Many discussions over the last decade or so have usually involved Dr. William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., an American economist and social sciences researcher. He is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics and the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. His research spans economic history, development economics, economic psychology, and the history of economic thought, but most of his research is devoted to group-based inequality, especially with respect to race and ethnicity. In 2020, with his wife, A. Kirsten Mullen, he co-authored “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.”
When podcaster Torraine Walker wanted to talk about reparations, he, of course, turned to Darity. While Walker recently posted the conversation to his podcast, “The Torraine Walker Podcast,” lineup on Spotify on Oct. 10, the discussion between the two took place prior to the 2020 publication of Darity’s book.
Walker is the founder and editor of Context Media Group and a writer, journalist, and social media influencer. He is the producer and director of the documentary “Five Years: Mike Brown & Ferguson Now” and the creator and host of “Wednesday Wisdom,” a news and information website. He also has a popular YouTube channel.
Here are five takeaways from their discussion.
When asked about when the reparations movement was probably launched, Darity took it all the way back to just before the emancipation of African-American slaves and the promise of 40 acres and a mule.
“It begins prior to the end of the Civil War with the expectation that the formerly enslaved folks would…be given a stake of property in American life…the promise was never fulfilled,” Darity said.
Thus, the claim for 40 acres and a mule was the beginning of the reparations movement.
According to Darity, reparation became part of the political debate in 1984, “I think the first presidential candidate to bring up reparation might have been Jesse Jackson…I think he was the first,” said Darity. Long-time civil rights advocate Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1984 as a Democrat.
Later in the discussion, Darity fast-forwarded to other politicans who talked about reparations. “Today, we currently have some presidential candidates who are seeing reparations as a legitimate possibility,” Darity said of the array of 2020 presidential candidates who were discussing reparations, such as Sen. Cory Booker.
Reparations had been on the radar in the Black community and even in political circles as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, an Act of Congress that was introduced in 1989 by the late Rep. John Conyers. Then, said Darity, the reparations talk stopped due to the 9/11 attack on the U.S. in 2001, when the focus of most Americans had shifted to terrorism and safety.
Darity credited journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article in The Atlantic in 2014 for sparking the reparations debate again. The article is entitled “The Case for Reparations.”
According to Darity, at the time of his interview, he said he felt ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) was the most active reparations movement, though he still credited other movements such as N’COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America) for keeping reparations alive.
“The participants in the social media world who align themselves with ADOS have been fervent advocates for reparations; what is unique is that they have been very specific about who should receive reparations…American descendants of persons who were enslaved in the United States who self-identify themselves as Black.” He added that he thinks that of the current movements, ADOS has been the “most successful.”
Darity admitted that at first, he didn’t believe “reparations was a realistic possibility.” But toward the end of the 1980s, Darity was asked by fellow economist Richard America to write the introduction to a book of essay he was putting together, “The Wealth of Races: The Present Value of Benefits from Past Injustices,” published in 1990, Darity changed his mind.
He says he went from being “skeptical” about reparations to believing the case for reparations was “completing and “must be met.” Since then, he’s been “committed to the reparation project…my commitment was not born of joining a movement but a personal commitment to do whatever I can to make this a reality.”
(Lto R) William Darity Jr. (Photo: Minneapolis Fed)/Torraine Walker (Photo: torrainewalker.com)