Reparations is a process of repairing, healing and restoring a people injured because of their group identity and in violation of their fundamental human rights by governments, corporations, institutions and families. Those groups that have been injured have the right to obtain from the government, corporation, institution or family responsible for the injuries that which they need to repair and heal themselves. In addition to being a demand for justice, it is a principle of international human rights law. As a remedy, it is similar to the remedy for damages in domestic law that holds a person responsible for injuries suffered by another when the infliction of the injury violates domestic law. Examples of groups that have obtained reparations include Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust, Japanese Americans interned in concentration camps in the United States during WWII, Alaska Natives for land, labor, and resources taken, victims of the massacre in Rosewood, Florida and their descendants, Native Americans as a remedy for violations of treaty rights, and political dissenters in Argentina and their descendants.
Reparations can be in as many forms as necessary to equitably (fairly) address the many forms of injury caused by chattel slavery and its continuing vestiges. The material forms of reparations include cash payments, land, economic development, and repatriation resources particularly to those who are descendants of enslaved Africans. Other forms of reparations for Black people of African descent include funds for scholarships and community development; creation of multi-media depictions of the history of Black people of African descent and textbooks for educational institutions that tell the story from the African descendants’ perspective; development of historical monuments and museums; the return of artifacts and art to appropriate people or institutions; exoneration of political prisoners; and, the elimination of laws and practices that maintain dual systems in the major areas of life including the punishment system, health, education and the financial/economic system. The forms of reparations received should improve the lives of African descendants in the United States for future generations to come; foster economic, social and political parity; and allow for full rights of self-determination.
Within the broadest definition, all Black people of African descent in the United States should receive reparations in the form of changes in or elimination of laws and practices that allow them to be treated differently and less well than White people. For example, ending racial profiling and discrimination in the provision of health care, providing scholarship and community development funds for Black people of African descent, and supporting processes of self-determination will not only benefit descendants of enslaved Africans, but all African descendant peoples in the United States who because of their color are victims of the vestiges of slavery. This is similar to the Rosewood, Florida reparations package, where some forms of reparations were provided only to persons who descended from those who were injured, died and lost their homes and other forms were made available to all Black people of African descent in Florida.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave “Trade” and chattel slavery, more appropriately called the Holocaust of Enslavement or Maafa,/ Maangamizi was and is a crime against humanity. Millions of Africans were brutalized, murdered, raped and tortured. They were torn from their families in Africa, kidnapped and lost family and community associations. African peoples in the United States and the prior colonies were denied the right to maintain their language, spiritual practices and normal family relations, always under the threat of being torn from newly created families at the whim of the “slave owner.” Chattel slavery lasted officially from 1619 to 1865. It was followed by 100 years of government led and supported denial of equal and humane treatment including Black Codes, convict lease, sharecropping, peonage, and Jim Crow practices of separate and unequal accommodations. African descendants continue to be denied rights of self-determination, inheritance, and full participation in the United States government and society. The laws and practices in the United States continue to treat African peoples in a manner similar to slavery – maintaining dual systems in virtually every area of life including punishment, health care, education and wealth, maintaining the myths of White superiority and African and African descendants’ inferiority.
This is a Swahili term meaning disaster that has been used for a number of years to describe these conditions and has been used most notably in the writings and presentations of Marimba Ani, Ph.D., noted African-centered anthropologist and activist.