The second season of the B’More Human Series begins in October
Last year, the B’More Human series explored the legacy of racial injustice, as well as its impact on racial disparities in wealth and health outcomes. The continuing impacts, both social and economic, of 250 years of chattel slavery; of 100 years of Jim Crow; of racist zoning laws and housing policy; of redlining and blockbusting; of white flight; of inequal access to health care, education, and community resources such as recreation centers and parks, are well-studied.
We will begin our new season of B’More Human by asking, “What will we do about it?” What do we owe and to whom, and how should payment be remitted?
What are reparations?
The national conversation around reparations is not new, and many approaches to reconciling racial inequities have been proposed. Put simply, reparations are any act or process, something done, or money paid, to make amends or compensate for a wrong or injury. In the context of racial justice, this can take the form of direct cash payments to individuals or families who have been directly or indirectly impacted by racist practices and policies, or it can mean programs intended to act locally, nationally, or internationally to address those inequities, such as grant funds, job development programs, or scholarships. In the Report of the Task Force to Study Reparations from the 216th General Assembly (2004), the Task Force wrote,
From a Christian perspective, reparations is not so much about assigning blame to individuals or groups of people as it is about recognizing that “we the people,” citizens of the United States, are sometimes found culpable for the harm done to others because of our government’s laws and policies and our social practices. It is for those times that we must, as a nation and as a church, repent of our sins against our sisters and brothers, diligently attempt to repair any breech in relationship that has been caused, and do our best to redress any and all injustices visited upon innocent people.
Why do we care?
As Christians, we believe that we must confess and repent for our sins, not only those that we commit individually, but those that we commit collectively as a church and as a society. Through this process of confession and repentance, we find forgiveness, healing, and renewal. Returning to the Task Force Report:
Reconciliation implies repair. As followers of Jesus Christ, we, of all people, should be willing to compensate those whom we have harmed. Our verbal and written confessions, while important, are far less than adequate means of repairing the harms done, restoring the losses, and reconciling the relationships that have been broken. Concrete steps are required to produce the quality of healing that we so desperately want and need.
We are called to bold action, for as Kelly Brown Douglas wrote last year in Sojourners, “For faith communities, reparations must not be only an effort to compensate for past harms, they must also chart a pathway to a just future. Otherwise, reparations become little more than a salve for white guilt while the sin of white supremacy continues to thrive.”
In this first session, we will hear from two speakers, Rev. Canon Christine McCloud and Ms. Christian Brooks. Rev. McCloud comes from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, which last year committed $1M for a seed fund on reparations. Ms. Brooks is the PCUSA’s domestic policy expert and lobbyist for HB 40, the Reparations bill introduced before Congress. We are excited to hear from these two speakers on how we as Christians, as a Ministry Group, and as a Presbytery, can heed the call to repair the continuing harms of racial injustice and inequality.
About the Speakers
The Rev. Canon Christine McCloud
Canon for Mission, The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
The Rev. Chris McCloud came to Maryland in October 2018 from the Diocese of Newark where she was the Archdeacon for Administration and Formation; Co-Chair of Namaste Anti-Racism committee; a member of the Standing Committee; Co-chair of the Anti-Bullying Task Force; a member of the Mission Strategy Committee; chair of the Reparations Task Force; and founder and Executive Director of Turning Point Community Services, Inc., a non-profit agency providing emergency housing and supportive services to homeless woman and their children.
Associate, Domestic Poverty and Environmental Issues
Office of Public Witness – Washington, PCUSA
Christian Brooks, as the domestic representative in PCUSA’s Washington Office, is an expert on the PCUSA perspective on reparations. She also serves as the PCUSA’s lobbyist for HB 40, the Reparations bill in the US House of Representatives.
- “Report of the Task Force to Study Reparations,” 216th General Assembly, 2004.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014.
- Nibs Stroupe, “Understanding reparations: Making amends for wrongs is a spiritual issue,” Presbyterians Today, April 2020.
- Nikole Hannal-Jones, “What is Owed,” The New York Times Magazine, June 2020.
- Kelly Brown Douglas, “A Christian Call for Reparations,” Sojourners, July 2020.
- Leslie Scanlon, “Why the talk of reparations? Why now?,” The Presbyterian Outlook, October 2020.
- David Staniunas, “A Call for Reparations,” Presbyterian Historical Society Blog, February 2021.