It is Not Enough: African Ex-Slave Reparations in a Deeply Troubled Racist Plural America


It is not that I oppose reparations for Black American  citizens with enslaved African slave ancestors; especially since my family would  certainly qualify . It is just that the framing of this complex paradoxical dehumanizing  societal issue is grossly inadequate for offering  needed remedies in  a deeply troubled   racist plural society with  deepening troubles ahead unless we awaken quickly from our delusionary denials of racial unfairness and injustices  and engage in authentic transparent difficult restorative justice conversations and actions of substance rather than of meager symbolisms of demographic  trickles of racial justice .

Countering racialized  differences with gun violence rather than having needed difficult conversations and positive  empowering  transformative consequences of who we are and who we are becoming as a racialized plural  nation with former racial minorities now increasingly  holding significant power and authority has become the  eyesore in contemporary America. It is the first cousin to the  current anti-critical race theory movement not effectively countered by a progressive sounding,  moderate, gravely stalled Democrat Party White House and cabinet which has largely drawn silent on its campaign promise to proactively address systemic American racism in its numerous dehumanizing forms and dynamics.  And if the Democrats do lose the House of Representatives and Senate in 2022 and in 2024 along with the White House, we are in for a long  freezing  cold winter of indifference  if not well planned covert and overt  hostility when it comes to racial injustices as well as efforts to continue to deepen  racial injustices backed up by a right wing leaning Supreme Court  proving to be disrespectful of human rights precedents.

This long winter  , possibly on the fast track , well  adorned warmly in traditional and new methods garbs  of racial oppression of a national Non-White majority will be made possible through voter repression and increasing spasms of White nationalist street violence as latest  versions of the long history of lynching in America though this time more bloody with Non-White push back. Black gun purchases are on the dramatic rise, lest we forget. And then as well we have the peculiar elephant in the room, of the growth of Non-White, noticeably Black  eligible voters who are refusing to vote, especially among the young who feel betrayed by older generations of all hues.  Thus, they have decided the ballot box is a hoax so why waste their time voting for anyone since nothing in their marginal status will change anyways? They do all the right things and are still subjected to glass ceilings and unreasonable, indeed unrealistic expectations more so than  their less than able and educated White peers in 

White spaces who still seem to move ahead of them in status and in pay due to their hue privilege derived from their Eurocentric ancestries. This observation is in sync with the astute claim in Sterling Yale Black sociologist’s most recent provocative book , BLACK IN WHITE SPACE: THE ENDURING IMPACT OF COLOR IN EVERYDAY LIFE that no matter our age or accomplishments, we Black folks in the minds of most White folks remain incarcerated in the racially inferior , crime infested, impoverished dilapidated iconic ghetto, no matter where we are actually from, as a sustained provisional status with only rare total trust.

This does not mean we are necessarily heading towards the race war both Non-White and especially White nationalists are hoping for in their delusional fantasies.  The break out of a race war is  doubtful unless the US military  and intelligence falls into the wrong hands of a future racist President as in the case of Trump but much more effectively worst who thus makes the essential inroads in the military and intelligence communities to do the such grotesque dirty work of effectively  fanning the smoldering coals of racial hatred with military and intelligence backup. And thank goodness, despite their mainstreaming during the Trump years, White nationalists remain a fringe population which by now has no support by the majority White population though jittery too about the consequences of what White nationalists fearfully call The Great Replacement.

If we are to prevent this long difficult winter in racial injustice from occurring which would be such a waste of time and human talents and actual lives, those of us who care need to more creatively and proactively organize our concern into movements of difficult conversations and actions essential for assuring that America becomes an  authentic democracy for all of us. This involves developing more effective, more high profile social  and traditional media campaigns involving  coalitions composed of ordinary citizens and leaders  of diverse cultural and class backgrounds and across political  persuasions drawn from all corners of American life such as business, faith, law, media, medicine, and the nonprofit sectors who” get it” and  thus understand the imperative to have the difficult conversations about the demographic plural manifestations of racism and our need to address it as a matter of the highest national priority . Nothing else in and about 21st century America, sinking so dramatically in global respect and prestige,will  go anywhere of great substance unless we take race and racism by their human destructive horns and destroy them for the future good of humanity. So, we must create effective policy making  advocacy venues to assure the difficult conversations just don’t end  as  how conversations  about  race and racism in America  usually end up  these days: as politically correct academic chit chat or sound bites for do nothing  and/or  feel good and/or guilty  public consumption. 

