The FHTE (From Here to Equality) Reparationist Quick Guide Response was initially established in October of 2020, as the ADOS Reparationist Quick Guide©, and is designed to be a civic engagement resource for anyone. It allows supporters to take an ownership share in our online social justice advocacy. Authorship is being encouraged from every sector and community of citizens concerned with restorative justice for black American Descendants of Slavery (i.e., ADOS) by the closing of the black-white racial wealth gap. The book From here to equality: Reparations for black Americans in the twentieth century (Darity & Mullen, 2020) will serve as our base source for the volumes’ invited authors. Each issue will contain reparations-related topics and five quick points from featured guest authors who offer their responses to commonly held questions raised and positions taken in opposition to reparations.
The multi-generational inherited disadvantages of slavery and the inability to transfer wealth to ADOS descendants have been significant contributors to the marginalized class status of this ethnic group. This series is published to encourage study and dialogue. It is an instrument for personal empowerment. The guide creates a space for the civic engagement and participation of Reparationists in national coalition-building, including petitioning for significant revision (or replacement) of the bill H.R. 40 (S.1083) currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress.
1. “How did the Japanese Americans get reparations before black Americans?”
Japanese Americans were successful in obtaining reparations from the United States government, in part, because their claim was specific to a defined group, and identified the particular harms committed within a date-defined time frame. Like the Japanese claim native black Americans have a date-defined time frame for our claim, 1776 to the present. Japanese Americans benefited from the presence of two elected officials in each house of Congress who were fully committed to a plan for restitution that incorporated direct payments to eligible recipients. And the primary organization that led the lobbying effort, the Japanese American Citizens League, had a similar commitment—unlike NAARC and N’COBRA who want the funds to be funneled through a National Reparations Trust Authority.
Though certainly not an easy victory many of the victims were living when the demand and approval of U.S. reparations was granted to Japanese Americans. Nevertheless, there are other instances of reparations where the direct victims are no longer with us and their heirs and descendants have been compensated (e.g., federal government payments to the families who lost loved ones during the 9/11 attacks), including the heirs and descendants of victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
Moreover, in the context of black American descendants of US slavery, the effects of slavery carry over to the living descendants in part because no restitution was given at the end of the Civil War. But also, there are still many living victims of Jim Crow, and the case for ADOS reparations is not based on slavery alone. Chattel slavery was the initial atrocity inflicted upon black Americans; however, the injuries and demand for redress span subsequent generations.
Reflective juxtaposition to the Japanese American justice award is very much in order relative to the contemporary ADOS reparations project. The native black Americans hold a historical claim for justice outstanding for over 150 years. Groups who have identified as “people of color” or have voluntarily immigrated to America do not share the same specificity of grievances outlined for the formerly enslaved and their descendants. As mentioned in prior Issues 1 and 2 of the From Here to Equality Reparationist Quick Guide (FRQG), other racial or ethnic groups are within their prerogative to make a separate and distinct claim for repair from the U.S. government.
The black American claim is not a social equity project. It is a lineage-based project of equality with direct payments used to rectify the racial wealth chasm caused by the past and ongoing offenses. For example, “The first indictment must be the failure to fulfill the promise of the Special field Order No. 15 grant of forty acres and a mule to families who had been enslaved. Had that promise been kept— had ex-slaves been given a substantial endowment in southern real estate—it is likely that there would be no need for reparations to be under consideration now.” (FTHE, p. 207-208, paragraph 2).
2. “What role does the U.S. Census have relative to a reparations project and national coalition-building?”
• The U.S. Census is a valuable tool in identifying, enumerating, and locating black American descendants of U.S. chattel slavery for whom reparations are merited. Law Professor Boris Bittker discussed a technique for estimating the reparations bill due based on black and white per capita income. However, even that metric is insufficient or appropriate as reparations should be based upon the wealth gap, not an income gap. Unfortunately, the Census does not offer wealth data for the necessary purposes of calculating the bill which is more appropriately found by extracting from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances.
A black American reparations outlay of the type proposed by Darity and Mullen (2020), would be centered on wealth disparities, not income. The U.S. Census could serve as one important instrument in the toolbox for group identification. For example, from an educational perspective, Census data can assist with targeted civic engagement messaging and strategies that can build popular support for and understanding about U.S reparations for Americans; particularly among tertiary non-white groups (i.e., POCs) where forms of bigotry and anti-black discrimination toward ABAL ethnics are sometimes disregarded.
