and why it failed.

Two years ago I was approached by a local businessman and friend of mine about a project about slavery reparations. I didn’t hesitate, I wanted in. I had been heading that direction in my reading of history and following along with current events so I was already there mentally.

He had been working on buying a house in our small town and found a clause in the old paperwork that said he couldn’t sell the house to anyone but white people. While being vaguely aware of our racist past, it was shocking to see it staring him in the face. If you talk to anyone who is a minority you see the white privilege there.

So, he wanted to do something with his resources to help right the wrong. Realizing just how polarizing slavery reparations is the idea was to encourage people to recognize the ongoing injustice baked into the system and self-reparate. To give back in the name of repairing what is still clearly broken.

It seemed like the timing was right. He spoke with his fellow wealthy businessmen and they all seemed interested. He spoke with several Black faith leaders and they too were supportive.

So, I got to work. I met with a PR firm, I built a website so people could share how they were reparating. I dove all in. I shared it with everyone I knew.

The push back was soft from most people. And many people were vaguely supportive. But, it never got people really excited about diving in. Maybe it was too vague, too controversial.. maybe there was simply not enough of a quid pro quo.

It was a bust. The funders quietly backed away and the interviews with the media failed to break through the news in the midst of an intense election year.

What was most discouraging for me was the lack of support from Christians. Most of whom seemed to think that talking about systemic racism was somehow part of the problem. I got the most push back from people who said they were “color blind”. That sounds nice, if you still thinking not talking about problems is the solution.. you live in a nice soft world. It’s not that way for everyone and eventually problems will knock on your door too.

Anyway. I learned a lot and hopefully some small amount of good was done. I know a lot of money was donated to HBCUs during that time so there was a brief window of time where people were taking action. Sadly, now it seems like nothing but backlash.

For more reading on the need to repair I suggest:

Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair

The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson


Philosophy & History

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