Is it time for reparations?


In recent years, politicians and political activists have suggested reparations for African Americans in an effort to make amends for slavery, institutional and systemic racism.  

Within the past decade, concerns in regard to racial profiling and racism in the police institution have been on the rise.  With the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the 2014 article from The Atlantic rose in popularity again, along with other literature by black authors regarding reparations.

 “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates digs deep into its archive to relay the systematic setbacks African Americans were forced to face, even after formal emancipation in 1863.  

Coates emphasises the systemic setbacks African Americans endured after 250 years of slavery. 

“…black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us,” Coates stated. 

Similar to reparations paid by Germany to Jewish people who lived through the concentration camps in World War II, reparations to African Americans would start to heal the wounds of 400 years of oppression. 

Isabelle Coy, a junior whose great-grandparents were persecuted in concentration camps, supported the policy for African Americans. 

“I support it as a Jew,” she explained. “Both groups had to go through something hard and were forced into something.”

CFHS junior Ella Spremulli also advocates her support for the policy. She stated, “I do support it. So many people faced traumatizing things that carried on for generations and attempting to make amends with the root of the problem can only help.”

Although many would selflessly give up the reparations for others, overall, support for the policy idea revolves around selflessness itself.  

When asked if she supports this same policy, sophomore Tina Logan stated, “I think me, personally, I don’t think I would want it. But I do see how it would be beneficial to other people in the black community.”

In 2021, is such policy possible? Even today, almost 250 years after emancipation with continued systematic racism, many question the probability current politicians will act. 

Logan questions this same probability. 

“I don’t think it’s going to happen, pretty much at all,” She said.“Especially with the political waters we have right now, any chance of the government doing such things like reparations has little to no chance of actually happening.”

Despite probability and cloudy political climate, Coates explained the process using a powerful metaphor. 

“Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. We believe white dominance to be a fact of the inert past, a delinquent debt that can be made to disappear if only we don’t look.”

He concluded, “Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”