3. “Why does the plan for reparation have to center black Americans when all people of color face discrimination and need repair?”
● Discrimination is an abhorrent human practice and must be discouraged. While some racial and ethnic groups have a shared experience of discrimination in common with black Americans, they do not share centuries of history in America that was not only baked into the Constitution of the emerging Republic but that also literally became institutionalized and perpetuated (by law and force of government) in the society. Also, no other group experienced the same processes that separated their level of wealth from white levels of wealth. The legacy of enslavement for blacks in America included a perpetual exclusion from full citizenship and civil rights.
4. “How do people who are not from the Ancestral Black American Lineage (ABAL) ethnic group help them obtain reparations?”
● People who are not ABAL ethnics can assist the reparations movement by investing in self-education on the historic claim for reparations (e.g., reading From Here to Equality) to best understand the urgency of long-overdue restitution. Advocates (i.e., Reparationists) can incorporate support for black American reparations into their national advocacy platforms and insist candidates in pursuit of elected office have a clearly defined reparations plan consistent with those advanced by Darity and Mullen (2020). Reparationists should use their social, civic, and political organs for black American reparations political advocacy such as social media platforms and online groups. Examples of contemporary mass public advocacy movements that can serve as a guide include, Moral Mondays activism in North Carolina, the #ADOS movement, the Black Lives Matter Movement, as well as, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the rise of the Tea Party and MAGA movements, all representing passionate citizen advocacy. Engaging young Americans to do informed social justice work can serve to energize the push for black reparations. (FTHE – p. 270, paragraph 3).
5. “If reparations are because of how black people suffer from racial discrimination, why would there be any resistance to include the global black family in this claim?”
• ABAL ethnics are United States citizens, and the demand for reparations is unique and specific to chattel slavery, and legal segregation—and their ramifications are the primary causes of the demand for reparations. It is a specific lineage that is not shared by all those who may necessarily self-identify as black. The ABAL ethnic reparations project is not a restorative justice claim or movement for all people who identify as black. Its focus does not include those who may have a history of enslavement via the trans-Atlantic slave trade in other parts of the world or have been subjected to European colonization. All of those members of the African diaspora have legitimate claims for reparations, but not from the United States government. They have claims that should be directed at the countries that colonized and enslaved them.
The U.S. black American reparations movement dates to at least the 18th century, as an economic justice and repair solution for the formerly enslaved people and their descendants. For example, even Thomas Paine called for land reparations for those he hoped would be granted to the formerly enslaved. And certainly, the unfulfilled promise of 40 acres land grants predates Callie House’s efforts. Yet, “Callie D. Guy House […] took up the cause of the ex-slaves after seeing a copy of the pamphlet ‘Vaughan’s Freedman’s Pension Bill: A Plea for American Freedmen’, which began circulating in black communities in central Tennessee around 1890.” (FTHE, p. 77, paragraph 1). House most certainly was a very important figure in the historical fight for black restitution, but the reparations project did not begin with her.
6. “What is the authority and scope of State governments that would make it different from what the Federal government would do about reparations?”
● Comparatively, the ability of the Federal Government to meet the bill of a national reparations project is a significantly larger budget than any single (or combination) of states and municipalities in America. All states and municipalities have a combined budget amounting to $3.1 trillion. Collectively, the various Federal department and bureaus, per the 2020 Congressional Budget Office data, showed a $5.8 trillion outlay. The Congressional funding response to the pandemic in the forms of the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan demonstrate that additional large sums of monies can be mobilized rapidly without raising taxes.
This author holds that the closing of the black-white racial wealth gap must privilege direct cash payouts to eligible recipients (an estimated 40 million Americans). It is reasonable to spread the monetary outlays realized over a
designated period; for example, ten years to mitigate the inflation risk. Or perhaps, proposed restitution plans should mirror the close to 250 years of bondage and atrocities suffered by slaves and their descendants. Nevertheless, it is time to reframe the pure reparations conversation from a position of both knowledge and power. If France, for over 187 years, as an enslaver country can exact, ironically and unjustly, a reparations debt from the people of Haiti who they held in bondage, it seems only fitting that the United States be a model for justice by paying reparations to the enslaved people group and their descendants who it harmed and disenfranchised.
