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From Here To Equality: Reparationist Quick Guide- Volume 2 Issue 1

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The FHTE (From Here to Equality) Reparationist Quick Guide Response was initially established in October of 2020, as the ADOS Reparationist Quick Guide©, and is designed to be a civic engagement resource for anyone. It allows supporters to take an ownership share in our online social justice advocacy. Authorship is being encouraged from every sector and community of citizens concerned with restorative justice for black American Descendants of Slavery in the United States (i.e., ADOS) by the closing of the black-white racial wealth gap. The book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century” (Darity & Mullen, 2020) will serve as our base source for the volumes’ invited authors. Each issue will contain reparations-related topics and five quick points from featured guest authors who offer their responses to commonly held questions raised and positions taken in opposition to reparations.

The multi-generational inherited disadvantages of slavery and the inability to transfer wealth to ADOS descendants have been significant contributors to the marginalized class status of this ethnic group. This series is published to encourage study and dialogue. It is an instrument for personal empowerment. The guide creates a space for the civic engagement and participation of Reparationists in national coalition-building, including petitioning for significant revision (or replacement) of the bill H.R. 40 (S.1083) currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress.

Table of Contents

“Bootstraperism and Respectability Versus Reparations”
– Gregg Marcel Dixon

1. Married couples have far less poverty than families headed by single women or men so why can marriage not be used as a method for economic advancement?

Married black couples, at the median, possess two times LESS the amount of wealth than households headed by single white women, $16,000 for married black couples compared to $35,000for households headed by single white women. Single white mothers have a median net worth of $3,000.00 while for single black mothers it is ZERO. Think being college-educated makes the situation better? Think again. Older (over 60 years of age white women with a bachelor’s degree have a median net worth of $384,000, for older black women with a bachelor’s degree, it is JUST $11,000. For younger women (in their 20s) it is $3,400for white women, and NEGATIVE $11,000.00 for black women. Drastic wealth disparities exist between white and black Americans regardless of their marital status. Furthermore, reparations are a DEBT that is owed to all black Americans who are descendants of those who were enslaved, whether married or single, or rich or poor. FHTE (p. 33, Paragraphs 1-3). *These results are based upon data from Darity et al., (2017) from the Survey of Consumer Finances and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.

2. Instead of waiting for our oppressors to pay us, why do we not just pool our resources, and start our own businesses, our own economic movement?

This statement is interesting because it implies that black Americans have just been “waiting for our oppressors to pay us” when the reality is that black Americans have built thriving communities despite being denied equality, access, and resources that were readily made available to white Americans. This statement asserts that the wealth disparities black Americans face are because they are not engaging in a sufficient amount of self-employment when, the reverse is true, wealth disparities make it very difficult for black Americans to have higher levels of adequate self-employment. The data shows that the higher level of wealth a person possesses, the far more likely they are to be able to start and SUSTAIN sufficient self-employment. Starting a business usually always requires startup capital and access to sufficient lines of credit. 

In the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances data the average median net worth of a black family is just ONE-TENTH of the wealth of a white family, $17,600.00 to $171,000.00 respectively, it makes it clear who is more readily able to self-employed and start a business. Now you might think, “just get a loan” but that is much more difficult for black Americans. Even when the level of creditworthiness and the financial resume are the same, black-owned firms are still twice as likely to be denied a loan, and even when they are approved, they are far more likely to pay much higher interest rates. Now, that being said, black Americans are and have historically been one of the most entrepreneurial groups in the US. They have also been the most terrorized group that has seen their businesses discriminated against, excluded from available support, and in many cases, outright destroyed. Even more, when black Americans DO start businesses, they bring in far less revenue than white-owned firms. Anyone who wants black Americans to have high levels of self-employment and business ownership should push that much more for reparations since that will provide the resources, we have been due for centuries but have yet to receive. FHTE (pp. 36-38).

3. How exactly do you intend to get enough votes for reparations when we still cannot even get the basics like well-funded schools and clean water?

Reparations ARE the “basics” for black Americans, and we must view them as such. Reparations include direct monetary payments as one means to close the wealth gap. The closing of the wealth gap (reparations) is our preeminent objective but not our sole Objective. 

