Dear Dr. Carson: About Your Reparations Op-Ed in the Washington Post…
by Darryl L. Fortson, M.D.
Dear Dr. Carson:
I read your April 18th, 2021 op-ed piece entitled “Moving Our Focus From Equality To Equity Won’t Defeat Racism. It’s Another Kind Of Racism” in The Washington Post with great interest. You speak on the two societally foundational values of equality and equity, but it is important to note that a foundation has four corners and you conveniently left two — the absence of inequity and justice — out. It is only by including those other two cornerstones (ironically, the name of your non-profit organization) that a solid foundation can be laid for our people.
Your first contention in your piece is that equity, which allocates resources and opportunities according to what is needed to reach an equal outcome, “rewards and punishes people because of the color of their skin in contrast to equality which judges people by the content of their character.” You state that America is “moving our focus from equality to equity,” as though equality was Black people’s starting point. Of course, it was not. Our starting point was inequality and this inequality expressly was because of the color of our skin. A general absence of inequality is a foundational cornerstone of a verdant society.
You speak of equity as a “reward,” but intrinsic to equity is the final cornerstone of the foundation of a functioning society - justice. Justice, Dr. Carson, is not a “reward” — it is an inherent right bestowed by our Creator. When it is taken away because of the color of our skin, it must be restored because of the color of our skin.
You maintain that equity is both un-American and impossible to attain, but quite frankly, the word “impossible” should not be coming from a man who separated two human beings attached by the skull that lived to tell the tale. You frame efforts to bring about equitable results in Reparations as acts of retribution when in fact moving us from inequity to equity are acts of restoration. The only thing that has amazed me more than the unlimited possibilities that America has pursued to do evil to Black people are the infinite excuses the nation has devised to avoid reversing the damage of those evil deeds. You seem to deeply resent that White America, which has so profoundly benefited from an historically unprecedented theft of service over a 244 year period of the work of black Americans would be asked to pay the lion share of Reparations. You seem think that funds to reverse the devastating and lingering consequences of Black enslavement should be given to all Americans. If that is the case, then perhaps in the ancient days, you would have expected God to have Pharaoh pay Reparations to the Egyptians and the Jews alike at the end of the Hebrew’s years of cruel bondage too.
You say that “explicitly categorizing people by race, and distributing government benefits and burdens based on those categories never works.” But, of course, it worked extremely well for White people, enriching them far above and beyond the status of African-Americans, whose current net worth sits at any given time between 1/10th and 1/16th that of the average white American.
Dr. Carson, America is not, as you falsely state, “steeped in the ideals of equality and justice.” Our nation, sorry to say, is steeped in inequality and injustice. We held over 4 million people in slavery for nearly a quarter of a millennia. We mass exterminated the indigenous population and exploited our neighbors to the south and a host of other immigrants who have come to our shores. We have much to atone for in this nation regarding the foreigner and people of color.
We know that equity programs can be successful because we know how successful “inequity” programs have been for White people when they were given land Black people were not given and did not have access to through the Homestead Act, the G.I. Bill and through de facto and de jure redlining policies. Your references to family structure, educational attainment, and workforce participation as “the keys to reducing disparities” do not exist in a vacuum. They are linked to net worth issues that are themselves linked to institutional racism. Until you deal with the structural inequalities, you are merely blaming the victim for the crime.
Finally, you conclude your piece utilizing your inspiring personal story as a model for conduct and achievement in a grossly racist and unjust society. While your brilliance and accomplishment is most certainly an inspiration to many, it should not be a prerequisite for survival or prosperity for anyone, because it most certainly is not for White people. White people do not have to be neurosurgeons to be wealthy, earn respect, live in safe neighborhoods with quality schools, or to keep the police off of their necks. They were not born into and generally do not reside in communities that, at last our last count, have left Blacks, in the aggregate, more than $13 trillion behind in net worth. Rather than using your intellect to artfully craft writings on why black people should not get what they most certainly deserve, you should use your luminescent and creative mind to figure out how you can help bring America together to call America voluntarily to do the right thing to solve the Reparations issue together without government mandate. We at AASRT, Inc. could use your help and the help of anyone else who loves justice and what is right.
Darryl L. Fortson, M.D.
Darryl Fortson is a physician in Las Vegas, Nevada. He also serves as the Executive Director AASRT, Inc., also known as the African American Slave Reparations Team (www.theaasrt.org).