Self-reparations: The Essential Strategy for People of African Descent
The lived experience of Black Americans is an example of the inefficiency of requesting reparations from an indebted but unwilling entity. The experience of Black Americans can teach the rest of the Black world that achieving racial equity and administering justice must be a self-directed process. Reparations must come by self-repair. Reparations is essential for healthy relationships to flourish among people of African descent. Reparations is essential for large-scale healthy relationships to finally take root or be reestablished between Blacks and non-Blacks, if such relationships are to exist. Regardless of the relational dynamics and difference in values between people of African descent and indebted societies/people, reparations must happen. The questions about reparations are a matter of Black-driven implementation and timing.
How Reparations and Repair Will Not Be Realized
Repair will not come by initiatives that are led by effectively racist or neo-colonial interests whereby those interests continue to control and benefit from knowledge management, solution making, resource allocation, and dissemination. Reparations are not for the intended nor collateral benefit of those who cause nor benefit from the historical damage and disenfranchisement of Black people. This idea is illustrated by the fact that Black America’s civil rights act was actually achieved through the frame of “commerce” (the unrestricted movement of Black money into white businesses) because not enough whites of that era supported Black “human rights” nor felt they sufficiently benefit from treating Blacks with dignity. So, while Black people could/can support the financial bottom line of white business, said owners and employees could and do simultaneously embolden racism through social and political practices.
Repair will not come by those whose sustenance comes from imperialist purse strings. This includes NGOs, most universities, and most subservient governments. One has to value dignity over acceptance and immediate gratification. Justice-minded people have to protect each other, provide basic needs to activists and provide security to survivors. They must allow establishments the opportunity to deliver swift justice to racists and themselves administer justice when it is due.
Repair will not come by coddling sacred cow entities that function to maintain the social disorder of racial inequity, domestically or internationally.
Repair will not come by prioritizing white mores nor sparing the feelings of white family members, friends, or other white individuals, over Black truth. Justice-minded people who can classify as white have to do the anti-racist identity work within and among themselves. Indeed some of them have already done and continue to do that work. They must not and do not expect teaching from others nor do they codependently demand tolerance of their ignorance.
Despite the fact that we must account for the ways by which reparations will not happen, reparations and restoration of the dignity of people of African descent is ethical, favorable, and eminent.
Future Generations Is Multiple Generations Too Late
We must exponentially shorten the time horizon for achieving a state of prosperity and justice for Black people. We must simultaneously change the narrative about the directions from which effective reparations and restoration must flow. At this point in time, we must deem acceptable any and all Black culturally-responsive means to repair people of African descent. If past behavior is a predictor of future behavior, Blacks should not seek non-Black controlled, if any, inputs from former colonizers/neo-colonizers until a critical mass of in-group self-reparations has been activated, and is well ingrained and secured. Anti-racist and anti-colonial whites know this and function from a place of using white privilege to divert resources toward the end of securing Black dignity, subversion of racism/neo-colonization, and do not seek any control nor spotlighting. Realizing the goal of repair, stability, and restoration must not be contingent upon repayment from the entities that are indebted to Black people. Indeed, from an ethical and practical standpoint, the debt is owed, yet ethical considerations are only a force in the request for reparations and some people’s affinity for the cause. Social and political power are the factors that determine whether reparations and restoration are received and actualized. Such power must have primarily internal roots that are accompanied by non-controlling multilateral pillars of stability and comradeship.
