Posted on February 7, 2023

Black Reparations Inspiring a Multicolored Pandora’s Box of Intersectional Demands

John Murawski, RealClearInvestigations, February 2, 2023

Until a few years ago, the idea of paying financial reparations to descendants of African slaves was dismissed as a fringe idea.

Now a notion that President Barack Obama once rejected as impractical is becoming public policy. California offers a dramatic example as officials there review a proposal that could pay in excess of $1 million each to some black residents, while more than a dozen U.S. municipalities are moving ahead with their own race-based programs to redress the legacies of slavery.

But the reparations movement is bigger and wider than that. Its rise in the United States has inspired a global movement committed to redressing perceived historical injustices to all manner of aggrieved groups. The causes include gay reparations, climate reparations, colonial reparations, university reparations – and Roman Catholic Church reparations for officially sanctioning colonization, slavery, and genocide in the New World. Scholars, activists and legislators across the United States and Europe and in former colonies are drawing on the logic and language of the black reparations movement and international human rights law to make the claim that their causes also deserve atonement and compensation for past wrongs.

Some warn that reparations open a controversial and bottomless Pandora’s Box, given history’s long catalogue of official policies that criminalized or discriminated against sex workers, polygamists, Jews, Catholics, Slavs, and the Roma, among a vast array of potential claimants.

“If we pay reparations to black Americans, there’s no way it ends with black Americans,” said Wilfred Reilly, a conservative political science professor at Kentucky State University and author of “Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War.” “Once you start paying people for things that happened in the past before their lifetimes, you’re setting precedent there.”

Reparations advocate William Darity, a Duke University economist and one of five economic advisers to the California Reparations Task Force, acknowledged that claims against the United States and other European nations that enslaved Africans could potentially lead to similar claims against Western and non-Western countries that, in a previous political configuration in past centuries, engaged in slaving, concubinage, and other practices that were formerly accepted but are now viewed with moral revulsion.

“I would encourage the people who are concerned about these histories of injustice to do the work and make the case,” Darity said, noting that the full scale of potential claims may not be fully appreciated. “It could be immense; it could be enormous.”

A number of new claims are now in play. Gay reparations have successfully won financial restitution for surviving victims of government persecution in the 20th century, including incarceration and maltreatment in Gen. Francisco Franco’s Spain and Nazi Germany (a policy that was continued for another quarter-century in West Germany). The U.S. movement, led by the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., seeks atonement and compensation for the surviving victims of the “Lavender Scare,” the postwar period of mass firings of thousands of gay federal civil servants in the United States who were suspected of being “perverts.”

Over the past decade, more than a dozen Caribbean nations have been seeking debt relief and other reparations from their erstwhile European colonizers for alleged native genocide and chattel slavery. Separately, a delegation that included New York Times writer and 1619 Project architect Nikole Hannah-Jones traveled to Rome last July to press the Vatican to commit the Catholic Church’s global resources to financially repairing the damage caused by the Church’s sanctioning of and benefitting from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Advocates of climate reparations seek trillions of dollars in aid from the wealthy nations of the so-called global North to the developing countries of the global South. In response to such claims, the European Union this year agreed to create a climate fund to mitigate the predicted ecological and humanitarian toll that will be caused by greenhouse gas emissions emitted by industrialized powers.

Gay reparations and  climate  reparations both have been the subject of recent books published by Oxford University Press in 2022 and 2021 and written by serious academics at reputable institutions, Bard College and Georgetown University. Foreign Policy magazine has run lengthy articles in support of  gay reparations  and  climate reparations just in the past few years.

Proposals have also been floated for reparations for abused psychiatric patients and residential aged care patients, as well as compensating all women, whether they work or not, for the alleged income gap – a sign that the concept continues gaining purchase. At the same time, thousands of private individuals have taken matters into their own hands, Venmo-ing cash transfers to black acquaintances or to online fundraising efforts to aid black people in crisis.

These causes draw on the academic literature, moral arguments, and growing success of the black reparations movement as a template for their own claims. Currently, more than 100 institutions are active in  Universities Studying Slavery, an international consortium whose members document their complicity in African slaving and develop reparations and remembrance projects. Last year the state of Virginia enacted a law requiring five public universities built with slave labor to provide scholarships or other benefits to descendants of enslaved Africans and African Americans.

The movements are organizing conferences, publishing historical research, and trying to sway public opinion. Nearly one out of three U.S. adults now support reparations for black people, and support has risen to three out of four African Americans, who said they would most benefit from scholarships and financial aid for businesses and homes, according to a 2022 study from the Pew Research Center.


More broadly, reparations claims mutually reinforce each other as a common cause. They often argue their petitions are based on government policy that was systemic in targeting a victim class to the advantage of the dominant social group.

“The struggle for gay reparations in the United States is part and parcel of the struggles by previously marginalized groups – from women to African Americans to immigrants — for full acceptance into the American community,” according to the 2021 book, “The Case for Gay Reparations.”

The movements seem to have one thing in common: They focus on former European colonial powers, not on other parts of the world where slavery, homophobia, misogyny, and other abuses were (and often still are) practiced and tolerated, such as Africa and the Middle East.


In this country, more than a dozen local efforts in communities like Evanston, Ill., Providence, R.I., High Point, N.C., and St. Louis, Mo., have proposed or approved a range of benefits, such as cash payments, housing vouchers, economic development, small business subsidies, workforce training, and free genealogical research to trace lineages to enslaved ancestors.

Officials in San Francisco, a progressive city that last year implemented the nation’s first guaranteed income program exclusively for transgender people, are weighing a separate reparations proposal to make lump sum payments of $5 million each to eligible black residents and supplement lower-income black households with $97,000 a year (in 2022 dollars) for “at least 250 years.”

Darity’s national proposal, outlined with co-author A. Kirsten Mullen in “From Here to Equality,” calls for closing the estimated $14.7 trillion racial wealth gap by paying each African American about $358,000, over a period of 10 years in a combination of annuities, trust accounts, endowments, and cash, all exempt from federal income taxes.

Among the impediments to achieving racial wealth parity in this country is the almost certain unconstitutionality of awarding financial benefits based on race. Darity said Congress would have to pass legislation affirming the legality of redress for national culpability against a specific racial group. The final obstacle for reparations advocates would be the U.S. Supreme Court, which at the present time is majority conservative.

“A Congress that makes a commitment to a reparations plan might also have to make a commitment to stack the court,” Darity said. “From my perspective, the Supreme Court is purely a political instrument, and it should be treated as such.”


The Caribbean CARICOM Reparations Commission and the National African American Reparations Commission both have promulgated 10-point platforms, listing demands such as affordable housing, substantial land tracts, creation of an African Holocaust Institute, psychological rehabilitation, and technology transfers, among others. Both movements advocate for a government-supported repatriation program to be made available to millions of individuals in the African diaspora who might wish to return to their ancestral homeland.

“Africans in America who choose to exercise the right to return will be provided with sufficient monetary resources to become productive citizens in their new home and shall be aided in their resettlement by a Black controlled agency funded by the federal government to perform this function,” states the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC).