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Reparations is one of those words many don’t want to hear. It’s taboo. It’s forbidden. Discussed behind closed doors in low whispers among friends. Perhaps pondered in wishful thinking, hoped for by African Americans.
But never — I mean never, are reparations discussed in mixed company or in public. Why? Because just the word itself brings up feelings of guilt, pain and shame many do not even want to think about. It brings up the inhumane history of slavery in America and the systemic, horrendous mistreatment of an entire race the majority would love to forget.
Before we can answer the question of “why” or make a decision about whether or not we should give reparations to the African American people, we first must understand what reparations are and what exactly the word means:
Reparation (n.) directly from the Latin word reparationem (nominative reparatio) “act of repairing, restoration,” from past participle stem of Latin reparare “restore, repair.”
We can all agree that damage was done. We know that a race of people was stolen from their home country of Africa and made into slaves to do agricultural work in the South and textile work in the North; cheap labor to essentially build America. And indeed, “America” apologized for slavery in 2008 in H.Res. 194 (110th): Apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African-Americans.
But did that apology even begin to repair or restore the damage that had been done? Were there additional considerations as the Japanese Americans or Native Americans received? Absolutely not. While we consider reparations, let us also consider another word – restitution; which is a payment made by the perpetrator of a crime to the victims or the families of the victims of that crime. The payment is meant to make the victims whole. America has stolen an entire race from their homeland, destroyed families, lineage, enslaved them and severed their history, hung those people from trees and whipped them, raped their men and women, denied them basic human rights to freedom, justice and equality on all fronts – education, housing, employment and created mass incarceration. They have been systematically oppressed and the atrocities committed against them have negatively affected generations and will affect generations to come.
It’s time for America to acknowledge that the system has been rigged against African Americans since they were brought here in chains. Please put aside any ancestor shame or shame in not speaking up sooner about the unfairness and injustice of it all and give them their just due in the form of restitution and reparations. America will have paid its debt and will truly be great.
Sharifah Hardie is a business consultant, influencer, and was a Long Beach City Council Candidate. She is the host of Ask Sharifah Videocast and Podcast and Round Table with Sharifah Hardie and the author of Signs You Might Be An Entrepreneur – How to Discover the Entrepreneur in You and Everything You Need to Know About Social Media Marketing. 562.822.0965 AskSharifah.com