What Blacks Gave and Unilaterally Continue to Give
As measured by the current climate, impact of disparate policy, and social practices, the social contract between the United States and African Americans is unconscionable. For Black Americans the quest for justice has been painfully long, spanning multiple generations, including the present day. Seeking justice has been and continues to be brutal and dangerous regardless of age, educational attainment, or gender. And, the Black-inspired quest for justice has greatly benefited all women (including the tens of millions of non-Black women who voted for Trump). It has also benefited all immigrants including those who ascribe to anti-Black sentiments. While the legacy of Black civil rights benefits all, reparatory investment in fair education, divestment from the Black imprisonment campaign called the war on drugs, and turnaround of disparate policy impacts have not been realized in the United States. The United States has refused to apply itself to a systematic uprooting of discriminatory practices in housing, policing, and hiring/retention — all of which fuel a system of historical trauma, discretionary adversity, and toxic stress. Systemic repair has not been realized even after Black service in every war fought, after a Civil War and sabotaged Reconstruction in a mixed environment, after Constitutional amendments, and after a whole national Civil Rights movement.
Just as the bulk of Europe owes reparations to African peoples on the Continent and elsewhere, the United States is indebted to Africans born in the Americas, particularly. Between the theft of intellectual property and inventions, white’s use of policy to marginalize generations of Black people, and discriminatory practices by individual whites in their interoffice politics and candidate selection processes, Black ingenuity and suffering has been a source of humor, stability and prosperity for too long in the United States. Indeed, since and including the time of the white colonialists’ revolution against England, Africans born in the western hemisphere assisted whites in winning and securing white “liberties.”
So-called Black history holds countless examples of Black inventors, soldiers, activists, human rights martyrs, and everyday people contributing to what is too often a unilateral allegiance that yields displaced benefits and “securities” that are election-dependent and thus tenuous at best. Which means there is and has been no real security given the policy of imprisoning 1 in 3 Black men/boys, removing the right to vote after conviction or being steered into plea bargaining of certain crimes, the longstanding practices of whites redrawing voting districts to disempower Black majority locales, Black equity efforts deemed “extreme” or “terrorist,” efforts to close voting places in majority Blacks locales, and the resurrection of laws designed to be litmus tests in order to block the free exercise of Black voting rights. Why would there be substantial repair when Blacks continue to do the most in exchange for tokens such as cordiality, the erection and removal of statues, and empty apologies that are not accompanied by actionable policy and funding? Why would there be substantial repair when Blacks do not prioritize building of, for — and as necessary or preferred — by themselves, nationally and internationally, in every system of care and domain of life essential to security, stability, and thriving?
Self-generated Social and Political Power
The honorable Frederick Douglass said that “power concedes nothing without a demand.” In the fight for Black dignity that demand has manifested as literal and valid requests for reparatory payment grounded in financial estimates and ethical considerations of the matter. Such calls have raised awareness of atrocities and drawn lines of connection between historical practices and disparities in present day life outcomes.
The centuries-old advocacy and work toward reparations must expand beyond seeking to nuance the ethical and moral orientations of the general public to win support. This work must expand to include self-reparatory efforts among and between Black people with anti-racist and decolonizing codes of conduct. Such self-reparations must include the implementation of systems to mobilize knowledge, facilitate capacity building in critical fields/systems of care, and implement infrastructure for distribution and dissemination that are Black-owned and to/for the primary benefit of Black people.
Self-reparations must be driven by two truths:
- People of African descent, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, have the heart, skill, and will to repair the African trajectory and innovatively build upon a long and complex history.
- The responsibility for reparations and building the capacities and capabilities of African peoples is our own.
Self-reparations must be multidimensional and multi-disciplinary, including:
Systems of Care (domains of activity )
- Basic Living (food/water, shelter, clothing, safety)
- Individual and Public Health
- Justice and Self-sustaining Re-entry Resources
- Mental health, decolonization, and recovery from trauma
- Family unity, child security, and sustained population growth
- Knowledge ambassador hosting while in-residence
Communities of Practice (ongoing two-way practitioner mutual-support; acceptable standards, structures, and processes for Ambassador training and knowledge transfer)
- Identification and support of enabling structures/processes/beliefs that enable self-reparations
- Identification and dismantling of structures/processes that attempt to constrain self-reparations
- Conscionable agreements
- Formal or community schooling that enables implementation of self-repair in targeted locales/industries/fields
- Indigenous knowledge, practices, and priorities
- Conscionable agreements
Industry (Employment and Entrepreneurship)
Transportation, Free Movement, and Distribution
Self reparations must be goal-driven and must measure progress by achievement of time-sensitive, specific objectives steeped in a recognition of the human rights of Black people.
