DURHAM, N.C. (RNS) A white scholar touring churches across the nation is trying to convince Christians that racial reconciliation is not enough — it’s time to start talking about reparations for descendants of slaves.
And among mostly white, mainline Protestants this controversial — some would say unrealistic — notion is getting a hearing.
What divides the races in America, says Drake University ethicist Jennifer Harvey, is not the failure to embrace differences but the failure of white Americans to repent and repair the sins of the past.
“Our differences are not only skin deep,” the 44-year-old scholar told a lecture hall packed with Duke Divinity School students recently. “Our differences are the deepest and most complex manifestations of genealogies of harm done to some and perpetrated by others.”
“All over the Hebrew Bible, this is what it says to do when you steal — you give it back sevenfold,” she said.
Harvey’s 2014 book, “Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation,” has led to speaking engagements at United Church of Christ gatherings, Presbyterian assemblies and college campuses such as Duke and Colgate University in New York.
Over the next year, she’ll address UCC statewide meetings in the Midwest, a Lutheran congregation in Arkansas, social justice conferences in Georgia and New Mexico, college students Michigan and in Pennsylvania, United Methodist and Disciples of Christ seminarians in New Jersey and Oklahoma.
The book, said the Rev. Cameron Trimble, executive director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, “touched a nerve with a lot of religious leaders who care about this particular issue and who want to be prophetic in this moment.
Trimble’s center has published a video interview and a book-study guide to promote Harvey’s book to its 13,000 affiliated congregations in nine different denominations.
“Jennifer is inviting a conversation that needs to be had among white people. In all of our mainline traditions, we have deeply institutionalized racism. We have to willingly give up power in order to equal the playing field.”
On Saturday (Nov. 7), Harvey discussed the topic of reparations with members of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
More than 20 churches in the diocese have investigated their connections to slavery and produced an online historical tour, “Trail of Souls,” as an act of truth-telling and confession.
“If we’re not reconciled with our history, then we can’t understand what the repair is that’s needed,” said the Rev. Angela Shepherd, the diocesan canon for mission.
Shepherd said it’s too late for the U.S. to consider any kind of direct reimbursement but welcomed Harvey’s stoking the reparations movement in churches. She hopes Harvey’s visit, along with the Baltimore protests in the spring, will help to motivate people in her diocese to support a bill first introduced by Michigan Congressman John Conyers’ in 1989 to create a federal commission to study reparations.
“It would not look like writing checks to individuals,” Shepherd said. “To me, it’s about figuring out a way in our country to bring up the playing field so that it is level.”
Harvey’s push for reparations comes on the heels of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ story in The Atlantic magazine, “The Case for Reparations.”
“White households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households,” wrote Coates. “Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net.”
Coates traced some of the systemic injustices to “redlining,” the denial of home mortgages to black Americans, driving them toward predatory lenders outside the banking system.
Harvey said this history, beginning in slavery and Jim Crow and continuing with poor, underfunded pubic schools for minority children, has stalled well-intentioned efforts at reconciliation since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. This history also explains the energy around the “Black Lives Matter” response to recent acts of police brutality.
“I find myself surrounded by white Americans in a state of shock,” Harvey said. “We should not be shocked or surprised. We have no right to surprise.”
Harvey said she grew up attending mostly black schools in Denver, but it wasn’t until she met black students at Union Theological Seminary that she began to understand how being white gave her societal power that they didn’t have.
“Women and men of color said to me, ‘You need to figure out your whiteness,’” she said.
Harvey said demands for reparations drove white Christians out of the civil rights movement. They held onto King’s vision of the “beloved community” and kept talking about reconciliation but have never made the sort of recompense that’s needed.
With a Ph.D. in Christian social ethics from Union, Harvey has spent her career writing on white supremacy and the contemporary reparations movement.
Harvey was ordained in the liberal American Baptist Churches USA. She supports Conyers’ congressional bill and is trying to kindle the conversation in religious communities.
