Last week, 80 Vashon residents participated in a zoom presentation by the Civic Reparations Project. The Project stated that reparations are not donations; they are an essential part of the foundation for acknowledging and addressing our country’s history of “stealing lives, labor, land, resources and freedoms from Native Americans and African-Americans.” We can help build our nation’s political will by doing what is right and needed.
We live on land that was the homeland of the sx̌ʷəbabs Coast Salish Native People who were forcefully removed from this land and relocated to Fox Island. Hundreds of nations of Native Peoples were forcefully deprived of their homelands in what was an act of genocide.
Black people were kidnapped and brought from Africa to this country in chains. Enslaved, they were treated as chattel. The Civic Reparations Project says that we can’t absolve the acts of slavery, but we can acknowledge its ongoing impact on the lives of Black people.
At the end of the Civil War, 4 million freed slaves were promised “40 acres and a mule”. Instead, under President Andrew Johnson, $3.1 trillion of land was given to men who were enslavers, largely as reparation for their ‘lost property’. After WWI, 1.2 million black veterans were systematically excluded from the GI Bill of Rights.
Today, black people are 16 times more likely to be in 3rd generation poverty than white people and the median white family has 10 times more wealth than the median black family. Unemployment, home ownership, incarceration, health disparities… all are grossly disproportionate for black people. Seeking and enabling justice also lies in Part 2 of President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan. And the very existence of our experiment in Constitutional Democracy necessitates the passage of the Voting Rights Bill. The whole idea of reparations is complex. HR 40 calls for this discussion. Along with compensating specific individuals, the focus should be on creating conditions for Black and Indigenous people to thrive. These efforts could include well-funded education programs for Pre-K and childcare through secondary school. Community Colleges should be tuition-free. Those who are incarcerated also should be trained for a livable wage.
Let’s explore together how we as individuals can do what is right.
Part of this information comes from the Civic Reparations Project, based in Seattle. You can find a video of this presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3bKyc90tMU . This is an important focus of VIUF’s Social Justice Committee as well as Indivisible Vashon’s
Showing Up for Racial Justice group.
- This Sunday’s VIUF Service is on the Doctrine of Discovery.
- The service on 1/16 will feature Carl McCargo of UU’s For a Just Economic Community speaking on Reparations
Tanya Roberts and Robbie Rohr