#BlackLivesMatter: 4 Probing Questions For Allies
George Floyd died of inflicted poverty in the wealthiest, most powerful nation in human history. Chauvin’s murderous knee was a side effect of America’s centuries-long effort to take real power away from the people who’s hands built the nation’s riches. Intentional policies and customs have assured that White people do not have to share power or resources in any just way with slaves, freedmen (and freed-women), or their descendants. Changing this dynamic is an unavoidable prerequisite for real, enduring change.
American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) continue to suffer under the yoke of oppression. At the root of this condition is a lack of wealth. As chattel, wealth was denied regardless of contributions. Under Jim Crow, wealth was ripped away. Also, the tools to accumulate, grow, and protect wealth were denied. Economic deprivation has rendered us non-competitive in many spaces. As White America passes on financial security to their children, ADOS families can only bequeath precarity.
Important Note: In this article, I use “Black Lives Matter” as an overarching term for the current protests. Not the specific organization or its leadership.
In the United States, wealth (especially generational wealth) is the primary source of security and self-determination. It dictates your ability to live in safe neighborhoods with quality schooling, access to capital, your health outcomes, etc. Wealth even decides if your family can acquire fresh food and clean water.
Political influence in this country is also rooted in your ability to put funds into a given candidate’s coffers (or fund their opponent). It’s the difference between choosing from the menu (the vote) and deciding what goes on the menu (real power). Black economic instability is not a mistake.
A comprehensive national reparations program is the only way to repair this chasm.
Too often, ADOS are expected to de-prioritize their specific needs for a broader agenda. In a nation that issues and valuates its own currency, both can be accomplished simultaneously. Pitting ADOS reparations against other groups and policies is a stalling deflection tactic and should not be tolerated.
True alliances are mutually beneficial. Therefore, allyship must be level-set. Each potential ally should clearly understand the root causes of Black oppression and it’s symptoms, like police brutality.
We have developed a series of four questions to ask allies and potential allies. These questions will help all sides clarify where energies should be focused.
The answer to all these questions should be a resounding “Yes.”
- Do you understand that police brutality and other issues around the criminal justice system are only symptoms of a greater predatory racist system?
- Do you know that wealth (especially generational wealth held by individuals, families, institutions, and groups) is the primary source of freedom, self-determination, and power in the United States?
- Do you understand that Black families have been uniquely targeted for exploitation and wealth extraction by US laws and customs like chattel slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, mass incarceration, etc.?
- Do you understand that we should all be fighting for the restoration of the wealth stolen from ADOS families through a comprehensive, focused reparations program in order to generate real, permanent change in the United States?
As stated earlier, the answer to each of these questions is an unqualified “Yes.” However, there is an engineered knowledge gap and some resources may be required. Allies and potential allies should be willing to learn and adapt. Below are the books, studies, articles, and videos you can use to support your position and inform allies.
From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century by William A. Darity & A. Kirsten Mullen
The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
Umbrellas Don’t Make it Rain: Why Studying and Working Hard Isn’t Enough for Black Americans from The New School (PDF)
What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap from Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity Duke University (PDF)
Wealth and Structural Racism by William A. Darity
The Truth About the Confederacy in the United States by Jeffrey Robinson (ACLU)
EJI Confronts America’s History of Racial Inequality by Bryan Stevenson (EJI)