There also must be a demand to prosecution and hold accountable the anti-black terrorists who are still living. Hence, ultimately ALL disparities that are a consequence of anti-black racism must be eliminated. Any additional policies above and beyond monetary payments to achieve those goals must be implemented. As far as getting enough votes, an argument can be made that more black Americans need to be more politically engaged, a problem that exists among all demographics in the US, but the issue has been more for WHOM we vote than our level of voting. Malcolm X once said, “we are not outnumbered, we are out-organized”.

For a long time, black Americans have voted for politicians that did not live up to the responsibility of promoting policies that would specifically address the damage faced by black Americans, a black agenda that puts reparations front and center. However, that is starting to change with an undeniable groundswell in reigniting the call for reparations in the past three years by many authors like Ta-Nahesi Coates, Dr.Darity, and Kirsten Mullen; organized groups such as ADOS, The United Sons and Daughters of Freedmen (Be the Power), The National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants and The National Coalition of Churches For Reparations. There have been resolutions that have received the support of hundreds of governors and mayors across the nations. The movement has only grown, and the call has become louder. As in times past, during the Abolition Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, our people faced seemingly impossible odds but fought for what was right and what was their due. We still do so now, the question is whether others will join us. FHTE (p. 269; 270, Paragraphs 2-4; 1-4).

4. Let’s be honest, if we were to get reparations, all most of us would do is put it right back in the same system that oppresses us so what good would it do?

This statement is a very strange one if not ridiculous altogether because no evidence gives any indication of how black Americans would spend their money when they receive the wealth, they are due. Point two, there has never been a world where black Americans have received their due. Anyone that predicts how black Americans would behave in a world in which they received reparations is simply speaking from conjecture because such a world has never existed. It is important to make one point very clear, a person can spend their money however they choose in a free society. black Americans have certainly earned that right.

Nevertheless, the closest era that represents how black Americans would operate economically if they were to receive reparations is the time when they received something similar to reparations remedy in the form of Special Field Order 15. One of the first decisions made by the formerly enslaved Freedmen was to live apart from whites and to be self-sufficient. The desire and movement of black Americans to have equal access to the country they built continue until this day. Additionally, anti-reparations arguments based on deficient black behavior should be dismissed just like the belief that because black Americans do not engage in what some view as sufficient levels of entrepreneurship, we suffer severe disparities when the reverse is true. Without reparations black Americans continue to engage in a system in which we have been forced to participate with insufficient resources, we seek to be self-sufficient. If anyone wants black Americans to cease “supporting” the system, and build our own, as we have always strived but have been prevented from doing, they need to avidly support the reparations movement. FHTE (pp. 36-38; p. 251, Paragraphs 2; 3).

5. Yeah, what sense does it make just waiting around for them to give us reparations as if it will happen in this lifetime if ever, how can anyone think it will be nothing more than a waste of time?

There are people alive today who are the children of those who were enslaved. Their parents lived to see the end of slavery. The majority of black Baby Boomers were born during the era of Jim Crow and lived to see its end. Now, all black Americans alive today have lived to see the drastic resurgence in the call for reparations across this nation and the first Congressional hearing on the matter. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said “the time is always right to do what is right” so, to anyone who feels the movement is not progressing fast enough, we welcome them to join to do their part in speeding it up. FHTE (p. 270).

Government Accountability
– Marley K

6. How would the government determine the debt to African American descendants of slaves as a whole?

Determining the debt (how much is owed) has been a huge concern for black descendants of American slavery, as well as other Americans uncomfortable about the topic of reparations.  Extensive research has been conducted by economists, academia, and Reparationists to help make the case for the reparations. Attempting to quantify the amount needed to somewhat make black American descendants of slaves whole has been difficult because the maltreatment has gone on for so long and continues today. Economists’ estimates range from $5 billion to nearly $18 billion, with some estimates reaching up to 42 trillion dollars (FHTE, p.260-262, paragraph 2).

The federal government has never attempted to determine the true debt owed to us, taking the “delay to death” position instead, hoping blacks die off so they wouldn’t have to admit guilt or compensate for any losses. Recently, Congress voted to establish a Congressional Commission to investigate the multigenerational impact of slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, and discrimination in their current allusive forms. Federal legislation is required to move forward to conduct a study before any sort of reparations package could come up for a vote (FHTE, p.257, paragraph 5). 

