What Are Reparations and Why Are They a Hot Ticket Item in 2020? | Unpack That

Reparations for slavery is one of the hottest political topics on the 2020 campaign trail. But, who wants them? Who gets them? And why are they important?

First things first: Reparations for slavery isn’t all about getting that bag. It’s part of it, for sure, but it’s also about acknowledging and reconciling a wrong. In the United States, that “wrong” is what some would call this country’s original sin: slavery, and its legacy.


Darrick Hamilton is the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. He says that reparations consists of three components: acknowledgment; restitution (read: securing the bag); and reconciliation.

“We are at a moment where we’re really grappling with our history, again with integrity, to understand that people aren’t poor because they simply make behavioral choices,” Hamilton told The Root.


Early presidential hopefuls like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro and Marianne Williamson have been open to the idea of reparations—a program that experts say could run the country trillions of dollars.

Others, like Cory Booker, haven’t directly endorsed reparations but support programs like “Baby Bonds” that would help the lowest income families regardless of race. Hamilton makes it clear that reparations and baby bonds shouldn’t be conflated.

“Should baby bonds be considered a sort of reparations? Absolutely not,”he said. Hamilton should know—he along with one of his colleagues, came up with the idea. The professor continued: “There are different programs. We need to be addressing social equity with a race conscience, and that’s how I would characterize baby bonds. Baby bonds deals with the gaping disparities around wealth, whether you’re black or white.”

Slavery is something the United States has never collectively confronted. ICYMI: Free black labor built this country. Centuries of slavery, and its aftermath, caused tremendous disparities in wealth, education, health, income and incarceration that are still evident today.


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Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.


weapon-a the first try suffers no trolls

It seems to me that something is missing from this Reparations debate. Although slavery is a concrete thing for which loads of documentation exists, and damages can be calculated, talking about slavery is too narrow.


There are countless things which every one of us can point to, which are at least partly attributable to the fact that African Americans came here as slaves, which lead us to having less wealth and success than white Americans. Redlining, Jim Crow, less access to capital, ineligibility for Government programs, etc, etc, etc.

All that needs to be part of the argument for Reparations. Just a single program like the G.I. Bill -which African Americans were unable to collect- is said to be the biggest contributor to the rise of the modern middle class in American history.

This is what we mean when we say “Reparations”, Bernie...