Reparations for African Americans – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Reparations for African Americans

In the first week of our program, Ray shared some asynchronous content with us in the DCERP Fellows drive. The supplementary reading referenced the Kerner Report which President Johnson ordered to assess and make recommendations for the race-related “riots” that occurred during the summer of 1967. The reading also discussed issues surrounding social justice like wealth/income inequality and health disparities in communities of color. In addition to the reading, Ray also linked a video about the racial wealth gap in the United States. The video covered some of the history of wealth among Black people in America and the long term effects it has had. This video ( really helped explain to me the importance of wealth in society and some of its complexities which was a welcome and important change in understanding for me that went beyond wealth equaling money. Housing discrimination and redlining mean more than not being able to live where one wants; it can lead to less access to quality education, reduced connection to resources, and more. It was also interesting albeit frustrating to see how certain discriminatory practices and inequalities have synthesized to create a racial wealth gap. 

All of this information and some of the previous discussions I’ve had in and outside of the [virtual] classroom made me think about the current conversations surrounding reparations for African Americans. Reparations are defined as the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged. In my introductory African American from last semester, we read a New York Times article written by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the 1619 Project, titled “What is Owed”. To give a brief overview of the article, Hannah-Jones provided a plethora of sources/examples of the injustices that African Americans have faced in the US, shows how these injustices have affected communities, and argues that it is time for reparations for African Americans and what the government should and can do in terms of reparations. There’s been a lot of discussion on how exactly reparations would be given for example what criteria would need to be met or would it be a monetary compensation and if so how much. 

A task I had to complete for my site was taking their learning course that they are trying to market and implement in schools, as a student and give my feedback. In one of the course’s assignments I had to find local articles and do some analysis with those. One of the articles I found was about reparations for African Americans in Detroit ( City Council is exploring the idea of reparations for Detroit’s Africna American residents and the article discusses some of the community-led initiatives like Proposal P which includes creating a reparations task force. I’m interested in learning more about the proposal because I’ve seen a lot of the “Proposal P is a Problem” commercials but I did not know what it was or what changes would be made with the proposal. I’m still not 100% sure about how I feel about the proposal as it has some good (reparations task force, improving water affordability) it also has some questionable aspects (potential bankruptcy?) I plan to have some conversations with friends and family in the city to see what their sentiments are towards the proposal but I think we’ll all agree that the reparations task force would be a bountiful step in the right direction!

1 thought on “Reparations for African Americans”

  1. Hi Maia,

    Reparations are often such a tricky topic to talk about because it’s hard to know where exactly reparations are owed and how to pay them out. Often, when I discuss this topic with people, one of the easier and more onboard forms of reparations is increasing funding and reinvestments in majority-black neighborhoods and businesses, as these neighborhoods are often left to decay. It tends to be a more acceptable form of reparations that people tend to agree with more than not.

    It’s also funny that you mention Proposal P because I recently did a voter registration event where one of my co workers was talking about Proposal P. I personally think it’s good because It is revising the Detroit City Charter (basically Detroit’s constitution) and also talking about a change in policing practices and policies as well as tax policies and other such revisions. I’d like to hear what other people think about this Proposal as well. Anyways, this was a very interesting reflection to read and I hope you investigate more into it.

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