At the end of the day, reparations are a method of atoning for injustices, in the same way, an apology does when someone has been wronged. However, if someone was to walk up to you the reader out of the blue, slap you to the ground, wouldn’t you want justice? Wouldn’t you want the police to come and investigate the crime committed against you by a stranger? Wouldn’t you want your day in court? Wouldn’t you want your perpetrator to reimburse you for medical costs you incurred because of that slap? Wouldn’t you want to be paid for time missed from work due to no fault of your own? Well, that’s what reparations are. Reparations for blacks American descendants of slavery are a method to address living victims of discrimination and segregation. Sometimes the crimes were legal, other times they were not, but the federal government is responsible for all the citizens of America, not just the whites ones. A debt is owed to black people, and citizens must work with Reparationists and other supporters of the effort to encourage the federal government to move from studying reparations to acting on reparations.

7. What measures would be put in place to ensure the federal government not only paid its debts to blacks but that those payments are distributed equitably or fairly?

To distribute reparations fairly, the government would have to ensure there was a vehicle for compensation to flow through and a committee, commission, or some other type of group in charge of ensuring those payments were distributed fairly. The same has been done in the past for Native Americans and Japanese Americans when those groups received compensation for their victimization (FHTE, pg. 250-251, paragraph 3). Reparations for blacks would flow similarly. The federal government must ensure debts paid to blacks are distributed fairly or it negates the intent. Fairness is essential in the atonement process. In “From Here to Equality: Reparations For Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” several options for ensuring reparations are distributed fairly are proposed.

Although some scholars such as V.P. Franklin have written extensively from a more global reparations supervisory board approach to reparations; that is not the advocacy stance taken by Darity and Mullen (2020). The authors of From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the twenty-first century argue for “both symbolic and substantive reasons, [holding] an effective program of restitution must include direct payments to eligible recipients” (FHTE, pg. 265, paragraphs 2-3; bold type emphasis added). Hence, those sums of money distributed to reparations recipients are not controlled via any type of a Superfund being overseen by others. Some other possibilities for reparations include finally giving black folks their 40-acres and a mule (FTHE, pg. 261, paragraph 5). There are numerous ways reparations can be made and or distributed. Reaching a respectful, reasonable, and feasible agreement to ensure a reparations package is fair and equitable is important. That requires the federal government to be fair, and with today’s political climate, that’s a tall order.

8. Why does the federal government owe black people reparations?

The atrocities of the Holocaust were so immoral and so egregious, the Germans believed Jewish descendants of the Holocaust were deserving of reparations to atone and bring healing. Germany needed to show the world it was sorry and that it had changed. In fact, the United States was extremely supportive of reparations for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. America believed Germany had a debt. America on the other hand has been quite challenged in the area of atoning for atrocities committed against African slaves and their descendants. America ignores its debts. Slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, police brutality, eugenics, medical apartheid, segregation, employment discrimination, slave codes, Black Codes, draconian laws, and other immoral yet legal atrocities have been used against blacks since the day their ancestors involuntarily arrived on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619. There are many valid reasons why America owes a debt to black Americans (FHTE, pgs. 278-280, paragraph 1).

While slavery, brutality, anti-blackness, exclusion, and discrimination were the law (legal in all 50 states), additional immoral and unjust practices were not federal law (i.e., Jim Crow). Nevertheless, the federal government allowed states to continue Jim Crow and other egregious acts for more than one hundred and fifty years while turning a blind eye. Jim Crow still exists today in various forms that are often difficult for the average person to see. That’s the way White Supremacy designed it.

For example, many blacks were excluded from the Homestead Act, a United States federal law enacted to break a cycle of debt during the Reconstruction. Blacks experienced difficulties buying land due to racial discrimination (FHTE, pg. 37, paragraph 2). Another example of legalized inequity is the federal highway system. America’s highway system was designed to exclude and displace black people at the same time. The Federal Highway Act of 1956 decimated many thriving black communities by running highways through them. black people lost vibrant businesses, generational wealth accumulated through homeownership and a sense of community. Another example is The Federal Highway Act and how the federal highway system was used to quietly separate black communities from white ones in plain sight. Highways placed huge concrete barriers through cities and towns across America to divide and exclude black people from the rest of the world. The planning of the federal highway system demonstrates yet another way the federal government impeded self-determination by discriminating against blacks, taking property from their communities, and returning the lots to the government’s control (FHTE, pg. 222-223, paragraph 4).

