Though activists around the country have been fighting for reparations as a form of direct compensatory payments to slave descendants, it’s been difficult getting the rest of the country on board. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that overall, only 29% of Americans believe the government should pay cash reparations to slave descendants. Ambivalence by the public has prompted many lawmakers to take a more creative approach, hoping to funnel resources into programs meant to economically prop up the Black community. Universities are also beginning to hop on the bandwagon. Nearly 60 institutions have joined Universities Studying Slavery, a Virginia-led association, to research their ties to slavery and brainstorm what action should be taken to make amends.
“I think that many of these initiatives, particularly the steps that are being taken by seminaries or colleges and universities, seem to be trying to bring their own complicity into direct contact with individuals who they can identify as direct victims,” said William Darity, a professor of public policy at Duke University and author of From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. “I think that’s a mistaken approach. This whole issue of the impact of white supremacy on Black Americans is not a matter of individual or personal guilt. It’s a matter of national responsibility. And so these piecemeal efforts, I think, push us back to this notion that what’s the stake here is whether or not somebody’s personal guilt is absolved. And I think that’s absolutely the incorrect way to approach this.”