For #BuildItBackBetter, NationSwell invited Kirsten Mullen, folklorist and writer, and William A. Darity Jr., Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies and Economics at Duke University, to lead us in an exploration of reparations as a solution, focusing on its history, its applications and its challenges. Judge Elaine O’Neill, Chair of Durham, North Carolina’s Taskforce on Racial Equity, joined the panel to discuss her committee’s findings. Aaron Walker of Camelback Ventures moderated.
Here are some of the most compelling expert insights from the digital event.

  • The Homestead Acts are an excellent example of federal policy directly giving assets to white Americans as a way to acquire and sustain wealth.
  • Elaine O’Neal’s experience on the Durham racial reconciliation task force has taught her that “racial equity is an issue of the heart… and racial tensions can be fixed in a manner that allows all of us to flourish.”
  • People can be cynical of “task forces” but the reality is that these types of organized efforts result in exposure (conversations like the one today) and exposure can help change public perception + educate more people about the subject. This leads to more fertile ground for future policy.
  • Support for reparations amongst white Americans has gone from almost non-existent, to slight, to more substantial in a short period of time. There is positive momentum on the front, which is reason to be bold + optimistic.
  • Volunteerism is a powerful tool: Do not underestimate the importance of giving time outside of work. Related, when thinking of systems change, it is also important to get your own house in order both professionally and personally. This means looking at who you are hiring, supporting, working with, befriending, etc. don’t just look at your office, look at your ultimate frisbee team.
  • There are many misconceptions about reparations, and a big one is about guilt. Reparations are not about individual guilt, it is about the culpability of the US Federal Government. The Federal Government is the culpable party when it comes to slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, anti-black police violence, unfair credit + housing markets, etc. Also, no individual contribution or event single state level contribution could meaningfully solve for wealth inequality in the United States. A $10 trillion dollar issue needs to be solved at the federal level.

To watch the event, click here.