The federal government must make right the problems it’s created for African Americans. Without intentional, direct assistance and payments, and modification of existing laws, it will be impossible for blacks to close the wealth gap.

9. What specifically did the federal government do wrong that it needs to make right and how will reparations fix those things?

The federal government has played a huge role in maintaining inequity and upholding White Supremacy legally for as long as America has had a government. One of the problems with reparations opposition is that most people don’t understand the lengths the federal government undertook to help maintain inequality throughout the centuries, creating the wealth gap, poverty, and many of the other social problems blacks endure today. While slavery and Jim Crow are the more well-known immoral acts committed against blacks in America, there are so many more. When you tally the number of offenses committed and the types of atrocities committed by the federal government, it’s quite difficult to dispute that something needs to be done to make things right. America needs to move forward, but it cannot do so if the nation remains divided on reparations. More specifically if the citizenry remains ignorant about our nation’s past and present segregation and discrimination, and if the federal government refuses to acknowledge what it has done to harm black Americans we cannot move forward.

From practicing the institution of slavery, (FTHE, pg. 278-280, paragraph 1), to the dilution of rent regulations in New York City (FHTE, pg. 224, paragraph 5), that allowed whites to refuse to sell lands set aside specifically for Freedman (FHTE, pg.141, paragraph 3), or by limiting the rights of black beginning with the Declaration of Independence (FTHE, pg. 76, paragraph 3), America has been steadfast and committed to engaging in numerous wrongs against black Americans to preserve White Supremacy both directly, and indirectly. While much of the harm done to blacks was legal it most certainly was not just or humane. America has done a lot of wrongs, and it has a lot to make right. The longer the nation delays in atoning, the more divided this nation will be. Reparations planning is a way for America to bring us all together and to set an example to future generations. If Germany can atone for crimes committed against Jewish descendants of the Holocaust, so can America for its crimes against black humanity.

Reparations for black American descendants of slaves would be a way America could help to close the wealth gap it designed and provide millions of new opportunities. If desired, America could improve educational attainment, provide resources for skills and trades, and dismantle policies and programs currently in place meant to maintain existing inequities between blacks and whites. Reparations are a way for the government to atone, offer justice that has never been provided to blacks before, and heal a broken nation.

10. What might our government do to stop reparation efforts, or try to avoid being held accountable?

No one is certain why atoning for the sin of slavery is so difficult for America, but many believe America has chosen to use the “delay until death” tactic, which essentially means the government hopes enough black descendants of American slaves die so they do not have to pay us, or our descendants will eventually forget (FHTE, p. 243, paragraph 6, p. 385, 11). If enough blacks die off, the federal government can continue to avoid teaching real American history in public and private schools, it can erase the debt owed, and avoid any type of restoration or giving blacks justice. In Germany, everyone must learn about the Holocaust, so they won’t repeat the same mistakes. In America, white people want atrocities committed against black people erased from history books and not taught in schools to prevent future generations from engaging in inequity. Education has been used as a tool to stop reparations efforts. Black people cannot get reparations if White people don’t believe discrimination and victimization are still occurring.

America has used all sorts of tactics in the past to avoid paying reparations. Waiting and delaying are the most successful tactics States and the Federal Government have used to avoid paying blacks reparations. Asking blacks to continue waiting to be made whole is either asking them to wait until death or wait in hopes they forget. For instance, the Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Riots occurred in 1921, but the state of Oklahoma only decided to form a commission to study the violent incident in 1997 some seventy-six years after the riots occurred (FTHE, pg.18-19, paragraph 3). Bombs were dropped during the Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riots, meaning the federal government had to be aware those bombs were going to be deployed inside of the country. The federal government has gone to great lengths to avoid being held accountable or accepting any responsibility for States’ and the federal government’s role in slavery, discrimination, inequities in education, police brutality, mass incarceration, employment discrimination, huge wealth transfers, etc.

