franciscos-reparations-proposal-nearly-600000-household
So do these definitions apply to the COVID pandemic response? It can be seriously argued that, in fact, they do and that reparations in some form may be in order.
In theory, the process starts with the cessation of the problematic, rights-destroying governmental activity. That point, of course, already differentiates COVID reparations as various restrictions, laws, workplace rules, etc. remain in place across the country. Returning to California, the governor’s emergency order from nearly three years ago actually remains in place until the end of February.
Moving on to restitution, “restoration of liberty and reinstatement of employment” are specifically called out – that would mean as part of any reparations program, everyone who was fired for refusing to take the experimental vaccine must be given their job back and, as “liberty” in America, at least for now, is the rooted in the idea of free speech, that everyone who was muzzled by a government agency or a private company acting on the government’s behalf during the pandemic must be awarded some form of compensation.
As for compensation, that is relatively straightforward, though there already was some compensation offered in the form of loans and direct payments so that would have to be figured into any calculation. But that’s only financial compensation – the guidelines also refer to “moral damages.” In the pandemic’s case that would involve ostracization, destruction of relationships, unconscionable educational curtailment, long-term developmental issues, increased substance abuse, etc. Putting a monetary figure on these damages is an admittedly difficult calculation.
Rehabilitation could involve many aspects of the pandemic response. From actual substance abuse rehab to on-going medical care for those psychologically and physically damaged due to the pandemic to anyone who faced civil and/or criminal legal issues to, finally, reputational rehabilitation itself – all of these factors fall into this category.
Which brings us to satisfaction. Very recently, the Norfolk group of doctors and scientists https://www.norfolkgroup.org/ created an outline of how the recommended “truth seeking” effort should proceed. This stage also involves making amends publicly and, essentially, the firing of those who foisted the pandemic upon the nation.
Now, clearly there are a host of differences between the evils of slavery and lasting discrimination and the impacts of the COVID response. Slavery has been a bane of civilization since, well, civilization began. It is not too off the mark to say that pretty much every ethnic group has, at one time or another, enslaved another, sometimes specifically because they were a different ethnic group, or because they were captured in battle, or one of any number of other “reasons” and asserting the two – slavery in any form and the pandemic response – are morally equivalent is not intended.
Another difference is one of complexity. Reparations for Black Americans are an ethical, moral, and legal knot. Do wealthy descendants of slaves, who it can be legitimately argued suffered less from discrimination, deserve the same amount as others? Is it ethically acceptable for people who came to the country after – or well after – the end of slavery to be forced to pay for the sins of others? Is the very concept of trans-generational legal guilt ever appropriate? Is a Black San Franciscan, for example, entitled to the proposed $5 million payout if in fact his ancestors were one of the many Black families that owned slaves themselves prior to the Civil War? Should old-line families in Boston and Atlanta pay more than a random person from Wyoming? The list is practically endless.
(It should be noted that the matter of reparations for Black Americans is used only for comparison purposes and no position – either for or against – on their actual implementations is meant to be taken in this piece.)
However, there could actually be a legal precedent for COVID reparations – the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II. In that case, the federal government gave the internees and/or their families a very belated apology and a cash award of $20,000 as reparations in the early 1980s – https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2020/03/24/820181127/the-unlikely-story-behind-japanese-americans-campaign-for-reparations .
These reparations were based on a specific set of circumstances and involved a specific and limited length of time. Also, the blanket nature and the baseless reason for the internment – ancestry – could be analogized to the blanket nature of the diktats, including the lockdown – essentially home internment – aspects. Both situations more closely mirror the circumstances of the pandemic than the matter of generational slavery and its repercussions.
The pandemic has a specific (or is about to have) timeframe. Surprisingly close to the typically used “origin date” – possibly even before – it became clear to those in government implementing the restrictions and the forced vaccines and the lockdown measures were not only savagely inappropriate but also mostly useless.
It has also become clearer by the day that the “vaccines” not actually vaccines in the way they have been defined since they originated in 1796, that the technology behind them was not adequately tested, and that they cause rather serious, often deadly, side effects. It is also clear that those in charge – like Dr. Anthony Fauci – were well aware of these problems, making them liable for the lies they continued to tell, lies that directly cost hundreds of thousands of Americans’ their livelihoods.
The case for COVID reparations, while it may sound a bit odd at first blush, could be considered rather compelling. At the very least, the idea of a commission to discover what actually happened, what brought about the ditching of every previous pandemic response plan, how the virus originated, and how the whole ungodly mess can be avoided in the future and how to actually make changes to the current public health system is crucial to moving forward as a nation.
Let justice be done though the heavens fall – for all our sakes.
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