The case for reparations

ACLU, NAACP enlighten residents on economic justice and the wealth gap.

wealth gap
John Tipton with the ACLU talks about reparations during a program at the Dickerson Center.


The reparations discussion is a hot topic in the country.

By definition, it simply means the making of amends for a wrong by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wrong.

The push has been for the U.S. government to pay descendants of former slaves. Enslaving Africans in America started in 1619 and lasted for 400 years. 

On Monday, the Volusia/Flagler American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter sponsored an open town hall forum discussion titled “Talking About Racial and Economic Justice’’ designed to educate residents about reparations. 

‘A debt’ 

The event was held at the John H. Dickerson Community Center in Daytona Beach and was co-sponsored by the Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP. 

John Tipton, local ACLU board member and its Racial Justice Committee co-Chair, addressed those in attendance. 

“Reparations are not designed to beat anybody up, to misplace or put blame on anyone. It is a legal claim. It’s not the right thing to do, but it is a debt. It’s a debt that is owed and must be paid,” Tipton said.

He further added, “People all have their different thoughts, opinions and feelings on the matter.” 

The audience listens during a town hall meeting at the Dickerson Center.

Wealth gap focus 

The forum is part of a lecture series on economic justice titled “The Case for American Slaves.” The next event, a panel discussion, will be at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Ormond Beach Regional Library. 

Tipton shared information from a Duke University study, “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap,” led by authored by professors William Darity, Jr. and Darrick Hamilton along with co-author Antonio Moore. 

The study links the racial wealth gap to the legacy of slavery.

“The goal is to present data showing the racial wealth gap and the legacy of slavery. The case should be made in consistent with data so that we are making decisions based on fact not feelings or opinions,’’ he said. 

Beyond slavery 

The study points to several factors such as African Americans making up 13 percent of the nation’s population but only owning 2.6 percent of its wealth. 

It also points to racial injustices in housing, education, health and voting. 

Tipton also used historical factors of racist practices, including lynchings, the massacre of a thriving Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921; the Jim Crow era, poll taxes, and Black codes. 

Tipton emphasized, “Reparations not just for slavery but for the legacy of slavery. Reparations need to be discussed by economists, historians, clergy, physicians, attorneys.” 

Local NAACP President Cynthia Slater speaks during the town hall (Left). Daytona Beach resident Johnnie Moore makes a comment (Right).

Some myths 

The “What We Got Wrong About the Racial Wealth Gap’’ study also highlights myths that would close the racial wealth gap if Blacks did them more. 

Those include greater education and better work ethic; more homeownership; buying and banking Black; saving more; greater financial literacy; entrepreneurship; emulating successful minority groups; and improved soft skills and personal responsibility.

Another one is that the growing number of Black celebrities proves the gap is closing. 

Some statistics highlighted from the study included: 

  • Blacks make far less than their White counterparts with the same level of education and often less than Whites with less education 
  • Even with more Black entrepreneurs, their businesses often fail due to not having the same amount of access to loans. 
  • Unfair housing practices and social justice trends often disrupt the Black family structure. 

No formal plan 

Social justice organizations across the country like the ACLU and NAACP have put reparations on their agenda. 

“There is no comprehensive or formal plan for reparations but the ACLU has made it clear that they are in agreement with reparations. It’s also a part of our economic justice campaign,” noted Tipton. 

Slater commented, “The NAACP does support reparations for the descendants of former slaves. Former slave owners were paid reparations for freed slaves; however, the freed slaves and their descendants haven’t even had the country acknowledge slavery as a wrong.’’ 

Apology, redress 

Tipton believes reparations can be done in a four-component comprehensive plan that includes acknowledgement, apology, redress and commitment. 

“The U.S. government must acknowledge that a debt is owed, give a formal apology, redress, which is reparations, and fourth is a commitment to never do it again, whether a constitutional amendment or another form,” explained Tipton.

Residents also weighed in on the event and the topic of reparations itself. 

“This event was very informative about the subject. It’s something to build on. I do support reparations. It should be done, but it’s going to be hard to get elected officials to think the way that we think. We have to convince them to make it happen,” commented James Ashley. 

Sherman Doughtry added, “It was good information given out on the topic of reparations. A lot of us here grew up in poverty due to the disparities in the racial wealth gap, which the speaker talked about. Reparations should be done. It’s a way to right a wrong.”



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