Reparations have been called the most important issue of our time. Why? Because receiving reparations would not only mean that African Americans are finally being financially compensated for the work our ancestors did to build this country, but also that the United States is finally publicly recognizing its atrocities and vowing to do better by us.
For a June 15 Twitter Space, Word In Black invited experts to discuss why reparations are crucial to the Black community and how folks can begin to get involved with organizations working toward reparations.
Our speakers included Kamilah Moore, an attorney and reparations justice scholar who serves as the chair of the California Reparations Task Force; Gregg Marcel Dixon, an educator who recently challenged Rep. James Clybourn for South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District; political analyst and award winning, full-time senior lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland College Park, Dr. Jason Nichols; Dr. Ron Daniels, the president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and distinguished lecturer at York College City University of New York; the publisher of the Sacramento Observer, Larry Lee; and, associate editor for the Houston Defender, Aswad Walker.
Aswad Walker said that if we are to see any progress in securing reparations for our community, then all of us — politicians, educators and the media — must be willing to lead. “We need bold leadership in the political realm, but we also need bold leadership in the media, and bold leadership in education.”
He added that learning the realities of American history should teach Black folk that reparations are not out of the realm of possibility in the United States. Walker explained, “If we learn just little things — like this country has almost been completely founded on affirmative action for white people — we wouldn’t be so easily brainwashed into thinking that reparations is outside the realm of possibility.”
Sacramento Observer publisher Larry Lee echoed Walker’s sentiments by specifically reflecting on the role of the Black press in the fight for reparations. “Now is the time to strike,” he said. “We have the political capital and the political will. As for the Black press — our role is to amplify this and, in some instances, to create the data that helps document and illustrate what the impact [of systemic racism] has been on the African American community.”
Dixon based his 2022 campaign for South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District on getting reparations for African Americans. After his campaign, he continues to be a voice for those who believe that Black folk deserve financial support for the value we bring to this country and everything we have suffered due to racial inequities and abhorrent racism.
Dixon urged Black people to be smart with their votes, and to be wary of politicians who claim to be for reparations without any real plans for passing legislation in favor of reparations.
“No more can candidates just come and give the same tired line that they support reparations for descendants of America slaves,” he said. “That’s low balling. No longer are we going to ask for your support. We are now going to demand legislation. If you say you are going to do legislation, then we need to see a plan.”
Still, there is a lot of debate about who exactly amongst Black folks deserves reparations. In “5 Reasons Why We Need Lineage-Based Reparations,” Dixon wrote that only Black Americans who are descendants of American slaves deserve specific restitution for the centuries of horrors we faced, and from which we still suffer from today.
Similarly, Kamilah Moore said that the California Reparations Task Force defines the community of eligibility
“Based on lineage rather than race, so those who are descendants of enslaved Black people or freed Black people living in the U.S. prior to the 1900s would be eligible,” Moore said.
Moore added that the California Reparations Task Force is already making moves toward securing reparations for these people. In their preliminary recommendation, Moore said that “We recommended that California State Legislature enact a California American Freedman or African American Affairs agency that would be tasked dispensing reparations.”
The task force also wants to establish an office specifically for genealogy work so that they can continue talking with certified genealogists about the best way to determine eligibility.