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A new report shows that white people believe that it would be difficult to determine financial payments, among other reasons.
The U.S. has used reparations as a means of acknowledging and amending its role in egregious injustices, such as for Native Americans whose lands were taken or Japanese Americans put in internment camps during World War II. However, the descendants of Africans enslaved have been notably absent from reparative actions, according to a report by Brookings.
While the task of providing reparations seems difficult to many U.S. residents considering the scale of injustice presented by slavery and its aftermath, the report authors—Ashley V. Reichelmann, an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Tech, and Matthew O. Hunt, a professor of sociology at Northeastern University—believe this is a conversation the country needs to have.
Recent polling data documents U.S. residents' general resistance to financial reparation payments to Black Americans as compensation for slavery.
In 2020, 63% of those polled opposed the idea of cash payments with about 30% supporting them. And in 2021, 62% opposed while 38% approved, the report, quoting surveys, says.
Resistance to financial payments is also shaped by gender, education and social class identification; specifically, women, persons with lower levels of education and self-identified middle-class members were particularly opposed to this suggested antidote, the report notes.
Other polling data collected by Hunt and Reichelmann shows that about 45% of those polled are opposed to the idea of apologizing to Black Americans while about 40% are in favor of apologizing.
While the awareness of modern racial inequality continues to grow, there are indications that the robust opposition remains, suggesting that a “racial awakening” may not substantially alter policy views, the report says.
Reasons for Opposition
Some of the most cited reasoning for white Americans’ opposition to reparations includes the hardship of determining the economic value of slavery’s impact alongside the fact that no one directly involved in the practice is still living, the report contends.
Other reasons revolve around the denial of any ongoing legacy of slavery and related concerns about the undeserving nature of prospective recipients of reparations.
Despite these obstacles, Hunt and Reichelmann believe that increasing public support for reparations will likely hinge on appealing to Americans’ shared identities, empathy and sense of democratic citizenship, which will foster a sense of togetherness. This is achievable by finding ways to demonstrate to those most threatened by reparations how they can benefit the entire nation, the authors write.
For more information from the Brookings report click here.
Andre Claudio is an assistant editor at Route Fifty.