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The Best Time for Reparations Was 1863, The Second Best Time Is Right Now

Disclaimer and Trigger Warning

Photo by Steven Weeks on Unsplash

“[White people are] treating slavery as if it were a mystery buried in the past, something to investigate in the past if we chose to. To [Black people], slavery is not past, and it is not a mystery. It is not a historical curiosity. It is a cruel, unavoidable ghost that haunts in a way [White people] can’t see.” (Atlanta, S3E4: “The Big Payback”).

When was the last time that you called your United States Senators about creating a task force for reparations?

The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress, but it is also a question of citizenship. In H.R. 40, this body has a chance to both make good on its 2009 apology for enslavement, and reject fair-weather patriotism, to say that this nation is both its credits and debits. That if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemings. That if D-Day matters, so does Black Wall Street. That if Valley Forge matters, so does Fort Pillow.

Because the question really is not whether we’ll be tied to the somethings of our past, but whether we are courageous enough to be tied to the whole of them.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ full opening statement on reparations.

Many of my countrymen will not agree with me and will accuse me of special pleading. Neither they, nor I, can hope to come anywhere near the truth of the matter, so long as a man’s color exerts so powerful a force on his fate. In the long meantime, I can only say that the authority of my countrymen in these matters is not equal to my own, since I know what Black Americans endure — know it in my own flesh and spirit, know it by the human wreckage through which I have passed.

At its heart, the decision by an officer of the state to take away a human being’s life is a question of citizenship. Whether the criminal courts can commit a human being to functional slavery is a question of citizenship. And as a chorus of Black people gave voice to in 2020, our relationship to the labor we produce and the wealth that we generate as Black Americans is also a question of citizenship.

List of names at George Floyd Square. Image in the public domain. Taken by Starkey B.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

Far too many. Image in the public domain.
Good way to sum up 2020. Public Domain.
It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the nation’s razor’s edge coup avoidance.

By creating this holiday, our nation affirmed that the enforcement of the 13th amendment is worthy of annual celebration, inviting all Americans to remember what Black Americans painfully know, that the chasm between the ratification and enforcement of citizens’ rights is of critical importance.

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

“The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.” (Special Field Order №15, section one.)

1950s CBS clip on sharecropping. Content Warning.
Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Call your senators. Ask them. And if so moved, ask them to support the creation of these task forces to study reparations–not just for Black Americans–but to repair the utility and credibility of citizenship for all Americans. If you need a script to use, we have provided this:

The descendants of the formerly enslaved in the United States are one of the only groups in history to have received nothing. The right to a “redress of grievances” is at the heart of our nation’s governance. The minimum our society can do, after overwhelming evidence of ongoing harm to the Black community is ask the question. Please support Senate Bill 40 — Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.

Do not delay healing one more day. Please.



Candide Group directs capital away from an extractive global economy towards investments dedicated to social justice and sustainability.

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