7. “Under what circumstance could a State reparations plan override a Federal directive?”
● Absent a federal reparations legislation and policy, state governments have free reign to undercut the need for a national program. Article VI, paragraph 2, of the U.S. Constitution, establishes that Federal law generally takes precedence over state law (i.e., preemption) and that includes a State’s Constitution. This was also deemed the case following the outcome of the Civil War. Since there is no current federal reparations policy in place on behalf of ABAL ethnics, it leaves the descendants of U.S. chattel slavery (i.e., ADOS) highly vulnerable.
In fact, in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the anti-Freedmen laws that were adopted were known as the Black Codes. Although the minstrel character Jim Crow was introduced as early as the 1830s, his representation came to serve as a cultural meme to represent anti-black laws in the post-Civil War period. National neglect of jurisprudential protections exposed the Freedmen to harsh laws established at the discretion of the states.
Hence, it is important to remind readers that the self-advocacy and civic participation of citizens in their respective locales is crucial toward directing national or local reparations efforts. Darity and Mullen (2020) insist that “Instead of seeking piecemeal reparations on a one-by-one basis, activists should push these institutions to join the lobbying effort for congressional approval of black Reparations.” (FHTE, p. 269, paragraph 5).
8. “How might state reparations inhibit a federal reparations project or a grassroots advocacy effort?”
● The Evanston Illinois local “reparations” effort is instructive in this regard. It has been presented by some in the media as a national model for black American reparations. However, Evanston is a municipal government, neither a state nor a federal government. Its housing voucher program is not an effective prelude to true reparations at the national level; in fact, it may function as a diversion.
For example, basic parameters – Ancestor/Direct Descendant of Evanston that experienced housing discrimination between 1919 and 1969 can apply for a benefit up to $25,000 for a home down payment assistance and/or home improvements, for a property in Evanston. An applicant may also claim either Black or African American ancestry and show that they had experienced housing discrimination due to City ordinance, policy, or practice after 1969. Applicants must use an FDIC-insured institution for the mortgage. Currently, the fund comes from private sources and a three-percent Municipal Cannabis tax. The projected funding from a cannabis excise tax totals $10 million, but as of April 2021, only $400,000 is available to meet 16 claims.
In summary, despite whatever efforts local, municipal, or state actors may take to repair acts of discrimination endured by its citizens, they will not substitute (nor satisfy the bill) for the massive debt owed by the United States Government to black Americans who are the descendants of slaves.
9. “How do prior Civil Rights legislation and successful lawsuits serve as a guide for a reparations project?”
● Legal segregation (i.e., legal apartheid) and Jim Crow laws in the United States were set to end fifty years ago via the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. The big problem is that the courts are not a mechanism for producing a comprehensive, national program for reparations (FHTE, pp. 24, paragraph6). Federal affirmative action (AA) policy has been used to “desegregate elites, chiefly in employment, university admissions and government procurement.” (FHTE, p. 248, paragraph 4), yet it has been white women who have been its largest beneficiaries.
Affirmative action in terms of policy has not been a guarantee or protection from anti-black racism, nor did it ever provide restitution for past harm. Many today lament the fact that Civil Rights providing racial preferences for black Americans have been eroded. However, affirmative action focuses largely on employment and access to universities, so it does not have a direct impact on wealth—and the expected indirect effect may be weaker than some economists believe.
In 1997, the class action suit of Pigford vs Glickman served as a landmark discrimination case which asserted that the USDA officials in counties across the country violated the Equal Opportunity Credit Act. The case was successfully argued by Alexander J. Pires Jr., and in 1999 a $1.25 billion settlement was reached. The Washington Post writes that the suit’s settlement was designed to erase the farmers’ debts to government creditors, put $50,000 in each of their pockets, and give black applicants priority for new loans. However, this was not a model for national black American reparations. We now know this settlement has not resulted in wide benefits for the black farmers harmed.
