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What Are Reparations?

Loaded (and Offensive) Questions We Ask Anyway

What Are Reparations?

Reparations, as a concept, are a known and commonly used element of law and justice. It is restitution for losses or damages from the aggressor to the aggrieved, including the loss of opportunity. Reparations are not limited to a given timeframe. Nor is it limited to the specific persons that have been harmed. Liability, loss, and damages are passed on to the following generations just as assets are inherited.

Much like assets, the absence of wealth, property, and opportunity are also compounded over subsequent generations. The lack of assets also negatively impacts the social, political, and economic influence a given group. Without intensive policy intervention, this generational spiral always ends in complete collapse.


Reparations can take many forms. They can be cash payments, truth, and reconciliation, public apology, land, grants, etc. They can come as a result of an official commission, court case, or through intentional legislation. It can also be in the form of a voluntary offering. However, reparations must commiserate with what was lost and acceptable to the aggrieved party.

Age of Responsibility

The American Descendents of Slavery exists in this country as a result of the legal and codified institution of Slavery in the colonies and later the United States. The mass trafficking, forced servitude, and brutal repression of peoples from the African continent was a system created through a very deliberate legislative process that these people did not influence. They were victims in the most real sense of the word.

The fact that people with Black skin sold slaves into this machine and a minuscule amount of dark-hued people owned slaves had little to no impact on the existence of this system. These people became the indispensable beasts of burden in building the foundation of the richest, most powerful nation in human history. All while being in the belly of the cruelest form of slavery the world had ever seen.

When this system was no more, these same people were never made whole. Through new legislation, these people were systematically thrust back into other forms of forced servitude. Including, but not limited to, peonage, sharecropping, convict leasing, chain gangs, and work farms. These men and women also worked up to 18 hours per day on infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, ditches, levees, railroads, buildings, fields, and more.

In the cruelest of ironies, many times people would end up right back on the very plantations that they or their parents had been enslaved. It still happens today in places like Parchment Farms.

Barbaric Enforcement

This system was called the Black Codes, was also known as Jim Crow, was brutally enforced by local police, county sheriffs, and elected officials. Violent repression by militias, mobs, and individuals were officially (and unofficially) accepted, and encouraged.

Lynchings were often scheduled public events with all the trappings of a local fair. Businesses would shut down so that workers could attend WITH their families, including children. There were vendors and photographers. All to watch a Black human being be tortured, mutilated, and murdered. Often photos of the lynchings were turned into souvenirs and postcards. They were also traded much like sports cards are today. Parts of the victim’s body were severed and distributed to “lucky” attendees. The genitals of the victim were a sought-after souvenir.

As for the victim, he or she was often chosen at random. Usually, someone that was in prison and an individual that was perceived to be “troublesome” or “uppity.” The common denominator: the victim was always Black and the lynchers White.

The Black Codes were eventually ruled unconstitutional. The ruling was mostly unenforceable because everyone with power profited from the system. The system was later reinstated as Jim Crow. This system was only one element of open, state-sanctioned terrorism to control a particular population. They were controlled in order to exploit an indispensable resource, uncompensated Black labor.

The system was so viciously efficient and effective, the Nazis modeled their treatment of Jewish people on Jim Crow.

Reparations Question

Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants have rightly received Reparations. The people that suffered from the system that was used as the model have yet to be compensated. Not to mention the policies that preceded Jim Crow, subsequent systems, or the compounded effects passed down through several generations.

So many people have suddenly lost the ability to Google when it comes to the subject of Reparations for #AmericanDOS. People also cannot contemplate how inherently racist it is to think that #ADOS and all other Black people in the United States are precisely the same. Have no problem discerning Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants from other Jews. The same can be said of Japanese people that were in internment camps during World War II. Native Peoples can also make claims against the government as discreet tribes. Additionally, they find it entirely logical that these groups can act separately for the redress of their grievances.

So many people have suddenly lost the ability to Google…

Tweet Quote

Other folks think #ADOS should be treated “like all other poor people.” Again, not recognizing that poverty is rampant in our communities because of US policy compounded over generations. We all acknowledge that universal programs would be of great relief. However, our unique, centuries-long experience has was never been remedied. Feeling slighted would be understandable for any other group. Oddly, our concerns are spun as selfish or short-sighted, when they are the exact opposite.

Still, others want #ADOS to be responsible for every person that uses the hashtag. First, #ADOS is based on lineage. People that descend from slaves in the United States are in and cannot be involuntarily excluded, for better or worse. Second, every movement, every group has assholes. Pointing to randoms as if they are official #ADOS spokespersons is reminiscent of the “Bernie Bros” smear. The forces that want all this “Reparations talk” to stop only have to use the hashtag and tweet horrible shit and all the detractors come running. Also, there’s an official website- Maybe consult that first.

This fight is not going to be easy or fast. There are lots of people and groups who don’t want it to happen. In a better world, detractors would engage the subject on its merits. In a way, that’s a credit to Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore for building such a rock-solid case on moral and intellectual grounds. It’s nearly unassailable.

Thanks for reading!

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