Remaining neutral not an option on reparations

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In a recent newspaper article, “Poll: Most Americans oppose reparations for slavery,” a white person said, “None of the black people in America today are under the slavery issue. ... [using taxpayer money] would be unfair to me. My ancestors … never asked for anything.” I have no doubt this person firmly believes this is true, but because this was me a couple of years ago, I know it is not.

I’m a white Yankee who was surprised when I moved to Virginia in 1972 to find that the Civil War was still being fought. I believed then that, because I was from the North and my ancestors did not own slaves, I could stay on the sidelines.

But I have learned that I’ve been an unwitting beneficiary of white privilege. Decisions were made and policies established on my behalf because my skin is white and those same opportunities have been denied to others because theirs is not.

White people citing fairness might benefit from learning of unfair historical restrictions that people of color have been living with for generations.

These include black veterans being denied access to the GI Bill, redlining of nonwhite neighborhoods and urban renewal targeting successful black communities. There is much more, and none of it happened by accident; it was deliberate.

This didn’t happen only in the South but from California to Virginia and from Michigan to Florida. For those who would like to know more, I recommend reading “The Color of Law,” by Richard Rothstein.

No one can remain on the sidelines. The inequities of social constructs of the past diminish us all.

Perhaps the larger question should be reparations for years of unfavorable business practices, inequitable housing opportunities and the prevention of wealth building by families of color.

Redressing the balance seems fair to me.

Karla Westfall Hunt.


Receive daily news emails sent directly to your email inbox

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.