Harvey resists specifying what form reparations might take, saying that should come from the wounded parties. She points to the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, which calls for cash, land, economic development, scholarships and policy changes ensuring equitable treatment in criminal justice, health care and financial systems.
Harvey also suggests environmental reparations for Native American land taken and exploited; citizenship for underpaid immigrant workers; and political remedies for mass incarceration of black Americans.
“People who’ve been there, who lived through the civil rights movement, can look back and say, ‘Yes, our churches are just as segregated as they were before,’” said Michael DePue, director of Christian education at Chapel in the Pines, a white Presbyterian congregation in Chapel Hill, N.C., where Harvey’s book is being studied. “It’s been 40 or 50 years, and the things that the civil rights movement set out to do, they haven’t come to pass.”
“There’s an awareness among progressive Christians that if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten,” she said. “The challenge that remains before us is, will it move beyond talk? What we do very well in church is talk a thing to death.”
YS/AMB END DECONTO
After Two White Colorado Women Unearthed The History Of Their Slave-Owning Ancestors, They Turned To Reparations
It’s the idea that white Americans should pay a moral debt to black Americans to compensate for slavery, Jim Crow and institutionalized racism.
Reparations has been a concept debated as far back as emancipation. But for some Denver women, it’s not a debate — it’s an obligation.
In late 2018, the Denver-based nonprofit Soul2Soul Sisters received a whopping $200,000 anonymous donation. Founders Rev. Dawn Riley Duval and Rev. Tawana Davis were “stunned,” and tried to learn more.
The mystery benefactor ended up being a graduate student. The donor asked Colorado Public Radio News not to use their name or identifying information in order to keep the focus on Soul2Soul and their racial injustice workshops for people of faith.
She had delved deep into her family tree for a class assignment. What she found was new information that caused her “deep sadness.” She had grown up believing that her family — which settled in Mississippi in the late 18th century — had never owned slaves.
But it turned out that wasn’t true.
She even dug up a cassette recording of her grandmother, and she learned about Alice.
Alice was an enslaved girl given to her “aristocratic” great-great grandmother when she left North Carolina for Mississippi. Even after emancipation, Alice stayed.
“It became true what I had thought was true,” she said. “It may have been just one person, perhaps there were other people, but to know that my family had benefited from the efforts of someone else.”
This revelation came four years after her father passed away, leaving her an inheritance that presented a challenge. She wanted to do some good with it.
The donor approached her teacher to talk out ways to use this money to atone for her family’s role in slavery and to honor Alice. Her teacher mentioned Soul2Soul, which clicked instantly — Revs. Riley Duval and Davis had not only spoken at her school, but they’d also preached at her church, and left an impression.
She quietly made the donation, and figured that was that. But the reverends reached out, wanting to know more.
“I began to think, ‘What do I call this?’” she said. “A gift is something that’s yours that you give away, and I thought, ‘That’s not the right word.’ Because this, in my mind, wasn’t mine. It was something I had gotten through Alice, or partially through Alice.”
She tried to find a word to pin on it, but one word, even reparations, didn’t seem like enough.
“Reparations came to mind. I’ve heard that, I’m not an expert on it. But reparations to me is big, it’s societal changes, it’s something we need to do as a country,” she said. “So I thought it was more ‘personal reparations,’ and then I said it was ‘personal partial reparations,’ because I don’t know what the right number is, and I don’t know that money is all of it. I don’t think it is.”
Riley Duval said reparations are an important part of healing racial wounds in America.
“There has to be compensation. We understand economic justice and healing justice to be integral to racial justice,” she said. “So, there must be compensation towards conciliation.”
Rev. Riley Duval said the money has been a huge boon to Soul2Soul sisters, allowing them to beef up their staff.
“We have brought on other black women who are helping us to broaden the work of Soul2Soul sisters,” she said. “Soul2Soul Sisters is a fiercely faith-based racial justice organization that is lead by black women towards actualizing black healing and black liberation.”
