Increasingly across the country, Americans are beginning to have a serious conversation about reparations for African-Americans. And what better place to advance that conversation than Virginia’s Historic Triangle, where the first Africans were brought to these shores against their will in 1619?
“Heal Williamsburg, Heal the Nation” will be the theme of a rally focusing on racial equity and reparations this Saturday, Oct. 3, at 2 p.m. in front of the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg. The event is co-sponsored by the Historic Triangle chapter of Coming to the Table, a national racial reconciliation organization, and Williamsburg Action, a local racial justice group.
This will be an outdoor event. Social distancing and face masks are strongly encouraged.
The word “reparations” comes from the root word “repair.” The objective of reparations proponents is to repair the historical harms caused by two centuries of slavery. Those harms continue to reverberate today, 150 years after emancipation. Stark racial disparities persist in almost every facet of American life – income, wealth, education, health care, housing, criminal justice – all of them rooted in slavery.
Reparations can take many forms and can occur on multiple levels – national, state, local and personal. It doesn’t necessarily mean direct cash payments to individuals, although that is one possibility.
More than a dozen speakers will explore the options at Saturday’s rally. I’ll be among them, telling the story of how I learned about my slave-owning ancestors and set out to connect with descendants of the people they enslaved. The result was my book Uncle George and Me: Two Southern Families Confront a Shared Legacy of Slavery. Profits from sales of the book are donated to a college scholarship fund for those descendants – an example of personal reparations.
I think white Americans who have benefited from our privileged status have a moral obligation to make amends for the sins of our ancestors. Whether you agree or not, you’re invited to become part of the conversation. I hope to see you Saturday.