On July 14, 2020, the Asheville, NC, majority-white city council (5 white and 2 black) unanimously (7-0) adopted the Resolution Supporting Community Reparations for Black Asheville. The passed motion is posted on our church’s website, uuc-la.org.
The Asheville City Council admitted that through racist systems of enslavement, segregation, and incarceration for more than four centuries, African Americans have been oppressed, subjugated, and
dehumanized. These discriminatory structural policies and practices have resulted in unacceptable inequities and generational traumas. The acknowledgment of systemic racism was the foundation for their call for policymaking and funding for reparations at state and federal levels for the creation of generational wealth in black communities.
The starting point of dismantling racist system is reparations. The egregiousness of the past injustices demands admission. South Africa had to have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where perpetrators admitted their wrongdoings so the nation could grieve together and find ways to move beyond the atrocities of apartheid. Apartheid simply meant “apart,” and it was copied from U.S. segregation.
Four centuries of brutality, inhumanity, and shame were perpetrated for economic gains, so reparation is the only way for us to move forward as a nation. The City of Asheville did not make cash payments to African American residents, but they are spending money in unequal ways to give advantages to African American residents of Asheville.
The reparation is not challenging to do; it just requires moral resolve to act justly. If we take only 0.1% of the U.S. annual budget, we can provide every African American - man, woman, and child - $1,000 per month in reparation payments.
0.1% is all it takes.
There are other options such as African Americans pay no taxes for the next 400 years, or white people pay to double their tax payments for the next 50 years. We can provide African American young people with free college or graduate school education, be paid 10% more than their white counterparts, or pay no sales taxes. There are thousands of ways that can make it all possible without raising taxes.
Some will try to argue that it is unfair to have today’s white people pay for the sins of previous generations’ sins. Still, we have to recognize that today’s white privileges were paid for by the historical denial of opportunities to the black people, so this generation of white experience privileges while this generation on black people experience oppression. The effects of past sins must be addressed before we can move on from racism.
Just as the City Council of Asheville found the courage and moral fortitude to take the first step, we, too, as a church, must take the first steps to undo racism. Standing up and protesting is good, but it is not making a concrete and substantive step to undoing racism. Dismantling takes more than words; it takes action. The first action that we need to take is reparations, and until we do so, we will only blow hot air, and our own words will convict us of hypocrisy and moral weakness.
Let us pay reparations and dismantle racism.