Reparations are a way of making the country whole, by partially remedying the inherited inequalities that still plague African Americans in this country and in our city.

The victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law have the right to a remedy. Remedies that bring with it a public apology, including acknowledgement of the facts and acceptance of responsibility.

Victims are defined as “persons who individually or collectively suffered harm” as well as “the immediate family or dependents of the direct victim.” Thus, evolving international law requires apologies to victims and their direct family members for gross violations of their human rights.

The Idea of the American Dream

Central to the idea of the American Dream lies an assumption that we all have an equal opportunity to generate the kind of wealth that brings meaning to the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” boldly penned in the Declaration of Independence. The American Dream portends that with hard work, a person can own a home, start a business, and grow a nest egg for generations to draw upon. This belief, however, has been defied repeatedly by the government’s own decrees that denied wealth-building opportunities to Black Americans.

Today, the average white family has roughly 10 times the amount of wealth as the average Black family. White college graduates have over 7 times more wealth than Black college graduates. Making the American Dream an equitable reality demands the same systems that denied wealth to Blacks restore that deferred wealth through reparations to their descendants in ways that will close the Black-white racial divide. Reparations should come in the form of wealth-building opportunities that address racial disparities in education, housing, and business ownership.

We Have Yet to Be Compensated

The Governmental system; National, state and local; has yet to compensate descendants of enslaved Black Americans for their labor. Nor have those government systems atoned for the lost equity from anti-Black housing, transportation, and business policies. Slavery, Jim Crow segregation, anti-Black practices like redlining, and other discriminatory public policies in criminal justice and education have robbed Black Americans of the opportunities to build wealth (defined as assets minus debt) afforded to their white peers.

A Lingering Legacy

Given the lingering legacy of slavery on the racial wealth gap, the monetary value we know that was placed on enslaved Blacks, the fact that other groups have received reparations, and the fact that Blacks were originally awarded reparations only to have them rescinded provide overwhelming evidence that it is time to pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved Blacks.

The moral justification for reparations stands on its own.

Dr. Bradford M. Lilley