Trump reparations? How the Republican Party could win the Black vote for a generation | Opinion

Joe Biden has improved his pitch to Black voters over the years. When he was running against Mitt Romney as Barack Obama’s vice president, our current president alleged that Republicans want to “put y’all back in chains.” Now his pitch is closer to reality.

Oh, he is still selling the poison of fear and division. Just listen to what he told an audience of newly-minted Black college graduates at Morehouse College in Atlanta: “What is democracy if Black men are being killed in the street? … If Black men are being killed on the streets, we bear witness. For me, that means to call out the poison of white supremacy, to root out systemic racism.”

Of course, it is true that Black men are being killed on the streets. Far more Black men die at the hands of other Black men than die at the hands of white supremacists or any white people at all.

After stoking anger in his audience, Biden offered the thin gruel of the Democrats’ largesse: “Instead of a trail of broken promises, we’re investing more money than ever in Black families and Black communities. We’re reconnecting Black neighborhoods cut off by old highways and decades of disinvestment where no one cared about the community. We’ve delivered checks in pockets to reduce Black child poverty to the lowest rate in history. We’re removing every lead pipe in America so every child can drink clean water without fear of brain damage, and then can’t afford to remove the lead pipes themselves. We’re delivering affordable high-speed Internet so no child has to … do their homework in a parking lot outside of McDonald’s.”

New less racist highways, checks to keep Black people just above the poverty line and high-speed internet access. That will reverse decades of the systemic racism, Biden alleges, for sure.

If there has been a trail of broken promises, Democrats are the ones who broke them. Over my lifetime, Republicans haven’t had much to say to Black America, except for a few heroes such as Jack Kemp, who tried to bridge the divide between Republicans and African Americans.

It is time for Republicans to say something, and I think Donald Trump may be the messenger who could break through Republican norms to say something this daring and counterintuitive: Let’s give the descendants of slavery a radical Republican version of reparations.

He could say something like this:

“It has been 70 years this month since Brown v. Board of Education ended official separate but equal schools. Democrats are proud of that achievement. What they won’t tell you is that two-thirds of Black kids still go to flailing segregated schools presided over by Democratic mayors who have no clue how to fix them and unions that see their role as job protectors for teachers more than advocates for children.

“Republicans will set you free. We already spend enough money on schools from state, local and federal coffers. We’ll pull it all together and turn it into an education savings account for each kid and guarantee that you can go to the private, parochial or charter school of your choice. If money is left over, you can spend it on extracurriculars, tutoring or enrichment opportunities. Money will start building up from the day a child is born as we turn Head Start and subsidized child care into money that Black people control. You are in charge.”

Trump could continue:

“That’s not enough. You can go to any college you can get into and Uncle Sam will pay the tuition. We’re putting Black people in control of 16 or more years of education.

“That’s not enough. When any child descended from enslaved people is born, the federal government will put $10,000 in a retirement account invested in a low-fee index fund. Every year, the feds will put in another $1,000 till kids reach 18. Once kids start a paying job, the employee’s part of Social Security will go into the account to be matched by Washington, D.C. Every Black child descended from enslaved people will retire at 67 as more than a millionaire — as part of the owner class in our capitalist union. They can pass that money on, giving the kind of generational wealth that Black people have watched white people pass on for years.

“And because their employer paid into Social Security on their behalf — they’ll still get Social Security benefits.”

And finally, Trump could say:

“Let’s take the billions spent on Section 8 housing subsidies and turn it into a massive homeownership program. For descendants of enslaved people climbing the economic ladder, let’s abolish the top income tax rate and for Black people who can set aside some money of their own to invest we’ll cut the capital gains tax in half.

“This isn’t some special handout for African Americans — this vision of an ownership society is what Republicans want for all Americans. Republicans are just welcoming the descendants of enslaved people to the party first for a change. No more Democratic leftovers. With Republicans, the men and women descended from those our nation wronged can come to the head of the table.”

When Americans of all stripes see what comes from having control and ownership of your own life, the clamor to join Black people in the ownership society will be deafening. As newly-minted Republican voters, African Americans would have a large say in deciding when that happens. That’s a role reversal that I imagine would be sweet.

Can’t imagine it? Just think back to Jan. 6, 2021, and tell me whether you could imagine a day when Trump would be leading in important polls for the presidency in 2024. Trump is crazy enough to do it. If he did, I would get behind him or anyone else who’d back this radical, but welcome departure from Republican neglect.

David Mastio, a former editor and columnist for USA Today, is a regional editor for The Center Square and a regular Star Opinion correspondent. Follow him on X: @DavidMastio or email him at