Opinion: Reparations Are A Drastic Policy, But Talking About And Designing Them Opens A New Narrative

Written by Ann Brown
Bertha Gilbert, 22, is led away by police after she tried to enter a segregated lunch counter in Nashville, Tenn., on May 6, 1964. She is arrested on a disorderly conduct charge. (AP Photo)

There has been a lot of opinion being expressed about slavery reparations these days, especially among Democratic Presidential candidates for the 2020 elections. And while many remain skeptical about if in the end there will be any sort of real movement towards reparations for Black Americans, center-right author and New York Times columnist David Brooks said we should be looking beyond reparations.

Whether or not there will be any drastic policies made on reparations, Brooks points out in an opinion column all this talk about reparations is having a much-broader effect. That it is opening up a new narrative. This, from Brooks, a conservative commentator.

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“I’ve been traveling around the country for the past few years studying America’s divides — urban/rural, red/blue, rich/poor. There’s been a haunting sensation the whole time that is hard to define. It is that the racial divide doesn’t feel like the other divides. There is a dimension of depth to it that the other divides don’t have. It is more central to the American experience,” he wrote in the NYT.

The reparations discussion has people actually talking about the reasons behind the call for reparations. “One way to capture it is to say that the other divides are born out of separation and inequality, but the racial divide is born out of sin. We don’t talk about sin much in the public square any more. But I don’t think one can grasp the full amplitude of racial injustice without invoking the darkest impulses of human nature,” Brooks wrote.

Slavery didn’t just affect Black people, it affected the entire society, especially morally. He added: “Slavery doesn’t merely cause pain and suffering to the slave. It is a corruption that infects the whole society. It is a collective debt that will have to be paid.”

And the sins of the country’s past — slavery — is still being seen in today’s society and how people deal with one another.

“Slavery and the continuing pattern of discrimination aren’t only an attempt to steal labor; they are an attempt to cover over a person’s soul, a whole people’s soul,” Brooks pointed out. “…The African-American experience is somehow at the core of this fragmentation — the original sin that hardens the heart, separates Americans from one another and serves as model and fuel for other injustices.”

And Brooks is hopeful that these open and heated discussions about reparations will cause a healing of the country. He concluded: “The need now is to consolidate all the different narratives and make them reconciliation and possibility narratives, in which all feel known. That requires direct action, a concrete gesture of respect that makes possible the beginning of a new chapter in our common life. Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute, but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.”