The recent American Rescue Plan sets aside $5 billion for farmers who have experienced distress (not necessarily all of whom are black). Darity (2021) and other scholars contend that this was a “pittance” relative to the magnitude of what black American farmers are owed. Moreover, the settlement put a burden of proof on the black farmers for evidence of past discrimination while not demanding that farmers be granted access to USDA records to assert their claims. Farmers were not granted access to bank records to support their claims while neighboring white farmers had easily obtained loans. The case is instructive for those advancing the H.R.40 bill, without essential edits. The proposed legislation, as currently written, is misdirected and can be detrimental toward achieving a viable black American reparations project.
Similarly, in 1997, the Oklahoma legislature authorized funding for a Commission to study the Tulsa Riot of 1921. “Three years later, it recommended the 125 survivors be paid reparations. The commission’s restorative justice plans also specified solutions such as scholarships, and economic development zone, the reburial of any human remains that might be found.” (FHTE, pp. 18;19, paragraphs 6;1). Unfortunately, the Oklahoma legislature enacted no mandate to act and made no payments. If the eligible group (ABAL ethnics) is not vigilant in the construction of our reparations project, we have the potential to be in the same poor position as those families who survived the Tulsa massacre, yet received no reparations.
10. “How might States go about administering a decentralized Federal reparations program?”
● This author holds that States should not be directed to allocate a Federal reparations program. Decentralization of authority over federal programs with potential benefits for black Americans has a horrendous history (see the GI Bill in FHTE, pp. 247-248). Historically, the constitutionality of states’ rights has been harmful in delivering programs initiated to provide targeted relief and equality for black Americans (as previously indicated via AA programs).
In their book From Here to Equality, Darity and Mullen (2020) recommend the formation of a National Reparations Bureau. This author contends that the Freedman’s Bureau should be reestablished and maintained as is the case for Native Americans who benefit from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The native black American-focused bureau should have access to every US government department and be able to introduce policy and protections on behalf of ABAL ethnics who are the descendant of the formerly enslaved group. The Bureau should remain as a standing government agency for the duration of the process of acknowledgment, redress, and closure (ARC) to fulfill the reparations project.
11. “How can a focus on reparations enhance anti-racism initiatives underway in adult education and workforce development institutions?”
● Anti-racism initiatives are conscious efforts to dismantle racist structures in education and workforce organizations and programs. Reparations for black Americans who are the descendants of the formerly enslaved would include a program of acknowledgment, redress, and closure (FHTE, p 2-4), hence providing a robust framework to guide this challenging, anti-racism work.
Acknowledgment: The case for reparations is the story of the intergenerational history of white supremacy in American and the harmful effects on black lives today. One cannot understand structural racism, its impact on our education and workforce policies and programs, nor how to undertake redress without first understanding how this history has given rise to the racialized education structures and programs we operate today. Once exposed, we must then acknowledge how the American education and workforce systems intentionally privilege whites and disadvantage blacks. White educators, in particular, are being called upon to recognize their advantages and commit to a reparations program of redress for ABAL ethnics.
Redress is required to eliminate racial disparities in adult education and workforce development programs (and other political-economic institutions) to ensure black people have full access and equal opportunity in education and the workforce. Redress would require systemic change in educational policies, programs, curriculum, and new labor market regulations to close the inequality gap in educational outcomes between whites and blacks in the workplace.
Closure: Mutual conciliation between blacks and all beneficiaries of white supremacy would provide closure and give rise to a transformed, anti-racism nation. The nation needs to have an accurate narrative of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction and reject the Lost Cause narrative that has dominated our national story since the end of the Great War (FHTE, pp. 173, paragraphs 4). Though our anti-racism journey has just begun in America, education and workforce development must help move us towards this end. Indeed, the comprehensive program of reparations (FHTE, pp. 258-270, paragraphs, 2) calls on educators to foster a transformative national process of reinterpretation of history and learning. This initiative must include education on reparations and the impact on black Americans and the entire nation.
12. “How can reparations contribute to the new adult education and workforce development policies required to respond to the social and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic?”
● Perhaps the most critical contribution reparations can make to the development of education and workforce policies that respond to the social and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic is a historic analysis of the racist education system that leads to poor outcomes for black people in America. Adult education and workforce development in America emanated in part from policies intended to provide a “second chance” for adults who may have fallen short at their first attempt at education. In reality, however, this author contends that the system has failed ADOS. Examining more deeply the concept of failure among particular groups of adults would go a long way toward reframing the system of adult learning and reposition those black Americans underserved by traditional venues of formal and nonformal adult education.