Lotte Lieb Dula, a retired financial strategist, started down a similar path as Soul2Soul’s anonymous donor at the start of 2018.
Dula’s grandmother passed away in January, and Dula took up the task of sorting through her things. She found a small, old book that was still well-preserved. Dula opened it to find inventories of slaves, hundreds of them, with their individual monetary worths listed.
It was then Dula learned that much of her family’s ancestral wealth came from slavery. She did more research, and counted more than 400 enslaved people who were considered the property of her ancestors. She also unearthed an old Smith College yearbook that listed her grandmother as a KKK member.
“I want to skip the guilt and shame part, and I want to do something about this,” Dula recalled thinking at the time.
She joined a national group called Coming to the Table which connects descendents of enslaved people with descendents of slaveholders. Dula also established a scholarship fund for students who wish to study political science or law, restricted only to black applicants. She met a young black woman pursuing a career in politics and Dula agreed to help pay off her college debt, calling it a “direct reparation.”
“Since I used to do financial modeling for my career, of course I’ve modeled what I might be able to give,” Dula laughed. “I think over the course of my lifetime, my goal is to give half a million dollars through whatever means I can, and then at my death, the rest of it will go towards setting up a reparations fund.”
She’s also started building a website – a guide to reparations for white people, by white people.
“This is how I’ll spend the rest of my life,” Dula said. “If only my life could be extended 250 or 400 years, maybe I’d make a small dent.”
In 2017, almost 660,000 people were arrested for cannabis-related charges in the U.S., the FBI reported recently. This means that, according to a recent open letter about equity and justice released by Equity First Alliance, even as legalization sweeps the nation, over half a million people are still losing their liberty, voting rights, and access to education, housing and future employment every year.
To make things worse, while many jurisdictions that have already legalized marijuana have promised to clean up the records of those convicted for non-violent cannabis offenses, most of them are still on the hook.
In Los Angeles, California, the largest recreational cannabis market in the world, hundreds of thousands of cannabis-related convictions have yet to be expunged. In Colorado, unfairness has also persisted and prevailed. “Young people of color have been arrested at higher rates for cannabis possession since legalization happened, while arrest rates for young white people have declined,” said Adam Vine of the Equity First Alliance. “Given the racial bias in the criminal justice system, all of these provisions continue to disproportionately harm people of color.”
“In Pennsylvania, prior cannabis convictions prevent people from joining the medical cannabis workforce,” he added. “And, in Illinois, those same convictions have been preventing people from becoming cannabis patients.”
Finally, the 2018 Senate Farm Bill contains language that would legalize hemp at the federal level. However, the new law would still bar people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry.
A Noble (H)Emprize
According to Sonia Erika of Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council and a spokesperson for Equity First Alliance, who helped to organize N.E.W and its events, “Automatic expungement, post-conviction relief, and other aspects of criminal justice and policing reform must be a part of all cannabis legalization.” The problem, in her view, is raising awareness.
In an attempt to capture the attention of the American public, a coalition of more than 20 organizations working at the intersection of the cannabis industry, racial equity, and reparative justice, have joined local and community groups across the country for the inaugural National Expungement Week (N.E.W.) October 20-27, 2018.
N.E.W. will offer free clinics to help to remove, seal, or reclassify eligible convictions from criminal records. N.E.W. events will be held in:
- Los Angeles
- New Haven
- Prince George’s County
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
Many of the N.E.W. events will also provide attendees with supportive services including employment resources, voter engagement, and health screenings. The N.E.W. website provides a link to an online toolkit for communities who want to host their own record change events now and in the future.
This week, Chicagoans celebrated Rahm Emanuel’s announcement that he will not seek another term as mayor. But while Emanuel’s departure is welcome news to many, the next mayor of Chicago will have to come up with an aggressive plan to repair the damage that Emanuel’s financial policies have inflicted on the city’s Black and Latinx communities. Otherwise the devastation that Emanuel’s tenure in office wreaked on Chicago’s communities of color will be with us for decades to come.
