This Monday past, a group of activists united at the Backyard Social tavern for the inaugural “Reparations Happy Hour.” Funded primarily by white donors whom agreed with the notion and their own privilege, the event was open only to people of color — each guest receiving a $10 bill at the door.
Social justice group Brown Hope was behind the event, advertising via a poster that circulated on social media as reported by The Daily Mail. The poster is colorful, bold in print, and advertises the event as being promoted by Brown Hope and hosted by Backyard Social. According to the same source, more than 40 people were in attendance for the event, and more than 100 donors had contributed to the pool of money to be drawn from.
“Reparations for black, brown, and indigenous people. Paid for by white folks.”
Blavity quotes lead organizer for Brown Hope’s “Reparations Happy Hour” first event, Cameron Whitten.
“The idea of reparations is: How do we recognize pain, harm and injustice, and provide an outlet for healing? How did we recognize the emergency of inequality?”
The first event was a major success, and Whitten plans on hosting a monthly “Reparations Happy Hour.” While white people weren’t allowed to participate for obvious reasons, there were seven white volunteers on hand to ward off white nationalist threats.
“I’ve seen daily and monthly what it’s like to live in a place like Oregon, which has a spectacular history of creating policies to be a white, Bohemian utopia. If folks are saying they want black, brown and indigenous people here, we’re calling on them to pay for that to happen.”
Whitten is not the only voice calling for increased attention to the possibility of reparations. Prominent public intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in support of racial reparations for The Atlantic in 2014. Opponents of the notion in the public discourse include notable black American economist Thomas Sowell and National Review writer Kevin D. Williamson, also a person of color.
Reparations in this context generally refer to a financial repayment from white Americans to black and indigenous Americans as both a figurative and literal apology and acknowledgment of their historical and ongoing privilege, and as ABC’s 20/20 reports, it is still very much a heated debate. Reparations are both a contentious topic of discussion more generally and also in the historical sense, from whether or not the Treaty of Versailles pushed a resentful Germany into Nazism and predicated World War 2, to the more recent reparations offered to Holocaust survivors and the parallels being drawn between their treatment and the American history of slavery.
A YouGov poll from 2014 indicates that the racial divides are quite deep and difficult to cross on the issue of racially based reparations, with only 6 percent of white Americans supporting cash payments to descendants of slaves, and 59 percent of black Americans in favor by contrast. When the question shifted to a payment in the form of increased educational and job training programs, 19 percent of white Americans were in support, compared to 63 percent of black Americans.
Social media furor has begun to erupt surrounding the event and, perhaps predictably, Whitten and Brown Hope have both become the focus of a reinvigorated debate as to the nature of racial reconciliation in America and what the best method might be to help heal a long-standing and painful divide.