Specifically, reparations can help practitioners and policymakers understand the legacy of the dual system that tolerated the systemic underinvestment in the education of blacks pre- and post- a formal lifelong learning endeavor. The racial wealth gap highlights how far too many black families and communities lack the resources to provide for quality post-secondary or higher education. Moreover, the lifelong leisure opportunities that non-formal adult education has afforded more economically resourced adults in America are reduced for ADOS men and women. In short, black workers who are from an ancestral heritage shaped by slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and anti-black terrorism and economic discrimination continue to face educational disparities in comparison to whites. The inability to transfer resources and wealth to your children as a direct consequence of the adverse actions taken against black citizens by our government must not be met with erasure or the simplistic lens of equity initiatives.
These disparities notwithstanding, recent trends show that enrollment in adult basic education and workforce development programs has increased during the pandemic. Adults who lost their job are seeking an educational pathway to a more secure career. The time is right to move away from short-term training in second chance skills to support motivated learners in a significant course of study, leading to a valuable credential or training that helps secure a family-supporting job. New program models that will allow learners to earn while learning will encourage adults to complete longer-term programs and foster deep, applied understanding. Tapping other educational funding sources to support adult learners, such as restorative access to Pell grants for certificate-based training, would bolster the quality and quantity of educational opportunities available to black adult learners.
13. “Why should adult education and workforce development practitioners and policymakers focus on reparations when it seems training and technical skills are what many black adults need?”
• We see that education does not have an equalizing effect for blacks in the American labor market. As noted in FHTE, blacks with a college degree can expect to make up to $10,000 per year less than whites who have not completed high school. Further, the black poverty rate has not changed much since the 1950s, even though black educational attainment has risen over the same period. So, while training may provide black adults with access to new career pathways, it does little to address the racial inequalities that prevent blacks from achieving social and economic equity in America. A focus on reparations and rejection of anti-black discrimination would help practitioners and policymakers address the opportunity gap facing ADOS in education and the labor market. Anti-discrimination policies must be maintained and enforced as reparations alone will not sustain or replace a system of white supremacy with a preferable system of justice.
14. “Many adult and workplace education programs include diversity, equity, and inclusion training; why should black American reparations exist as a distinct learning module?”
● A module on reparations would enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion training in adult and workplace education programs. Adult education focused on reparations can provide essential knowledge of the intergenerational effects of white supremacy on black Americans and the legacy of structural racism in American workplaces and institutions today. This information could lead to awareness among learners about the inequities in their workplace and how their professional attitudes and practices are structured to privilege whites and exclude blacks. The inclusion of a reparations roadmap to equality in the training will provide learners with concrete steps they can take in their organization and lives to address and redress discrimination and create a more open and inclusive workplace culture.
15. “As a white person in the field of adult learning where might I begin to educate myself since the field is all but quiet on this topic?”
● As a white, educated, American woman in my early 60s, I was truly astonished to learn just how little I knew about black slavery, Jim Crow, and the legacy of these atrocities in ongoing systems of racial inequality and racism in America today. Reading Darity and Mullen’s (2020) From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century was enlightening but also transformative for me as an educator. Additional recommended works include Karolyn Tyson’s Integration Interrupted, WEB DuBois’ Black Reconstruction, and Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste.
In plain language, before reading FHTE, I was ignorant of the inter-generational effects of white supremacy in America on black life and well-being today. The book led me to reflect on my practice and ask myself critically, how can I be an effective adult educator in American without acknowledging the history of white supremacy and its impact on educational opportunity and outcomes for black Americans today? It is imperative that white people in adult learning educate themselves on our racist history and how we can mitigate its effects through a systematic program of black reparations. Darity and Mullen’s (2020) From Here to Equality is a great resource for white educators and others who choose to embark on a journey of anti-racist self-education.
FRQG Editor, Lisa R. Brown, BS, MPA, University of Akron; Ph.D. Adult Education, University of Georgia @Ambidextrous_X
Special thank you to William “Sandy” Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen for their editorial review and contributions to this issue.
From Here to Equality (FHTE) Reparationist Quick Guide Issue 3 sharable hyperlink to the PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-qtvmjugDq-rdi3OK2tWzjgYCtyJUV6t/view?usp=sharing
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