‘A Matter of National Responsibility’

Friday, November 1, 2019

BU School of Public Health

On Wednesday, November 6, the School of Public Health will host the Diversity & Inclusion Seminar “Black Reparations: The ARC of Justice” featuring William Darity, Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy and director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University.

Darity is a leading voice on reparations and testified at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on H.R. 40 in June. “For too long the nation has refused to take steps to solve an unethical predicament of its own making—the problem of the unequal status of black and white Americans,” he said in his testimony. “A policy of reparations is a set of compensatory policies for grievous injustice.”

SPH is the perfect space to take on this argument, says Yvette Cozier, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion and associate professor of epidemiology, who helped plan the event.

“In public health, we do the hard things,” she says. “We have to have a conversation about reparations and not be afraid of where it takes us.”

Cozier noted that the subject is particularly salient to the health and medical science fields, where black people have a long history of serving as subjects of clinical studies, often unwillingly or unknowingly, and with little or no compensation. In dealing with the impact of slavery and injustice, she says, “we have to use an equity lens, especially in public health work, because it informs so much of what we do.”

Ahead of the seminar, Darity discussed the main objectives of reparations and how this monetary compensation would impact the racial wealth gap in the US.

Why do you think the topic of reparations has become part of the national political conversation in recent years?

The conversation about reparations is probably the most extensive one we’ve had at the national level since the Reconstruction Era. I’m not entirely sure why it’s happening now, it was a surprise to me. I didn’t anticipate that we would have major political candidates voicing the term “reparations,” whether or not they’re actually endorsing it.

Can you explain what reparations should achieve?

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