Goal 1. Increase indigenous sources of natural food production and occupations as farmers by X% in 2 years.
Objective 1a. Train 2,000 indigenous men/women/youth in small, medium-, and large-scale irrigation, water management, and farm management techniques by X date.
Objective 1b. Develop and implement an intra-continental farm-to-market system for indigenous food production and distribution to feed X# of indigenous people in Y territory(s) by Z date.
Goal 2. Reduce Black deaths and displacements by 80% in X territory on or before December 31, 2018.
Objective 2a. Train 250,000 indigenous men/women/youth in homeland/community/homestead surveillance and security by African Independence Day.
Goal 3. Increase production, know-how, and consumption of indigenous-made textiles.
Objective 3a. Train 1,000 men/women/youth per year in clothes making, edible oil extraction, safe and sustainable fuel sources, and use of locally accessible plant fibers.
Goal 4. Develop and implement independent, trustworthy, unbiased, and capacity building public health programs to address Levels 1–3 health promotion.
Objective 4a. Fund and plant local manufacturing and/or distribution facilities/mechanisms to produce and distribute first aid supplies and anti-microbial/anti-nematode/pest management/insect repellents/antiviral sanitation supplies, for household stock.
Objective 4b. Fund and implement year-round clinical and capacity building health/medical volunteering for training, early identification, and early intervention of health priorities.
Objective 4c. Fund and implement a paid first responder system.
Objective 4d. Implement a criminally-punishable anti-colonization clause/amendment against anti-Black racism in operational agreements for health care and relief organizations.
Goal 5. Connect 100% of indigenous communities and families to self-managed and indigenous-controlled/operated web and communication infrastructure.
Objective 5a. Cultivate and fund emerging and innovative geo-specific communication technologies that are independently owned and operated by the Collective of Black population (ownership interest unsaleable and non transferable).
Goal 6. Ensure the security of indigenous intellectual property, proper compensation, and recompense for its use/violation.
Objective 6a. Develop and implement an indigenously-operated and controlled secure repository and registration process for trademarks, service marks, and inventions created by Africans or through African resources/property/intelligence, retrospectively.
Objective 6b. Develop and fund innovation exchange programs and collaboratives between and among peoples of African descent.
Objective 6c. Issue innovation calls to action among the youth/adults of the Black Collective.
“Reparations are a matter of Black-driven implementation and timing.”
By an average of estimates, the United States alone owes African Americans $10,000,000,000,000 in wealth value generated from Black enslavement. That figure does not take into account the cost of human life, pain and suffering. Nor does it account for the costs related to denial of fulfilled aspirations, lost access to capital and basic needs, nor damages from the impacts of current policies that continue to disenfranchise and disparately impact Black families and communities, nationally or internationally. People of African descent are unlikely to see that ten trillion dollars in wealth repatriated willingly, if at all.
Reparations are not only possible but can be made real now though self-ruled International initiative of the willing with priority on:
- Implementation of initiatives to enable on-the-ground two-way knowledge mobilization, skills transfer, corrective action, and resource sharing among, between, and to the benefit of people of African descent.
- Implementation of structures and processes to secure inherent rights including liberty, safety, justice, and restoration of the collective dignity of people of African descent.
Does self-reparations resonate with you? What can you do that people of African descent need to know and replicate to decrease mortality, increase health, and security? More to follow about the Collective self-reparations initiative, iREPAIR Africa.
Pamela Denise Long is an Occupational Therapist with interest in corrective action and occupational justice, holds a masters degree in educational psychology (learning and cognition), and is earning an EdD in organizational leadership (emphasis organizational development) with a research focus on trauma-informed care, particularly as relates to historical trauma and people of African descent.