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Robin Boylorn on Reparations, Part 2

Kierra Wright

I want to make it clear that while I believe policy-driven reparations will inevitably benefit all Americans, the purpose of reparations should not be viewed as a way for white people to further benefit from the existence of slavery, especially as black people continue to suffer its aftereffects.

Law professor Sheryll Cashin wrote in an article for the Washington Post that “reparations should repair what white supremacy still breaks.”

The things that are broken are systems and institutions designed to exclude people of color. Just because the locks have been moved from shackled feet to prison doors, black people continue to be locked out of wealth, quality education, and polling places, while being locked in to poverty, desperation, and limitation. This brokenness is also manifested in statistics of infant mortality, low life expectancy, high incarceration rates, and the wealth gap.

For every dollar a typical white household has, a black one has 10 cents. That is why monetary compensation is one of many recommendations for reparations. But unexpected income without financial literacy will only put a band-aid on a knife womb. We’d still be bleeding.

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to over 400 years of racism, but if the HR-40 bill passes, it will yield a long-term study that can offer long term remedies. And while some changes will take time, some can be implemented immediately.

So what can be done right now?

The Movement for Black Lives identifies reparations that directly correspond with the injustices black Americans have endured. Their demands include, for example, free access to lifetime education in response to the generational denial of quality education to black people. This would provide funding for schools in low income black neighborhoods and federal support for historically black colleges and universities.

This would include open admission to public educational institutions and trade schools. Black students would be given retroactive student loan forgiveness, including a reimbursement of what has already been paid.

The Movement for Black Lives also encourages infrastructure and inclusion in poor black neighborhoods, like public transit and housing choice vouchers.

Another right now initiative is criminal justice reform. Governmental efforts must be made to restructure the justice system so that it is equitable, fair, and moral, so that sentencing is not based on race or informed by prejudice. This would mean releasing black people who were incarcerated for nonviolent offenses or petty crimes, reversing excessive charges, and exonerating inmates who were given a lengthier sentence than a white counterpart for the same crime.

As I said in my last commentary, reparations are complicated. And while they won’t remove the injustices of the past, they can help make things better right now for those who need them the most.

I’m Robin Boylorn. Until next time, keep it crunk.

Written by Robin Boylorn

Edited by Brittany Young


Brittany Young is Alabama Public Radio's Program Director and Content Manager. Brittany began her public radio journey in the spring of 2015 as a news intern for APR while in graduate school at The University of Alabama.
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