A University of Minnesota professor has some problems with reparations scholars William Darity and A. Kirsten Mullen’s argument for reparations for Native Black Americans.
In an article for The Nation, William P. Jones laid out his concerns about Darity and Mullen’s plan for reparations, which they detailed in the book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.”
Darity is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke University. Mullen is a writer, folklorist, museum consultant, and lecturer whose work focuses on race, art, history, and politics.
Jones is a professor of history at the University of Minnesota and the author of “The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights.”
Here are three takeaways from Jones’ review of Darity and Mullen’s case for reparations.
Jones accuses Darity and Mullen of alienating potential allies in their push for a case for cash payments to Black descendants of slaves.
Jones wrote, that “despite their clear evidence of the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow, Darity and Mullen isolate African American reparations from claims for compensation by Native Americans, immigrants, and others.”
He continued, “Not only does this risk alienating potential allies, it also narrows the scope of what the Black freedom movement has almost always pursued: A radical program for economic and racial justice for all Americans.”
A discussion between Jones and Darity played out on Twitter recently.
Jones tweeted, “Winning reparations requires a coalition much broader than Black Americans, and that coalition could win much more than reparations.”
Darity shot back, “Allyship shouldn’t be bought by inclusion of other communities in a debt owed due to the failure of the US government to keep its 40 acres promise to formerly enslaved black Americans. Others may have legitimate reparations claims, but they should not be collapsed together.”
“That may be true in principle,” Jones replied on Twitter, “but how do black Americans win reparations without allies who also have a stake in securing them?” To which Darity asked, “How have other groups won reparations without logrolling allies?”
Jones mentioned reparations for Japanese Americans, where the stakes were lower, tweeting, “The stakes were lower – $1.6b to 80,000 Japanese Americans vs. $168b-$3t to 40 million Black Americans. You state that for Reps to succeed ‘the majority of the populace also must accept national responsibility for the damages inflicted on black people.’ Isn’t that an alliance?”
According to Jones, the core of “From Here to Equality” is based on historic economic inequalities between Black and white Americans that were “created and perpetuated through centuries of slavery and the legally enforced systems of discrimination and political disfranchisement that followed.”
Darity and Mullen argue “that slavery was integral to the national—not just the Southern—economy, and that its proceeds therefore helped establish some of the nation’s most prominent banks, insurance companies, and universities,” Jones added.
Those who oppose reparations argue that there is no longer the need. Past injustices were addressed by emancipation, 20th-century social welfare policies and affirmative action. Jones noted that due to this opposition, Mullen and Darity should refocus their reparations argument.
“Yet given the persistent opposition, it is puzzling that they describe the potential constituency for reparations in the narrowest possible terms,” Jones wrote.
Darity has long called for edits to be made to H.R. 40, a proposed bill that would establish a 15-member commission to study the effects of slavery and discriminatory policies on African Americans and recommend appropriate remedies, including reparations.
One essential change Darity wants is for H.R. 40 to stipulate that reparations would be paid only to people who identify as “Black, Negro, or African American” and have “at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States.” But Jones wrote that this argument discounts others who should also receive reparations.
Jones wrote, “In addition to alienating potential allies, the exclusion of Black immigrants from reparations obscures not only the consequences of racism and segregation in the aftermath of emancipation but also the inherently international character of slavery and the inequalities it forged.”
Jones concluded, “To win reparations will require allies who have a shared interest in addressing the country’s history of racial exploitation, but it will also need more expansive forms of solidarity and systemic change.”
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