William Darity: Reparations A ‘Matter Of National Responsibility’, Not Guilt Or Individual Responsibility

Written by Ann Brown
William Darity continues his case for reparations. The Duke professor recently said that reparations aren’t a way to appease guilt, it’s a responsibility.

Professor William “Sandy” Darity continues his case for reparations. The economist and researcher at Duke University recently put forth the idea that reparations aren’t a way to appease guilt, it’s a responsibility. 

Darity, one of the voices spearheading the reparations movement, testified at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the long-standing Reparations bill H.R. 40 in June. “For too long the nation has refused to take steps to solve an unethical predicament of its own making—the problem of the unequal status of black and white Americans,” he said during his testimony. “A policy of reparations is a set of compensatory policies for grievous injustice.”

When recently interviewed by Boston University School of Public Health’s newsletter, Darity spoke of the new push for reparations by politicians.

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“The conversation about reparations is probably the most extensive one we’ve had at the national level since the Reconstruction Era. I’m not entirely sure why it’s happening now, it was a surprise to me. I didn’t anticipate that we would have major political candidates voicing the term “reparations,” whether or not they’re actually endorsing it,” Darity said.

When asked about what reparations should achieve, Darity replied: “The reparations program should fill three objectives: Acknowledgment, Redress, and Closure. Acknowledgment refers to the combination of an apology and the recognition on the part of the culpable party that they’ve benefitted from this process of exploitation. Redress is the actual form that restitution might take—and I’ve argued that in any program of reparations, it’s important that restitution must include in some significant way direct payments to eligible recipients. The third dimension is Closure, which is an agreement on the part of both parties—the culpable party and the victimized party—that the debt has been paid. But I want to be clear that closure in that sense does not mean forgetting. An important dimension of reparations programs must address issues concerning the memory of the events that led to the reparations commitment.”

And Darity stressed that reparations should not be given out of guilt but responsibility.

“I certainly think there are people who are inclined to feel like personal guilt is at play here. But since the culpable party is the federal government, it’s not a matter of guilt or individual responsibility, but it is a matter of national responsibility,” he said.