Week 1 - Reparations
If you followed the Presidential primary election debates back in late 2019 and early 2020, you may recall reparations being a topic of discussion amongst the candidates. While the inclusion of such a subject in an event as high-profile as a presidential primary race was groundbreaking, the idea of reparations is anything but new. Today, you are going to explore the history of reparations in the United States and the various ways in which such efforts to compensate those who have suffered injustices have fallen woefully short in addressing the damage that has been done.
- Watch this video to learn more about the history of reparations worldwide, the cases for and against reparations, and the current status of reparations for Black Americans in the United States. (Video, 14 mins – Origin of Everything)
- Read this article on the history of reparations in the United States and the many unfortunate ways in which such efforts have fallen woefully short of achieving adequate compensation or justice. (Article, 10 mins – History.com )
- Read this article that unpacks the history of reparations for Japanese Americans and the generational divide within the Japanese American community regarding how to address and cope with internment following WWII. (Article, 9 mins – NPR )
After yesterday’s brief exploration of the history of reparations in the United States, you can now dive deeper into the issue at hand: Black Americans receiving reparations for over 400 years of injustices. Today’s video and articles assess reparations as a tool for creating a more equitable society and repairing the significant harm that has been done to people of color. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones expertly explains some of the history of Black economic inequality and emphasizes the need for actual wealth transfers (i.e. a form of reparations) to create real change. The other two articles detail the larger structure and scope of reparations; in particular, a comprehensive reparations plan would require honesty, an accurate understanding of history, a redistribution of wealth, and other forms of restitution for the historical and ongoing stealing from Black Americans.
- Watch this conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones to hear her discuss the realities of economic injustices in the United States, the need for white people to confront the evidence of compounding and continual Black disadvantage, and the need for actual wealth transfers to close the wealth gap. (Video, 31 mins – Robert Reich)
- Read this article about the reality of wealth concentration amongst .01% of families in America, all of whom are white, which evidences the need for a process of truth-telling and redistribution of wealth through reparations. (Article, 12 mins – Colorlines)
- Read this article to learn about the real, systemic evidence of injustice (and theft) against Black Americans and the importance of understanding restitution (via reparations) as a way to achieve justice. (Article, 12 mins – Colorlines)
Following yesterday’s grounding in the arguments for reparations, you will now explore some more specific, detailed plans for what reparations could entail. In the first podcast episode, Nikole Hannah-Jones elaborates on her recent New York Times essay entitled “What Is Owed,” where she makes her case for reparations and her plan for redistributing wealth to close the racial wealth gap. The other resources detail the various calculations for what amount of money would need to be redistributed to descendants of slaves and the alternative (but equally important) forms that reparations can take, including the removal of Confederate monuments.
- Listen to this podcast with Nikole Hannah-Jones to hear about the overwhelming historical evidence of structural inequalities that created the racial wealth gap and how holistic and comprehensive reparations in all aspects of society are essential in order to close the wealth gap. (Podcast, 24 mins – MSNBC)
- Read this article to understand the arguments for removing Confederate statues and how such an action could be a form of reparations for slavery. (Article, 4 mins – CounterPunch)
- Read this interview with historian Annette Gordon-Reed to contextualize the history of Confederate monuments and emphasize the need for their removal (which will still allow for the understanding and teaching of history). (Article, 5 mins – Harvard)
As important as our conversations have been thus far about reparations for Black Americans, one must not forget that Native Americans are equally justified in their own calls for restitution. Today’s resources examine the case for reparations for Native Peoples and the various forms that these reparations can take to deliver true justice to Indigenous Peoples in America.
- Read this article about why Native Americans should be included in the discussion for reparations in the United States. (Article, 5 mins – Medium)
- Watch this video to learn about the history and legacies of injustice against Native Americans and the need for comprehensive and varying forms of reparations. (Video, 4 mins – ABC News)
- Read about Pittsburgh’s history and changing views regarding our own local Christopher Columbus statue. (Article, 6 mins – Heinz History Center)
- Watch this video to learn more about the Land Back movement and the need to return stolen land to Native Americans. (Video, 8 mins – Al Jazeera)
To close out our week discussing reparations, you will explore the ways in which corporations can and must be involved in a holistic reparations effort. Testimonials from several wealthy Black businessmen will argue that the role of American businesses in the perpetuation of racial inequities necessitates reparations for such injustices. The other resources explain how the history of redlining and the involvement of banks across the country in such a system of segregation and oppression should result in restitution from banks to affected Black families.
- Read this article to understand a Black businessman’s perspective on the need for corporations to be involved in giving Black Americans reparations for past and present injustices. (For more information, explore the linked resources within this article that all discuss reparations.) (Article, 7 mins – Harvard Business Review)
- Read this article about how banks should offer their own forms of reparations to Black Americans because of their role in redlining. (Article, 3 mins – American Banker)
- Listen to this podcast with author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson where she explains how America is a caste system, why she classifies the United States as such, and how such a reality explains the creation of racial categories in this country. (Podcast, 38 mins – NPR)
- Read this article about Pittsburgh’s Institutional connections to historic slave owning families and business owners. (Article, 6 mins – Pitt News)
Prompts and action items to inspire meaningful thought and conversation and effect change.
- What was the most challenging thing you learned this week?
- How have your feelings about reparations changed since this summer’s renewed calls for racial justice or since taking this challenge?
- Have a conversation with a family member, a significant other, a friend, a loved one, or a person you know well about the material you learned this week and how these resources altered or impacted your thinking about reparations.