Community & Government

What Is Owed: The Case for Reparations

Veteran journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones argues that the time for reparations has finally arrived. Find out why investing in reparations is an investment in America’s future as much as it is a recompensation for the wrongs of the past.

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Topics include: It’s Not a Handout • Reparations for Slavery Is Reparations for Slavery • The Arguments Against • Do Black People Deserve Reparations?

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Thank you very much, Madam Chair. And thank you to my colleagues on the Congressional Black Caucus. The American government still owes a debt. The Congressional Black Caucus has always been at the forefront of fighting against systemic racism. Systemic racism, however, has been a cancer on the skin and the fabric of this nation that has not been remedied. It has only deepened. And H.R. 40, the commission to study and develop reparation proposals, is the answer to the original sin. This is America's responsibility, to pay her debt. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Of course, the evil institution of slavery was legally abolished over 150 years ago on December 6, 1865, via ratification of the 13th Amendment following the end of the tragic Civil War. But putting aside the injustice of monetary reparations from current taxpayers for the sins of a small subset of Americans from many generations ago, the fair distribution of reparations would be nearly impossible once one considers the complexity of the American struggle to abolish slavery. The federal government can't constitutionally provide compensation today to a specific racial group because other members of that group, maybe several generations ago, were discriminated against and treated inhumanely. - When we talk or think about reparations, of course, one of the first things that you hear from people who oppose the very concept of restitution is, no one is alive who was in slavery, and no one is alive who enslaved someone. But the answer to that is quite simple. Black people have been trying to get reparations since the time of slavery, since right after slavery, since 50 years after slavery, since now. Economist Sandy Darity, who is one of the nation's premier experts on reparations, calls this process "delay until death," that our country has never wanted to pay restitution for people who had actually been enslaved, nor their descendants. And instead, we just wait for everyone to die off and then say, well, there are no victims. The other thing I think that is important is reparations is both for the legacy of actual slavery and for the 100 years of racial apartheid and racial terrorism that Black people experienced all the way until 1968. I am soon to be a 45-year-old woman. And I am, at 45 years old, part of the first generation of Black Americans in the history of this land who was born with full rights and citizenship. I am of the first generation for whom it was not legal to discriminate against me in housing, in schools, in jobs just because I was a descendant of American slavery. So we're not talking about an ancient history. We are talking about an ongoing legacy and a forced wealth-poverty that Black Americans experience that no other group in this country has had to experience. When you look at the racial wealth gap, when you look at where Black people live, the types of schools that Black people must attend, the Black experience is ...

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From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love.

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Angela Davis, Cornel West, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jelani Cobb, and John McWhorter

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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