Reparations to African Americans would help heal lasting effects of enslavement

PUTNEY — Dear Becca Balint,

Many congratulations on your recent election to the U.S. House of Representatives. We look forward to your skill, energy, and dedication to making this a country and world that works well for all people. We do recognize that it will take some time for you to get to know your colleagues and the whole culture and system in Washington.

We do want to call your attention to a particular bill that has been there awhile. We urge you to co-sponsor the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (HR 40).

The Putney Friends Meeting is deeply committed to ending all racism, particularly that experienced by African Americans. H.R. 40 will be an important step in that direction. In addition to sponsoring H.R. 40, we encourage you to check out issues of importance to the Congressional Black Caucus.

As Vermonters of primarily European heritage, we know we have much to learn and unlearn. We seek to better understand the lasting effects of enslavement — the continuing injustices and economic, social, and political discrimination.

We see the benefit to ourselves and to the nation to look at our history clearly, recognizing both the ideals that have guided us and the injuries we have inflicted. We are finding that facing our own history is painful and is the only way forward. As a group we have committed to learning as much as possible and to taking actions that will move us closer to ending racism.

In our study we found “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates very helpful. This article details the lasting injustice inflicted on African Americans through the practice of redlining and the ongoing, perhaps more subtle, practices that continue today. We highly recommend it as you continue to shape your thoughts about reparations. It was originally published in The Atlantic Monthly and then included in Coates’ book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.

As a step in this process, we want H.R. 40 to pass and we urge you to become a cosponsor. The bill will “establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and a proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies.”

We believe that now is the time for this essential conversation. The Black Lives Matter movement and growing awareness of racially biased law enforcement and mass incarceration of African Americans is a powerful reminder that equality has not yet been reached.

Although we cannot know what a commission might find, we believe that reparations is about healing ourselves and repairing our relationships to each other as well as recompensing African Americans for past injustices.

We are ready to add this focus to the national discourse, and H.R. 40 is the place to begin. Please join us by co-sponsoring this bill.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates