Riding the reparations bandwagon: a white woman's perspective

Thursday, March 8, 2001 at 1:00am

I admit it. I, a middle-aged white woman, have jumped on the reparations bandwagon.

When I was asked several years ago if I thought reparations for the enslavement of African Americans were in order, I stammered, shuffled my feet and said, "It depends," a safe response for a liberal white woman who had absolutely no idea what I was really being asked.

Like so many others, I thought reparations were only about money. I thought reparations meant someone tossing out an arbitrary number and someone else (the government) writing a check and that was that.

This is exactly why most white people who hear or read about the reparations movement get nervous and defensive and give one of several classic objections:

1. I didn't have slaves, nor did my family benefit from slavery.


3. Slavery hasn't existed for over 140 years; why do we have to pay for something that happened then?


5. Blacks have been getting preferential treatment for years, and frankly I'm tired of it.


7. It is only going to divide us more.


First of all, reparations are not a recent notion or something born out of the civil rights movement. Reparations advocates, both black and white, have been around for over 100 years. The movement explores the damages to descendants of those kidnapped and held captive in this country over hundreds of years and dialogues about potential compensatory remedies. Included in this exploration are all corporations and governmental organizations who benefited from the slave industry and who are prosperous today because of those past practices.

No one would argue that receiving an inheritance from a relative might not affect one

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