The April 16 “Local View” column, “Reparations for sins of long ago just not realistic,” calls for a response.

It argued that the injustice to Black people (slavery) began and ended long ago, that most current Americans have no relation to the perpetration of that harm, and that we therefore should not be “disadvantaged” in order to rectify this supposedly long-gone harm.

The harm that needs amends is intimately related to, but far more than, slavery. It is 400-plus years of policy that specifically disadvantages people of color: slavery, Jim Crow, voting suppression, urban development, redlining, discrimination in VA housing benefits, and unequal and unjust policing, to name only some. Results: inequities in wealth, health, and opportunity that continue to cause racially specific harm to this day.

Reparations are not about punishing anyone for old or current sins. They are about correcting the injustices that grow from those sins, exist presently, and will continue unless and until policies that are race-specifically harmful are ended and amends are made.

These racial harms were created by the state in affirmative policies or inaction in the face of unjust treatment by private entities. The correction must be governmental as well; this is the only way to reach the scale necessary.

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We are indeed all on the hook for fixing this. It cannot be an injustice to end inequitable policies nor to redress the harms done.

The column ended this way: “(Reparations’) consequence will be discriminatory … promoting one group of people at the expense of another.” Wrong! Inside out. Redress (including reparations) would be the end of the demoting of one group of people to the advantage of another. I urge the column’s writer and other white people who agreed with what he wrote to reconsider their understanding of racism and to nurture their compassion and love of justice.

Michael Grossman


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