Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Yesterday I along with Rev. Jackie Taylor, General Presbyter of Baltimore Presbytery, lead a group of 61 mid-council leaders from across the country on the topic of reparations. We used the Atlantic article The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It can be found here https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
Our conversation taught us that reparations is a difficult topic to grasp because the range of victims is so broad, and the number of hurts is so many. A conversation on reparations for African Americans will drift out of its lane to include native Americans, Japanese Americans, LatinX, and Jewish Americans. Even when only focusing on African Americans, we learned that the Black community cannot be painted with the same broad brush that provides the same solution for everyone.
Some key questions include, what does a plan for reparations look like? What has been lost? Who are the victims? Who are the perpetrators? What is owed? What are possible sources for renumeration? Combine these questions with the reality of our dual society- one white and one Black, and quickly power dynamics become part of the conversation. And just as quickly a reparations conversation turns into charity, handouts, and power-over one another.
What would it mean if DRAP (Dismantling Racism and White Privilege) lead this conversation within the presbytery in 2021? So much can be learned just by having the courage to talk with one another about such a sensitive topic. Coates writes that just having the conversation, “We can learn about our particular heritage, history, and standing in our community and in this country.” A conversation on reparations is an opportunity to etch out more of our identity. It is a chance to see the truth of who we are and how we are perceived by others.
Some concrete ideas for reparations did come from our conversation yesterday. These include making sure every African American pastor receive full board of pensions benefits, having two congregations- one white and one Black exchange budgets, retiring loans and debts for African American congregations, seek to hire African Americans as leadership staff in churches and presbyteries, and create a different path for African Americans in the ordination process.
The mid-council leaders are committed to reading, learning, and sharing ideas and experiences. But each presbytery has its own context and Giddings-Lovejoy is further down the line of progress than most. From the good work of the Apology, DRAP is growing and learning to lead this presbytery is fruitful anti-racism conversations that will continue to produce healthy results for everyone.
Rev. Craig M. Howard