Repairing, part 2

Your Journey Group packet for May, on our theme, “Healing,” includes this one:
"Exercise #4: Wrestle with the Call of Reparations. Does racial healing require reparations? Or is it unrealistic? Or both? Whatever your opinion, should we not at least make space for the discussion? Doesn’t refusing that space drive us farther from healing? The reparations debate challenges us with hard questions: What does apology without accountability mean? How can personal reconciliation occur without structural repair? How much of our comfort are we will to sacrifice to heal others’ pain? Are you willing to look honestly at the casualties of your comfort and success? Can we disagree about the efficacy of reparations and still consider each other allies? This exercise invites you to explore the diverse articles below not simply with the question of 'What’s my opinion?' but also 'Where is my resistance coming from?' 'What scares me about this topic?' and 'How is the conversation itself trying to help me heal?' Come to your group ready to share what the below articles taught you about yourself."
What follows provides links to 13 articles, 10 of them from 2019 or 2020. Many of them are 2 or 3 page newspaper columns. One of them pointed out that,
“As of 2016, the average white household had more than 10 times the median wealth of a black household....On average, black households with a head who holds a college degree have two-thirds of the wealth of White households with a head who never finished high school.”
The only long-form journalism on the list is the aforementioned 2014 article by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates particularly focuses on housing policy in the post-war period – because this is a huge part of the story behind that wealth gap. Home ownership is “the greatest mass-based opportunity for wealth accumulation in American history.” And through the 1950s and 60s, blacks faced tremendous obstacles in home ownership. As Coates explains:
“The FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas, rated 'A' indicated 'in demand' neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked ‘a single foreigner or Negro.’ The neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated 'D' and were considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion.”
With banks unwilling to loan – in part because the FHA wouldn’t insure the loan – blacks seeking to buy a house turned to buying on contract. The seller keeps the deed, the buyer accrues zero equity until the final payment, and if one payment is missed, they’re evicted, with no equity, no deed, nothing. It’s like renting only worse, because if the water heater blows, or the roof leaks, the resident has full responsibility for fixing it.

So we’re not talking about the injustices of the 1860s, but of the 1960s. And of the 21st-century. Banks have continued to steer black clients to subprime, predatory loans.
“In 2010, the Justice Department filed a discrimination suit against Wells Fargo alleging that the bank had shunted blacks into predatory loans regardless of their creditworthiness. In 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay $355 million to settle charges of discrimination against its Countrywide unit. The following year, Wells Fargo settled its discrimination suit for more than $175 million. But the damage had been done. In 2009, half the properties in Baltimore whose ownders had been grated loans by Wells Fargo between 2005 and 2008 were vacant; 71 percent of these properties were in predominantly black neighborhoods.”
Racism is not our fault, but it is our responsibility. No one alive today started the inculcation of our thought patterns, assumptions, and implicit biases with the idea of white supremacy – yet all of us, black or white or indigenous or of color -- picked up that influence. That we have that is not our fault. What we do now, is our responsibility.

We’ve been carrying around a wound our whole lives – a color line cutting through our hearts. Those of us with more privilege, may crouch within privilege and try not to think about our wound. We can be forgiven for trying not to think about it -- though that's not the most helpful response. Mindfulness Based Pain Management programs now in some hospitals coach patients with pain NOT to try to distract themselves, but to actually bring attention to the pain. Really focus on it, observe it, get to know it. The result is that less drugging ourselves to mask the pain is necessary.

With reparations we have a way to actually heal – to take real steps toward repairing. That prospect is the most inspiring, hopeful uplifting message I have ever received or could hope to impart. A new country. Full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences. Finally seeing ourselves squarely, and able to face each other squarely. Oh, man, that would be great – and it’s imaginable in ways I’ve never seen. A national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.

It’s been a long toilsome slog – imposed upon the bodies our black, indigenous, and people of color neighbors, but it has also oppressed the oppressors. Fear, and constriction – narrow minds and small hearts adopted as counterproductive defensive strategies have diminished the lives of those who have all the ostensive privileges.

It's been a long, toilsome slog, but I feel like real healing – respite and repair – is at last reachable. Certainly not inevitable, but more possible than it has ever been. It makes my eyes tear, and my heart soar. This generation can do some real repairing of the centuries-long wounds.

We can support H.R. 40, the bill that John Conyers has been introducing every year for many years, in Democratic and Republican administrations. It would set up a commission to study reparations. It wouldn't pay out anything to anyone -- just set up a commission to study the questions. And that very mild proposal hasn't yet made it out of committee.

There are also possibilities for local action. There are ways that we can contribute ourselves to repairing. Our UU congregation in Tulsa joined with other Tulsa congregations to collect money for reparations for the 1921 Tulsa massacre. As UU World reported:
"The $28,048 collected by March was all disbursed to survivors. The plan is to make distributions quarterly if donations on hand total at least $100 per survivor."
I preach this good news today: repairing is possible.

May it be so. Amen.

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