 The  absence of effective comprehensive imperative difficult conversations about the  well institutionalized ugliness of our  multi-centuries racialized past and present will continue to foster such a dehumanizing future  composed of  at best fractured superficial symbols of justice for selected oppressed racial populations while ignoring others unless we do something and now. Namely,  build multicultural  coalescing civil society venues advocating  to government  and non-government  institutions for the development of restorative justice for all of us not some of us since the monster of race as a dehumanizing myth impacts all of us, Whites and the various racialized Non-White populations in different and similiar historical, economic,  political,  social, and psychological fashions. 

 Restorative Justice in this sense goes deeper than reparations,  indeed,  reparations is just one major outcome of what Restorative Justice is as a long process of difficult conversations  including representatives from dominant and oppressed racialized groups; namely  the various roles of Whites as the historical perpetratoring population and those  roles of numerous racialized oppressed populations. This must be done as a painful process of  mutual perpetrator- victim transparency and accountability  in a society where well socialized ignorance about the plural dehumanizing impacts of the myth of race has sustained a historical racist nation in denial. 

As we observed in the ages of Black Reconstruction and Affirmative Action, which were federal reparations efforts,  government efforts to repair the damage of systemic  racialized injustices to  one or more racialized populations without antecedent deep public engagements about the sources of the wrong , the need to admit it as  form of accountability, apologize for it as a covenant to assure it doesn’t happen again , and rectify it through the restoration of the humanity of the racialized victim populations and thus the humanity of the perpetratrating population,  are bound to have mixed records, sow the seeds of misunderstanding and manipulation, and can ultimately fail. And such efforts tend to forget about perpetrator rights as well as responsibilities and victim responsibilities as well as rights which becomes another reason why the few times the federal and state governments have tried restorative efforts to deal with systemic racial injustices experienced by  noticeably American citizens of African, Japanese,  Latino,and Native American descent, they have had mixed and other wise weak or failed results.

 In more recent times, reparations movements targeting Black  Americans whose ancestors were enslaved have or will run into head winds of resistance since the definition of who is an African American can be   very problematic as well as the very definition of slavery and various  roles, spaces, locations , and times of what the enslavement of Africans in America was and in too ignored cases, still is. It is very much of an elite movement too largely in the hands of politicians  and  attorneys  with academics in tow. They  work  too often through  inadequate,  indeed  over simplistic understandings of  complexities of restorative justice processes ; just being focused on one demographic group rather than building a societal  coalition with other racialized dehumanized groups to address a horrific  societal tragedy impacting everyone; and entertaining quick monetary solutions to a  societal dehumanization problem which needs more than money tossed at it or other financial solutions like  education funds which sound good for public relations  though without critical fact checks.  Such framing of reparations for descendants of African slaves like myself  and members of my paternal and maternal families is an unfortunate distraction from the sort of more holistic multicultural restorative justice we Americans desperately need for all of us since all we Americans are dismally infected by the numerous forms and dynamics of race and racism which since colonial times has made us such a troubled racist plural society in routine denial wrapped in benign ignorance. 

It is easy to say the ongoing reparations  for ex-slave Black Americans and other fractured restorative justice and overly simplistic  efforts such as institutional leadership apologies for their institutions being build through slave labor; ethnic holidays and recognizing overlooked Non-White contributors ; renaming racist buildings and streets; and taking down racist statues and portraits, are better than nothing and at least are a good start when we need to do much better at this and quickly.  We  Americans both in the highest  policy circles and at our kitchen tables play around with racism all the time as conversations going nowhere  too much too often cognitively and emotionally ill-equipped to do such talking well let alone come up with adequate  solutions. It is because as citizens we are socialized to approach race and racism as taboo topics at best to be tiptoed around and watered down rather than having transparent difficult conversations about let alone realistic solutions.

Nevertheless, we need to wake up and smell the coffee. In this unfolding Digital Age with reams of  stock piled data driven studies and best practice transformation models,  we have what it takes in national and global civil societies to engage and go beyond traditional racial justice advocacy institutions to devise and institutionalize multicultural venues of much more effective racial  restorative justice advocacy in the USA and elsewhere in the world in sore need of it. What is missing , then, is our will to act, not the absence of strategic planning and action information.

 When will we stop being so paralyzed, so stuck in our outdated paradigms of concepts and actions ; cease being concerned solely about the mass suffering of only our own group , and get up and get  moving  to transform an entire racist plural America lest the long gray winter arrives?  When it comes to fighting for an authentic racially just plural America , among the concern for justice for all , we must cease being like the deer caught in the headlights in the midst of a freezing  midnight hour,   remaining gullibly  fixated on our own possible demise  with the most unfortunate consequences. Winter may be coming and a long cold one at that.Time to get moving.  Now.

Prof. John H. Stanfield II
Prof. John H. Stanfield II
Director ASARPI: The Institute for Advanced Study of African Renaissance Policies Ideas Mauritius and South Africa former University of Mauritius SSR Chair of African Studies


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