Parallel Crossings: Reparations and Reconciliation

It is sensible to declare that the end of reparations is to assist with the efforts of reconciliation. The economic good from such an operation would reinvent the myth of America.[1] A myth previously predicated on a social construct of destruction known as slavery; a myth that used stolen people from Africa to change the landscape of this “extraordinary drama which is America.”[2] Reparations would be a place to start the healing or the change but there must be a clear understanding that it is a “limited remedy.”[3] The idea of reparations is not the summation of reconciliation but a loyal symbol of authentic steps in the right direction.

Many have relegated the simple payment of funds as the answer without asking serious questions about change. The need should be focused more on “righteousness, true social justice and a civilized state of African –Americans in our total quest for freedom than in trying to justify if we are owed something or not.”[4] The question that must be answered is, “can America ever be right for the African-American? Will African –Americans really benefit from the American legal system? Can reparations even be argued fairly in America’s court?[5]” Reparations does appear as the ending solution, but the only way that it becomes a reality is that we first answer such profound questions. The process of answering such questions will ultimately provide an infrastructure for change. Yes the economic issue is serious and needs to be addressed but money without justice is just fashionable poverty.

The mere fact that we must have a dialogue about the necessity of reparations unfolds the issue that we are not civil enough to embark upon reconciliation.[6] When we are able to identify that our neighbor’s pain is just as real as our own pain the process of reconciliation becomes plausible. But if my main objective is to declare that the improvement of the disenfranchised –African-Americans –then the myth of America becomes a reality. James Baldwin denotes this myth:

There is an illusion about America, a myth about America to which we are clinging which has nothing to do with the lives we lead and I don’t believe that anybody in this country who has really thought about it or really almost anybody who has been brought up against it–and almost all of us have one way or another–this collision between one’s image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.[7] (Nobody Knows My Name)

Baldwin suggests that many are consumed with living their own lives so to engage in any form of reparation jeopardizes their particular way of living –change becomes something that speak about but are reluctant to actually participate in the work. This reinforces the notion and the need that the principle of reparations in human affairs requires for those who are wronged and for those who have wronged to participate in the process of reconciliation.[8]


What is the point of getting a large sum of money in a corrupt society?[9] Reparations are useless if the image of African-Americans is not changed. Joseph Boston writes,

As long as America and its counterparts continue to operate under this most delusional of pathologies they must consistently cast their gaze to the East because it is there that it can fulfill the notions it believes about self –its ideals of freedom, equality, justice, democracy, superior morality, “civilisation” and it is by these virtues that it can position itself as savior. The negro, being many things to America, is by mere presence most troublesome as a symbolic representation of all that America is not, juxtaposed to all that it positions itself to be.[10]

Reparations are just mere drops in the bucket if civility lacks in the everyday interactions with each other.

There is a story line in the movie Fly by Night, where the lead actor who plays this flyboy rapper (King Rich) states he wants to make a lot of money. The other rapper in the group is a Pan-African rapper (I tick) who is about activism. They are having a conversation about obtaining wealth through the making of music. Rich is saying how they need to get money and get paid so they can buy all kinds of material things. I tick responds with, “Yeah, we can get all the money that they ever made and then they (white people) will say you need cat pee to buy food…and they will own all the cats.”

My point is that money becomes useless in an uncivil society that still deems African-Americans as quasi-citizens –American enough to work for us not American enough to see the need to extend reparation.[11]

When the opportunity of growth becomes a victim to a process, those who are not in power suffer. The act of throwing money at an issue disconnected from justice leads to more frustration and failure. Reparations and reconciliation from my perspective are two parallel entities that only connect amongst civil people.

Virtues like justice do not create civilizations, they are product of civilizations. Order is not civilizations, true civilizations create order. When all Americans become truly civilized, real justice will occur and then reparations can be properly discussed. But to assume that the high quality of justice can be expressed by, and within, an uncivilized and selfish society made up of competing races is simply immature. [12]


[1] The “myth of America” is a concept that will be explained in further detail.

[2] James Baldwin. Nobody Knows My Name. New York: Vintage Books,1961.,5

[3] Lecky, Robert S., Elliott Wright, and William Stringfellow. “Reparations: Repentance as a Necessity to Reconciliation.” In Black Manifesto; religion, racism, and reparations,, . New York: Sheed and Ward, 1969.,54.

[4] KRS-One. Ruminations. New York: Welcome Rain Publishers,2003.,99

[5] Ibid.,98.

[6] Ibid.,102.

[7] Ibid., Baldwin,153.

[8] Ibid., Lecky and Wright,63.

[9] Ibid., KRS-One,105

[10] This is a taken from Joseph Boston’s blog post called The Dissonance of “Bring Back Our Girls” and African American Pain.

[11] Randall Robinson. The Debt. New York: Plume, 2000.,204

[12] Ibid.,KRS-One,128.

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