Toward a Just Future: Anticipating and Overcoming a Sustained Resistance to Reparations



The modern movement for reparations for Black Americans continues to unfold as unprecedented challenges stand at America’s doorstep. In 2020, the United States began to stagger through a global health crisis brought on by COVID-19. The pandemic claimed more than half a million American lives, decimated the economy, and irrevocably changed life as we know it. Simultaneously, the longstanding crisis of racial inequality continued to ravage the nation. Following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement, millions took to the streets to protest violence perpetrated by police against Black people. Worldwide uprisings followed unabated, as people across the globe protested the pervasive and pernicious taint of racial inequality.

In this essay, I consider how these challenges—the global health pandemic and the global uprising against the pandemic of racial inequality—might shape and inform efforts to secure transformational, reparative justice in the future. I do so by imagining the political, legal, and social resistance that might accompany reparations and by applying a racial justice lens to meet it. That requires taking stock of the endemic nature of racial inequality, the cyclical nature of racial progress, and the opportunities for wholesale change brought about by the pandemics of disease and racism. These considerations lead to strategy suggestions for advocates who advance the cause of reparations today: sustaining movements that raise the collective consciousness about racial injustice; supporting ongoing state and local efforts to obtain reparations; and deploying interest convergence to advance wholesale change. By building these strategies into their current efforts, advocates may overcome the anticipated resistance to reparations, ensuring that the advocacy borne of this moment produces a more just future for Black people in America.

Suggested Reading

As America responds to the renewed momentum in the fight for Black reparations, the country must grapple with how to address the full legacy of the land theft and displacement born from slavery.