A Case For Reparations

Ruling regimes in the United States – corporations in the economic realm and governments in the political, for example – would not be where they are without the history of White Supremacy and the exploitation of People Of Color. But this fact is hardly limited to these dominant institutions. Every white individual has benefited in their life from white privilege. Every successful white person has made use of schools, government resources, and technological achievements that were built, in part, on the backs of exploited black folks. Our schools were officially segregated for most of US history and have remained de facto segregated. Government spending on infrastructure disproportionately favors white neighborhoods and white dominated institutions. Technological development has been largely controlled by white Americans, and the results have been unequally distributed. School policy, entrance exams, job interviews, promotions, have all been tainted by implicit bias, and wealth is largely a hereditary matter tracing much of its disparate distribution to slavery. [cite]  Thus every successful individual in the US can be said to owe reparations to populations upon whose exploitation their success depends.

 

But the debt does not end with individuals. Every charitable organization has arisen and raised what funds it has within this same history of White Supremacy, benefitting from the perception that white appeals for support are more reasonable, less radical, more serious than black appeals. And of course, again, wealth has been concentrated in white communities in the US, both as a result of past exploitation and patterns inheritance.

 

Even activist organizations need to recognize their place in the history of White Supremacy, and this includes organizations of white allies that devote themselves to combatting White Supremacy. This is not in any way to denigrate the work done by such organizations, but the same implicit biases and historically structured inequalities apply here. Whites are implicitly seen as more reasonable, less “radical”, more rational, even when arguing for black issues. White-led organizations historically have access to more resources. White organizations get more positive press attention, benefit from unequal education, from speaking in a way that is part of the official language of societal authority. In all these ways White NGOs, white activist organizations, and white organizers have also benefitted from the history of White Supremacy and so have a role to play in any process of grassroots reparations.

 

In short, who owes reparations for the history of White Supremacy?

Everyone.

 

What are grassroots reparations?

The currency of governments is legal equality and redistributive policy. The currency of grassroots organizations is community building and social change. That is to say, grassroots reparations would not typically take the form of monetary payments to individuals. Rather, the goal of grassroots reparations would be to support black led movements to confront systems of oppression, to build alternative just institutions, and to heal the individual and social traumas of racism through restorative processes.

 

The form these reparations would take would differ with the resources of the group in question. They could involve a commitment to a certain portion of the yearly giving of a donor organization, a portion of the yearly work total of an activist group, a monetary and time commitment from an individual. But in all cases the focus would not be on charity to individuals, but a meaningful contribution to black led community empowerment and resistance.

 

Who will be the recipients of grassroots reparations?

As part of the process of building a movement for grassroots reparations, we would locate grassroots groups in various communities that are first and foremost black-led, and focused upon some aspect of dismantling White Supremacy. These might be community empowerment projects, alternatives to policing, protest and resistance groups, restorative justice initiatives, etc. A process of vetting would identify organizations doing powerful and promising work in a community, and the grassroots reparations process would seek to identify those individuals and organizations that could most effectively support that work, without imposing an outside agenda or leadership. Reparations are about support and commitment, not changing leadership or even equal partnership.

 

Sources/Resources



  1. T.Coates- Reparations at the Municiple level

https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/15/ta_nehisi_coates_on_how_cities

 

  1. St.Louis Board of Aldermen Black Caucus calls for reparations – https://www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2017/06/14/st-louis-black-aldermanic-caucus-calls-for-slavery-reparations

 

  1. National Debate on reparations – https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-02-05/14-realdonaldtrump-do-you-agree-un-us-owes-reparations-african-americans

 

  1. Chicago Pays reparations

https://www.alternet.org/chicago-just-became-first-us-city-pay-reparations-victims-police-torture

 

5.Local approaches to reparations https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/7/charlottesville_va_backs_reparations_fund_for

 

  1. Models for receiving/Collecting reparations https://www.uhurusolidarity.org/

 

a.Soul Fire Farm http://www.soulfirefarm.org

  1. Southern Reparations loan fund https://southernreparations.org
  2. Organizations using a reparative justice model –
  3. http://theyarnmission.com
  4. Safetypinbox https://www.safetypinbox.com