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The debt is incalculable. The repair is necessary. And the harm, the trauma, the violence hasn’t, for one second, stopped. From Black Twitter to the stage of the presidential debate, everyone has an opinion on reparations: what it is and what it isn’t, who is it for, what does it look like and most popularly, is it owed to Black people in America? 

Many, including we in The Movement for Black Lives, believe the answer to the latter is “Yes!” While we  agree that a debt is owed, grappling with the other questions demands deep intentional conversation, rigor, resources, and leadership. 

This past weekend, in commemoration of Queen Mother Moore Day, the Movement for Black Lives released it’s #ReparationsNow Toolkit. Our goal in creating this toolkit is to provide a foundational definition for what reparations is and advance our argument that reparations for slavery and continued oppression of Black people is essential. We hope the toolkit will support organizers seeking reparations at the local, national, and international level and advance our collective struggles for Black liberation.

All descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States are owed reparations for the devastating and genocidal harms of colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade and the institution of chattel slavery in this country. Reparations must include full compensation for stolen lives, labor, children, health, well-being, sexual, gender and reproductive autonomy, culture, language, and spirituality, and for torture, rape, and other forms of physical and sexual violence flowing from the institution of chattel slavery. These harms were not only perpetrated and sanctioned by the U.S. government and slaveholding families, but also by corporations, educational, religious, and philanthropic institutions that have profited off of the labor, bodies, and lives of Black people. 

Reparations must take as many forms as necessary to equitably address the multiple injuries caused by the transatlantic slave trade and chattel slavery. But reparations isn’t only about the incident of slavery and the terror inflicted on people, now our ancestors. Slavery has a brutal afterlife. Reparations are owed for that afterlife and for the continued discrimination, ongoing terror and systemic theft that Black communities in this country experience and that white families, corporations and institutions often profited from.  For example, between 1971 and 1992, Chicago police commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command tortured more than 120 Black men and women during interrogations. Detectives used electric shock, suffocation, beatings, Russian Roulette, rape, and denial of food, water, and bathrooms to obtain confessions, which were then used to secure criminal convictions and severe sentences, up to and including the death penalty. 

The state-sanctioned violence and police torture, segregation and racial terror of the Jim Crow era, housing discrimination and “redlining,” and the ongoing effects of racial segregation, discrimination, and structural exclusion which represent ongoing impacts and harms of slavery have not yet ceased or been remedied.

We also recognize that anti-Black immigration policies and practices, and the harms flowing from them, are both rooted in slavery and part of the ongoing afterlives of slavery. The practice of chattel slavery in the United States marked all Black people, regardless of whether they are direct descendants of Africans enslaved in the United States, for dehumanization, violence, structural exclusion, and discrimination. 

So, we also call for reparations for all Black people in the U.S. who have been subject to post-slavery policies and practices representing a continuation of harms inflicted in the context of chattel slavery. This includes family separation, state sponsored sterilization and medical experimentation, mass criminalization and incarceration which replaced slavery and continues to perpetuate  the “new Jim Crow,” and for the violence, institutionalization, discrimination and structural exclusion. We believe that if this country continues to refuse to assess, account for and take steps to repair the generations of harm and exploitation, it is destined to repeat and perpetuate similar harm and discrimination. 

The Vision for Black Lives Policy Platform includes the following demands:

1. Reparations for the systemic denial of access to high quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all Black people (including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people) to lifetime education including: free access and open admissions to public community colleges and universities, technical education (technology, trade and agricultural), educational support programs, retroactive forgiveness of student loans, and support for lifetime learning programs.

2. Reparations for the continued divestment from, discrimination toward and exploitation of our communities in the form of a guaranteed minimum livable income for all Black people, with clearly articulated corporate regulations.

3. Reparations for the wealth extracted from our communities through environmental racism, slavery, food apartheid, housing discrimination and racialized capitalism in the form of corporate and government reparations focused on healing ongoing physical and mental trauma, and ensuring our access and control of food sources, housing and land.

4. Reparations for the cultural and educational exploitation, erasure, and extraction of our communities in the form of mandated public school curricula that critically examine the political, economic, and social impacts of colonialism and slavery, and funding to support, build, preserve, and restore cultural assets and sacred sites to ensure the recognition and honoring of our collective struggles and triumphs.

The Movement for Black Lives demands that reparation must include (but are not limited to):

1. Compensation for the direct value of labor extracted, the value generated with the profits of labor extracted over time, and for harm and trauma inflicted;

2. Investments in trusts, infrastructure, and services for Black people, including community trusts for scholarships, purchase of land, creation of Black institutions, and investment in new and existing institutions serving Black communities that are accountable to and effectively meet the needs of Black communities, and do not further contribute to surveillance, criminalization, and punishment of Black people; 

3. Free universal health care, including mental health care, and access to multiple forms of healing to address ongoing traumas of the ongoing legacy of slavery; universal childcare, and other entitlements tailored to continuing harms of slavery and its aftermath. 

As a country we are destined to repeat the harms of the past if they are not addressed and repaired now, and the harms that have been done to Black people have never been adequately addressed. The time to join the fight for reparations is now!