Mayor Emanuel systematically monetized pain in communities of color to enrich his Wall Street backers. Since he took office in May 2011, Chicago has paid $346 million in police misconduct settlements and judgments. Emanuel paid a large portion of these costs by taking out bonds, which must be paid back with interest. The interest and fees on these bonds add up to hundreds of millions of dollars, which the city pays before ensuring there is funding for critical public services. When faced with a budget crunch, Emanuel closed mental health clinics, which could have played an important role in preventing people of color from having adverse contact with racist police officers.
In 2017, the mayor borrowed $225 million to pay for future police misconduct settlements and judgments. In other words, Emanuel gave his buddies on Wall Street an advance payment on the lives of Black and Latinx Chicagoans whom he knows his police department will brutalize or murder at some point in the future.
Similarly, the mayor and his appointees on the school board refused to take legal action against the banks that fraudulently sold the city and school district toxic swap deals. Chicago Public Schools paid banks such as Bank of America $36 million a year for these toxic swaps—enough money to reverse the 50 school closings Emanuel oversaw in 2013. But not only did Emanuel refuse to take legal action against the banks, he actually signed multiple agreements waiving Chicago’s right to recoup its losses through legal action.
Emanuel also used the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program as a slush fund that drained money from the city’s neighborhoods and schools in communities of color and funneled it into tax subsidies for developers and wealthy corporations in the richer, whiter parts of the city.
All of these financial shenanigans are part of the neoliberal regime that has dominated City Hall for the past few decades under Emanuel and his predecessor, Richard M. Daley. Like Donald Trump, they believed making Chicago great again meant bringing back the white people who had abandoned the city for the suburbs during white flight. In order to lure rich white folks back to the city, they ignored the needs of Chicago’s communities of color, whom they did not deem worthy of the city’s resources. While defending the closure of schools in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods, Emanuel reportedly told Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, “25 percent of these kids are never going to be anything. They are never going to amount to anything. And I’m not going to throw resources at them.”
Daley and Emanuel repealed progressive corporate taxes and funneled tax money from the neighborhoods into downtown. They manufactured budget crises in order to justify the privatization of the city’s infrastructure, the charterization of its school district, and attacks on city and school district employees and their pensions. The perennial budget crises that resulted from these irresponsible decisions were then used to justify risky financial deals that were highly lucrative for Wall Street and ultimately cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
These policies have left deep scars, both in the city’s neighborhoods and in its bank accounts. The next mayor will not be able to wave a magic wand and undo all the damage that decades of neoliberal rule have wrought. The city and school district’s structural budget deficits are all too real. Before the next mayor can even start to think about righting the wrongs, they will need to find money under the couch cushions just to keep the lights on.
There are only two ways forward: more taxes or more financial shenanigans. Under the Daley-Emanuel style of governance, both of these options would have hit communities of color. Tax increases would have been regressive, coming in the forms of red light and speeding cameras that are heavily concentrated in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. Financial shenanigans would have been used to justify more cuts to critical services.
The next mayor needs to flip the script. They need to aggressively raise revenue from the wealthy parts of the city in order to repair the damage to the South and West Sides. For decades, Black and Brown Chicago have been forced to shoulder the costs of Daley and Emanuel’s burning desire to revitalize White Chicago. The next mayor will have to target Black and Latinx communities for investment coming from progressive revenues sources that make rich residents in White Chicago and the major corporations downtown pay their fair share. These wealthy interests have benefited for nearly 30 years from policies that have prioritized the needs of corporations over those of poor communities of color. Chicago’s next mayor needs to make White Chicago pay reparations to Black and Brown Chicago to start to reverse these inequities and right these wrongs.
