Note to my white self…

I’m really glad you understand the depth of the injustice inflicted on people of color in the United States. You’ve done your homework.  You’ve educated yourself about the genocide of Native Americans, the horrors of slavery, the massacre at Wounded Knee, the reign of the KKK, the exploitation of Chinese workers in mines and on the railroad, the institution of Jim Crow Laws, the exclusion of people of color from the New Deal, the internment of the Japanese, the oppression of migrant workers and the continued mass incarceration of people of color.  You’ve expanded your understanding of history beyond the whitewashed version you were taught in school.

I’m glad you’ve become a proponent of reparations, of systemic compensation for systemic oppression. This isn’t a popular position in a white culture enamored by the myth of a level playing field.  You can expect to be mocked and vilified for suggesting white people have a responsibility for the racist acts of their ancestors, for pointing out the presence of systemic racism today and for acknowledging the need to balance the scales.  Stand firm.  Your verbal support for reparations helps deconstruct justifications for past and present injustice.

But verbal support isn’t enough.

You’re not naïve. You know, in this present political climate, the odds of reparations becoming a reality are slim to none.  You know that for the past twenty-five years, US Representative John Conyers has introduced the HR 40 bill, calling for a study of the impact of slavery and appropriate remedies, and has watched both Republican and Democrat Congresses ignore that bill.  You know rhetoric is unlikely to make reparations a reality.

So don’t be guilty of what conservatives claim. Don’t let your support for reparations be an act of virtue signaling.  It is far too easy to support reparations when they are unlikely to ever occur.  You can claim nobility without any personal cost.  If you really support reparations, you don’t have to wait on other whites to agree.  You don’t have to wait on a Congressional study committee.  You don’t have to wait on legislation remedying past injustices.  If you truly believe in reparations, you can begin paying them today.

Here are a few simple suggestions…

  1. Make a significant monthly donation to organizations that work with or for people of color. Treat that donation as a monthly debt obligation and not as an act of charity. Give enough to notice the difference in your bank account.
  2. Seek out businesses and professional services owned by people of color even if they aren’t the lowest bidder. Invest in the entrepreneurial endeavors of people of color, knowing that traditional sources of capital are often denied to them.
  3. Offer your products and services to people of color at a discounted price. Eliminate any economic behavior that exploits people of color. Make certain domestic workers, roofers, and landscapers aren’t being exploited for your benefit.
  4. Tip people of color twice the norm when they serve you.
  5. Assist a person of color in attending college or vocational school.
  6. Attend events and performances created and sponsored by people of color. If you are never the minority at an event, make that happen.
  7. Financially support people of color who are seeking political office.
  8. Consider including people of color and their causes in your will, thereby redistributing your accumulated wealth.

Since you are in favor of reparations, begin today.  Until you begin doing these things, your economic footprint is exactly the same as that of a white supremacist.  You both benefit equally in the advantages of white privilege. Neither of you are paying your debts.

Be the change you want to see. If thousands of white people like you began to pay reparations, the economic scales in America might begin to subtly shift.  In that process, more people of color will be empowered and political momentum could change.  Perhaps, if enough people commit to personal reparations, “justice will finally roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

(This post is the third in a three part series on reparations.  The first post in the series was “How To Tell If A White Person Is Racist With One Simple Question” and the second post was “A Reasonable Reparation.”

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4 thoughts on “Paying My Reparations

  1. Wow! James Mulholland has a real problem with being motivated by guilt! BIG TIME! It is more than a little offensive to attempt to compare a race to our Veterans! What he is proposing would be tantamount to paying the families of the soldiers of the Civil War for their family’s loss! Or paying Native Americans for their losses (Gee, I should be all for that as I am part Native American. As a matter of fact, both Cherokee and Delaware tribal blood flows through my veins!)! His question really does become, “Just where does it end?” Are we then going to pay back all the Irish for their losses? Oh, wait, they are white, they don’t count in Mr. Mulhollard’s scenario do they! Are we going to pay back the Chinese? Or are they disqualified because they are close enough to white?
    I’m all for reparations to slaves equal to what we give to our Veterans! Anyone still alive gets college tuition, medical care, breaks on home ownership and such.
    Mr. Mulholland has a guilty conscience and thinks everyone should pay for it! I know a lot of African Americans that do not feel they are “owed” anything! I STILL think it was best articulate by Mohammed Ali when he said “Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat.”— 1974 response when asked for his impression of Africa, after Ali returned to the United States from Zaire, where he fought George Foreman. And then there’s “To me, the U.S.A. is still the best country in the world, counting yours. It may be hard to eat sometimes, but anyhow I ain’t fighting alligators and living in a mud hut.”— 1960 comment at the Rome Olympics.
    I think we should ALL take to heart what Ali said about how he wanted people to remember him,
    “I’d like for them to say:
    He took a few cups of love.
    He took one tablespoon of patience,
    One teaspoon of generosity,
    One pint of kindness.
    He took one quart of laughter,
    One pinch of concern.
    And then, he mixed willingness with happiness.
    He added lots of faith,
    And he stirred it up well.
    Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime,
    And he served it to each and every deserving person he met.”

    I’m sorry James Mulholland, but only the twisted mind of a liberal thinks that a whole race of people owes another race for something they had no part of! Yes, the world has been a horrible place at times and every race has had it’s moments, at one time or another, every race on this planet has practiced the enslavement of their fellow man. Africans not only practiced slavery, but they rounded up their neighbors and sold them into slavery! Sometimes even family! Yes, today unfortunately, there are still those that are racist, in ALL races! What you are proposing is just another another variant of racism and worse, bigotry!
    Where is your piece on how much islam owes the world for it’s part in slavery? After all, they have practiced it far longer than any race ever did! Far earlier than America was around, and long after America put an end to slavery in this country! In some parts of the world, they STILL practice it! Today, mainly Sex slavery!

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    1. “Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat.” This is really your argument against reparations?? I am amazed at how white people cherry pick the statements of people of color in order to defend their own racism. Of all the millions of sentences written about slavery, this is the one you find most compelling. That is indeed twisted. As to my motivation, I have said repeatedly that I am motivated, not by guilt, but by responsibility. In my experience, guilt usually motivates the defensiveness that your remarks illustrate. Finally, as an Irish American, I would never compare the experiences of my ancestors with that of people of color. There is simply no comparison.

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