Another tactic the federal government has used to avoid paying reparations to blacks for decades has been by creating “white-targeted” policies such as the G.I Bill, Affirmative Action, Workforce Development, giving the appearance the federal government is trying to close the wealth gap, when in fact those policies were intentionally crafted to help widen the wealth gap. The government appears to be trying to do the right thing, when in fact the government is not (FTHE, pg. 247, paragraph 2).

Many believe blacks should just forget about reparations because it’s too hard to convince America to do the right thing. The demand for Reparations is not simply a moral issue, it’s a justice issue. Without justice, this country can never begin to heal. All good people interested in making America better should advocate for reparations. Moreover, Reparations is not just about giving blacks money, land, policies, power, rights, other tangible benefits Americans have deemed valuable, precious, or scarce. Reparations are about justice, healing, and restoring what was taken from African American descendants of slaves due to no fault of their own (FHTE, pg. 245, paragraph 4).

If African Americans don’t seek justice and attempt to hold America accountable, the nation will continue its assaults towards blacks and those practices that continue socioeconomic violence that leads to more hardships and enlarging the black-white wealth gaps. Such offenses will only serve to drive African Americans and our communities back to lives of both individual and collective disenfranchisement. A terrible time reminiscent of the period following slavery emancipation marred by a failed reconstruction era and overt racial sabotage.

Whiteface Leadership and Anti-black Reparations Sentiment
– Lisa R. Brown, Ph.D.

11. Why should my being a white person disqualify me from raising funds to start my own black reparations agenda?

It must be stated that individual white donors can’t meet the bill for reparations required to eliminate the racial wealth gap. Even if donors put $1 billion a month into a fund, it would take nine centuries to reach $11 trillion. Moreover, it is an odd supposition that a private individual or group who is not a member of the affected group or directly impacted by a loss of parental wealth due to having ancestors who were U.S. slaves would seek to lead a claim of this nature. Historically, the Japanese Americans led the demand for their reparations, the Native Americans did not experience foreign-born immigrants serving as their spoke’s persons, nor did Jewish Holocaust survivors have the descendants of Nazi’s empathetic to their atrocity demand they are given space to speak for that group. Any such scenarios would be viewed as absurd in the least and outrageous at best by victims and their survivors.

The record of oppositions to emancipated native blacks Americans’ (ABAL ethnics) economic progress is replete with accounts of white swindlers who used the moral authority of their hopefulness and attempts to seek justice as an occasion to steal from us. An example is the dissolutions of the chartered yet federally uninsured Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. Over 60,000 blacks lost approximately 3 million dollars in savings due to white Robber Barons who through fraud and embezzlement squandered the depositors’ funds leaving them in wealth deficit without government restitution for their losses (FHTE, p. 202, paragraphs 3-5). Why should not blacks be suspicious of a white person who supposedly fundraises for a black reparations project? Particularly, since in contemporary US society, such funds have been used to advance the personal interests and agenda of self-appointed non-ADOS leaders at the exclusion of grassroots black communities who gain no decision-making powers or funding distribution roles in these groups. The results are charlatans and for-profit activists exploiting our harm and justice claim for their own anti-black or racist benefits.

12. If I am not going to be recognized as a white person putting myself and my family on the line to advocate for black reparations, then it’s not really worth my time and sacrifice!

Reparations for native black Americans who are the descendants of the formerly enslaved in the United States is not a quip pro quo matter of either your ethics or perceptions of morality. The remedies for involuntary servitude are owed (FHTE, p.12, paragraphs 3-4) to ABAL ethnics, and the perpetrator of this unrecompensed economic, physical, and spiritual assault was meted at the behest of the United States government. It is only through centuries of racist conditioning in mass media, education, political and economic power disparities, along with racist religious teachings that white superiority memes throughout history have cultivated and maintained a massive inability to garner empathy for blacks that leads to reparations. Our families were subjected to centuries of white terrorism that remains active in today’s society via imaging and the criminal injustice system.