By SAQIB BHATTI
Originally posted on In These Times
COMMUNITY: Reparations March, London
HUNDREDS of locals of London’s black community took to the streets to mark Emancipation Day and the annual Reparations March.
The march, which begun at Windrush Square, Brixton and culminated at Parliament Square, was awash with colour and pride as many marked Emancipation Day by demanding the government acknowledges the historic and ongoing impact of colonisation and slavery.
This year’s march was themed under “Stop the Maangamizi,” and saw activists from all walks of life come together and demand justice.
— The Voice Newspaper (@TheVoiceNews) August 1, 2018
Organisers of the march carried a petition, which states: “The blood, sweat and tears of our Ancestors financed the economic expansion of the United Kingdom. The immoral and illegal acts inflicted on Afrikans against their will cannot all be undone.
“However, the perpetrators, their descendants and all other beneficiaries, ought to be compelled to address the harm that has resulted from them. Today the offspring of the stolen Afrikans encounter direct and indirect racial discrimination daily. This results in impoverishment, lack of education, unemployment, imprisonment and ill health.
“Now is the time for the victims of these inhumane atrocities to demand, effect and secure holistic, adequate, comprehensive and intersectional reparations for the wrongs that continue to be inflicted on Afrika, Afrikans on the Continent and in the Diaspora.”
— The Voice Newspaper (@TheVoiceNews) August 1, 2018
During the late afternoon an evening, an event took place at Windrush Square which included DJs, stalls and plenty more.
See pictures below:
The ‘Office of Reparations’ Bill which is aimed at providing legal provisions for the establishment of the Office for Reparations, to identify war affected people eligible for reparations, has been placed on the Order Paper of Parliament meant for today
Like the Office of Missing Persons, the establishment of this new office is part of the matters envisaged in the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka adopted on October 1, 2015. It is meant to identify aggrieved persons eligible for reparations, and to provide for the provision of individual and collective reparations to such persons; to repeal the Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority Act, No. 29 of 198, and is to be presented to Parliament today.
Responsibilities of this office will include receiving recommendations with regard to reparations to be made to aggrieved persons from the Office on Missing Persons established under the Office on Missing Persons or such other relevant bodies or institutions, to receive applications for reparations from aggrieved persons or representatives of such aggrieved persons and to verify the authenticity of such application, for the purpose of assessing the eligibility for reparations, to identify the aggrieved persons who are eligible for reparations as well as their level of need, to identify and collate information relating to previous or on-going reparation programmes carried out by the State, including any expenditure on similar reparation programmes through a centralized database, and to make rules with regard to ensuring the effective functioning of the Office for Reparations.
The Office for Reparations, if established, will consist of five members appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. The Constitutional Council shall recommend three names out of the members of the Office for Reparations to be appointed as the Chairperson of the Office for Reparations. One of the members recommended shall be appointed by the President as the Chairperson of the Office for Reparations. A member could serve for a period of three years.
However, the members of this office will be deemed to be public servants for the purpose of the Bill as per the Penal Code and the Bribery Act and the Evidence Ordinance. (Yohan Perera)
The anniversary of the New Orleans Massacre of 1866 is coming up later this month, on July 30th. We should not forget this event, essentially a race riot, in which 238 people were killed, the vast majority of whom were Black war veterans who had fought for the Union — but the war had ended a year earlier.
The massacre was a crucial factor which led to the passage of the Reconstruction Acts. For a brief moment, a century and a half ago, it seemed as if our nation was poised to begin the long and difficult process of healing from the wounds which slavery inflicted on the body politic. Instead, that process was sabotaged and repressed in relatively short order. Call it the Deconstruction of Reconstruction.
Is there a city in the United States where we know this better? The legacy of slavery looms large here, though official acknowledgements of this history are scanty. The Crescent City was also home to one of the largest populations of free people of color. It stands to reason that people in New Orleans should be at the forefront of the newly re-invigorated movement toward making reparations for slavery.
And so we are.
