Lets Talk About Reparations

Craig in AlaskaBlog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


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

 

 

 

 

5 Responses to “Lets Talk About Reparations”

  1. Bill Tucker on

    Reparations should have forward-looking goals, most consequential, the public schools. As much as 50% of resources should be invested in renovating urban school buildings, attracting promising students to teaching in urban schools, developing curricula for public service disciplines, coordinating relationships between K-12 schools and professional educational schools, and upgrading broadband in disadvantaged communities. Reparations should be constructive, not
    Compensatory.

    Reply
  2. Clyde Crumpton on

    Thanks Craig for your leadership. Much of this in depth dialogue and subsequent developments have taken place under your tenure.
    I appreciate Bill Tucker’s comments and that reparations should be constructive, with developmental education at the forefront and the aforementioned resources to support it. In addition, education must also be intentional about reporting the truth of African-American history for everyone to understand why constructive reparations are crucial to the survival of the intentionally under-served and over-incarcerated Black community, and why African-Americans are targets of America’s hatred, which has now become self-inflicted. Everyone needs to understand the “Why”.

    Reply
  3. Barbara G Willock on

    Having spent the past three months in conversation with Bill Tucker, I highly value his comments and reference to “constructive” reparations. And I am so very glad to see Clyde weighing in on this. Second has been working to have conversations about racism during the time I’ve been participating with the congregation. They have all been good.

    That said, as I wrote Travis and Dave Burgess yesterday, I am about done talking with white folks about how to fix the problems white folks cause black folks. I long for the opportunity to listen to my Black sisters and brothers talk about what help looks and feels like. And to join them in making the change that is necessary. One of the things I value about being a Presbyterian is the ways we are trained to be leaders and have been leaders in our churches, our communities and our nations. This is one arean where I believe the white Presbyterians need to listen and take direction.

    Reply
  4. James Willock on

    I agree with the blog and the responses. What is striking to me is that James Forman’s 1969 Black Manifesto that called for $500 million in reparations was both constructive and forward-looking. $500 million 1969 dollars would equate to $2.8 billion today but the tragedy is that we have squandered 50+ years only to come to the same realization about what reparations should look like. More than that, some of us work actively to bring cases to the Supreme Court trying to dismantle affirmative action and voting rights and legalize discrimination in the name of protecting individual “freedom”. I hope we can begin the difficult but necessary conversations and work to become the “repairers of the breach” that God in our Advent scriptures calls us to be.

    Reply
  5. Diane McCullough on

    Craig, thank you for this blog. I agree with all of the comments so far and especially relate to Rev. Crumpton’s statements about telling true and complete history. In the last two weeks I have attended sessions sponsored by FOCUS St. Louis and Washington Un. Social Policy Institute (among others) on the forthcoming region-wide plan entitled “STL 2030 JOBS PLAN”. This is a comprehensive drive to build an infrastucture for jobs that will affect outcomes for education, health and the environment. I would like to see the Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy formally join this effort. There will be opportunities for many action minded Presbyterians to take part.

    Reply

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