We are without comparison for such a sustained campaign of genocide due to chattel slavery, anti-black discrimination, and the generational economic disenfranchisement of our children due to the unpaid debt of reparations owed to America’s oldest group of citizens. To ask ADOS to resolve your, “what about me” questions in the face of such injustice is the epitome of passive-aggressive white racial innocence memes and anti-black microaggression. Your absolution will not be laid at the feet of black people as another “price of the ticket” for the reparations owed to our people and your philosophical dilemma will not be our cross to bear, nor should it be.

13. “Why do some whites and “people of color” only see the wealth chasm in America via an ahistorical lens, taking a reductionist posture about the unique harms and atrocities experienced by ABAL (Ancestral Black American Lineage) ethnics in the United States?

The pattern of white supremacy has been reductionist in its approach to telling the stories of the native black American experiences. Our acts of heroism in war, in business, and church and state in our nation have often been written as a footnote or at best an aberration of the “hardworking American”. The latter is more often ascribed to the European white whose family immigrated to the country with nothing or the newly arrived refugee who can ascend to the highest seats of US power through sheer industriousness in the land of opportunity for all.

A reductionist posture is required to erasure legalized black codes that, for example, prevented or punished black laborers from improving their pay and work conditions (FHTE, p188, paragraphs 2-4). It is the implicit expectation for newcomers to this land to embrace the narrative of the American Dream advanced to them by the forbearers of anti-black structural racism. The success of “people of color” is used as a bludgeon to make the case that blacks are lazy. White acceptance and undergirding are the reward of non-white collaborators who comply and serve as the antithesis of long-standing and designed black wealth obsolescence and poverty. Therefore, the promise of greater opportunity is realized by the new arrivals to the country as black family destruction is advanced as self-inflicted wounds. The model minority tropes (and selected black exemplars) are used to make the case that no corrective course of justice is owed to the native black American. White superiority theology makes the case that is blacks’ own fault that they remain an economic bottom class because other people of color, who also experience discrimination, have superseded the black indolent.

14. Has there ever been a white-led movement or white political leader who successfully proposed Federal legislation or advocated for public policy to make direct cash reparations payments exclusively for native black Americans (ADOS)?

There have been white advocates of direct payment to black Americans, although their motives have not necessarily been pure. For example, see the story of Walter Vaughan and his partnership with Callie House (FHTE, p.11, paragraphs 1-3). The Radical Republicans in Congress immediately after the Civil War fought hard for black Freedmen reparations, yet unsuccessfully, proposing a land allocation to the formerly enslaved.

15. “Why do so many blacks believe that we can only obtain reparations if the majority of whites in America support the idea?

This belief has been the impression for many blacks and whites due to our dualistic history in this country. Whites have controlled the levers of both political and economic power in America. Nevertheless, “blacks’ mobilization to obtain human rights dates from their earliest forced migration to the United States [as has] white retaliation against those efforts” (Darity and Mullen, 2020, p. 227).

We can celebrate in reflection the initial “seven mystic years” of the Reconstruction era where black men were enfranchised. Blacks saw the election of two black Senators and the emergence of black political activism. The heroes and sheroes of the black American liberation and reparations stories did not begin in the 1960s via the black American Civil Rights movement led by Dr. King and others. ABAL ethics have always known that our being a sold, stolen, and traded people group was an afront to Creator God and never accepted bondage and terror as our companions in the land that our ancestors built. Even spearheading instrumental black political movements of the 20th-century was vehemently resisted by whites and it was only after the sacrifice of life and treasure did critical mass momentum to join our demands for Civil Rights curry the attention of whites.

We will not reject any true friend of our cause and recognize that any reparations program if inaugurated by Congressional action, will require a majority of white Americans to support it. However, we are not unwise to resist any foe toward our effort for equality and the closing of the racial wealth chasm experienced by native black Americans and their families; and to obtain the acknowledgment, redress, and closure (ARC) due to our people (FHTE, p. 2, paragraph 6).

Download PDF Version

FHTE Reparationist Quick Guide – Volume 2 Issue 1 prepared by Guest Authors and Reparationists:

FRQG Editor, Lisa R. Brown, Assistant Professor, Department of Graduate Studies Adult Education, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship – University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas

Special thank you to William “Sandy” Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen for their editorial review and contributions to this issue.

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