On July 9th, there was a meeting on the prospect of a local platform for such reparations. It was sponsored by the Green Party of New Orleans. (Note: I serve as chair of this group.) All our meetings at the Mid-City Library are free and open to the public.
Local artist, activist and entrepreneur Anika Ofori drew on her experience working with the Green Party of the United States to give an informal presentation which informed and framed our discussion.
Anika began with a brief historical overview, outlining the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Reconstruction Acts, as well as the sabotage of Reconstruction through acts of violence.
Current efforts on to establish reparations for slavery stem from the middle of the 20th century, picking up momentum in the 1990s, slowed temporarily by the political shifts after the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Anika recounted the work of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) and National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) including their preliminary 10-Point Plan which is modeled after a similar plan endorsed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It’s a holistic program that would finally set our nation on the road to healing. A wealth of detailed information can be found via the Reparations Resources Center, maintained by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, at https://ibw21.org/reparations-resource-center/
House Resolution 40, officially titled the “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act,” was introduced to Congress in January of 2017 by John Conyers, Jr. He introduced the bill repeatedly over almost three decades. Since he resigned in December, the future of the bill is unclear.
Nevertheless, the Green Party of the United States has endorsed the idea of reparations, both in general principle as part of the Green Party platform, as well as more specifically endorsing H.R. 40.
We concluded our meeting with a discussion of how we might promote the reparations issue locally, here in New Orleans, which after all was once the preeminent hub of the slave trade on this continent.
Our conversation brought to light a series of questions. For example: How do we incorporate support for reparations in our local platform, currently under development? We anticipate some points from the NAARC ten-point plan will be included in other parts of our platform. Do we highlight these connections or address reparations separately? How do we advocate for reparations to a greater public that might not be educated on the issue and resistant to it? Are there particular policies and demands in the call for reparations that our chapter is in the best position to pursue locally?
The discussion of reparations also raised questions about the priorities and identity of the Green Party. Despite the official support for reparations in the Green Party platform, there were concerns that the Green Party as a whole isn’t racially inclusive and sufficiently aware of race issues. There were also concerns that prioritizing reparations and racial justice might alienate members of the party who are most interested in economic and/or climate matters. Others at the meeting suggested that the pursuit of economic, racial, and climate justice were not mutually exclusive and had to be pursued simultaneously because they are all related and interconnected.
Thanks to Neil Ranu, Green Party of New Orleans secretary, for preparing notes on the meeting, which were used extensively for this article.
We demand reparations for past and continuing harms. The government, responsible corporations and other institutions that have profited off of the harm they have inflicted on Black people — from colonialism to slavery through food and housing redlining, mass incarceration, and surveillance — must repair the harm done. This includes:
- Reparations for the systemic denial of access to high quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all Black people (including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people) to lifetime education including: free access and open admissions to public community colleges and universities, technical education (technology, trade and agricultural), educational support programs, retroactive forgiveness of student loans, and support for lifetime learning programs.
- Reparations for the continued divestment from, discrimination toward and exploitation of our communities in the form of a guaranteed minimum livable income for all Black people, with clearly articulated corporate regulations.
- Reparations for the wealth extracted from our communities through environmental racism, slavery, food apartheid, housing discrimination and racialized capitalism in the form of corporate and government reparations focused on healing ongoing physical and mental trauma, and ensuring our access and control of food sources, housing and land.
- Reparations for the cultural and educational exploitation, erasure, and extraction of our communities in the form of mandated public school curriculums that critically examine the political, economic, and social impacts of colonialism and slavery, and funding to support, build, preserve, and restore cultural assets and sacred sites to ensure the recognition and honoring of our collective struggles and triumphs.
- Legislation at the federal and state level that requires the United States to acknowledge the lasting impacts of slavery, establish and execute a plan to address those impacts. This includes the immediate passage of H.R.40, the “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act” or subsequent versions which call for reparations remedies.