I need to admit, when I first heard about people asking for reparations for African and Native Americans due to the European Americans who took their liberty and lands, I was very skeptical. My first reaction was to think that there is nobody alive today that was a slave before the civil war. There is nobody alive today when the lands were taken. My second reaction was that it would cost too much.
My thinking on this issue has changed and I thought I would take some time to explain why because I know many of you probably had the same reaction that I had.
I grew up in a white suburb south of Minneapolis. I remember being told that in the past realtors had a line in Minneapolis. People of color would not be shown houses that were south of that line. I’m not sure when that ended. But it had been in effect when Bloomington was built up. So, I grew up with no people of color on the blocks where I lived and very few in my schools. One day I’ll take the time to dig out my old high school yearbook and count minority students in the photos, and I know it will be a very low number.
The lack of diversity extended from just my peers, but also to the adults in my life. My church is doing a book study this summer. We are reading and discussing the book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. She writes about having an African American teacher for the first time in college. In our discussions someone asked if we could remember our first teacher of color. I couldn’t remember one.
I talk about this to let you know that what I know about race relations and people of color is well below the norm in today’s world. It makes me wonder what I missed out on. But I am trying to learn more. I want the aftermath of George Floyd and the Minneapolis riots in 2020 to be more than the aftermath of Rodney King and the LA riots in 1992, more than Michael Brown and the Ferguson riots in 2014, more than Freddie Gray and the Baltimore riots in 2015 and others. I don’t want this to become one of another in a long line of similar historical events that keep repeating. I want real change.
Which brings me back to reparations. I had two objections when I first heard about reparations. The first was that these things all happened long ago in the past and nobody alive has been directly hurt by them. What I’ve been reading about and seeing in streaming videos is that people of color have been hurt and hurt directly. The laws and culture have favored whites over people of color and kept their communities impoverished. White supremacy is ingrained in our culture and our attitudes. People of color have not had an equal opportunity to succeed. This isn’t something that just happened in the days after the Civil War. It’s not something that was just happening in the South. It’s not something that was eradicated when the Civil Rights Bill was passed. It’s ongoing in our culture.
My second objection was the cost. This would be expensive. In fact, there is no way to truly monetize the harm that has been and is being done. But what if we spent a trillion dollars? What impact would that have. What if you spent half of that money on local schools that serve communities of color, so that they’re on an equal footing with public schools in white areas? Schools in areas of poverty have more of a struggle than middle class schools. Teachers ask parents for monetary help with things for the classroom when there are budget cuts, booster clubs fund various items for student activities. Do you think that schools in areas of poverty get as much as a school in a middle-class area? This would not be taking away from the white schools and you’re giving the upcoming generation a better start. They’ll someday grow up and have a positive impact on society. We’d all be better off. I think that this would be a far better use of our money than the tax cut that was given to corporations that was supposed to rev up the hiring and cause everybody’s income to rise but instead was used mostly for stock buybacks that revved up the stock market, but little else.
So, I’ve changed my views on reparations. I guess it’s nice to know that even though I’ve gotten older, I’m still capable of changing my mind.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.