Posted on February 28, 2020

Reparations: One Necessary Step Toward Black Freedom

Darrel Thompson, CLASP, February 26, 2020

Reparations for descendants of enslaved Black people have been discussed on and off at least since the end of the Civil War. But the conversation has been reignited by an inflamed racist political climate, drawing renewed focus to the nation’s racist past. {snip}

Instead of reparations, some argue that a better path is incremental policy change, such as addressing disparities in education and making neighborhoods safe. On its face, that seems sensible given current public opinion on reparations and the stubborn inequities in Black life. {snip} In deciding which policies to advocate for, there’s a tension between grand, aspirational issues like reparations and more immediate, achievable solutions that must be pursued when appropriate. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive or substitutes for one another. {snip} But reparations aren’t just another policy with costs and benefits to assess—they’re about something deeper.

Reparations are not a handout, just one piece of legislation or a check. Reparations are about Black life, Black freedom, justice, and wholeness. They’re about whether the United States government will acknowledge the inhumanity of enslavement, segregation and other forms of government-authorized discrimination, and work to repair those injustices—acknowledging Black people’s full humanity demands justice in reparations.


{snip} Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) has introduced H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. CLASP is proud to endorse this bill because we acknowledge the transatlantic slave trade, enslavement, Jim Crow, and a host of 20th century public policies have persecuted Black Americans, causing immense harm requiring repair. In so doing, we explore a path toward reparation so that Black Americans can receive the debt that’s owed—leading lives more justified, whole, and free.