What does it mean to respond seriously to great harm? What if that harm stretches over centuries, from slavery and the Jim Crow era down to the persistent racist injustices and iniquities of the present day?
Catholics and many other justice-seekers believe in reparatory justice as a way to move toward reconciliation and healing. Reparatory justice demands honest reckoning with past and ongoing harms and requires action to repair them. But this process involves painful exploration of the past as well as a lot of waiting. For instance, H.R.40, the bill that would create a commission to study the question of reparations for Black Americans, was introduced in 1989 and has not received a floor vote in Congress. Many people don’t grasp the need for reparatory justice, often noting that slavery was abolished over 150 years ago and that the progress of the civil rights era righted the scales of justice.
This episode explores how the evil of racism compounds from generation to generation and how its impacts are fully on display in both public policy and the lives of Black and brown communities in the United States. Sister of Mercy Cora Marie Billings, a founder of the National Black Sisters’ Conference, reflects on her own family’s history with slavery and the Catholic Church. Deacon Sia Kamara Barbara of the United Church of Christ shares her experiences and how they led to her foundational role in the National Head Start program. And Jarrett Smith of NETWORK Government Relations describes the current prospects for getting federal action on reparations.
You can learn more about reparatory justice, H.R. 40, and this episodes guests in the links below.
- Video reflection from Sister of Mercy Cora Marie Billings
- H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations for Black Americans, is introduced in the new Congress
- Join NETWORK’s Community Conversation for President Biden’s State of the Union address on February 7
- A wider look at the great need for reparatory justice as a response to racism
- More information on the racial wealth and income gap
- Listen to the full-length interview with Deacon Sia Kamara