Reparations Aren’t Just Political. They’re Deeply Personal

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Reparations aren’t just about politics for Black people. They’re about beginning to atone for the atrocities America has committed against them. NYC action in solidarity with Ferguson. Mo, encouraging a boycott of Black Friday Consumerism, Nov. 28, 2014. Photo: Black Lives Matter Black Friday, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Though it’s definitely a buzz word for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, one writer says for Black people reparations aren’t simply political, they’re deeply personal. In a recent op-ed on Vox’s First Person section, Tiffanie Drayton, a Black mother and writer, outlined why.

“Reparations are not just about righting the wrong of slavery itself, they are also about addressing the longstanding systemic racism that continues to impact the lives of black people to this day,” Drayton wrote.

Coming from the vantage of a woman abused by her child’s father, Drayton talked about the impact slavery still has on Black people’s psyches and communities overall.

Listing everything from Black men displacing their anger and frustration on their wives and lovers to the reason corporal punishment is more prevalent among Black families, Drayton shows why reparations is about more than money. It’s about atonement.

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She writes, “ … slavery is not “just in the past.” What black people adopted as a result of enslavement continues to haunt us and torment our physical and psychological well-being beginning in childhood and well into adulthood.”

She further discusses the fact that even after slavery ended, “Black Codes, Jim Crow, CIA and FBI attacks on Civil Rights era leaders, redlining, the school-to-prison pipeline, health care inequality, employment discrimination, mass incarceration, lead poisoning our water systems, and police violence” were all strategically used to oppress Black people.

According to Drayton, these are just some of the reasons reparations is so “deeply personal.” More than anything, Black people cannot fully recover is America remains in denial. Black people’s financial, mental, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being remain in the balance.

“America will remain separate and very unequal if there is no commitment to addressing its racist abuse. Families like mine will continue to be torn apart by deep-seated trauma because we lack the resources to do anything about it. We need to heal from centuries of trauma. We need to rebuild our communities and mend our relationships with one another. We cannot do so while buried in debts and hardship,” she wrote.