Video: What Would Reparations for African-Americans Actually Look Like in a Fair Economy?

Ta-Nehisi Coates focused national attention on the reparations debate, but the discussion has since focused largely on police violence. Organizer Ed Whitfield on what comes next.

This article is part of New Economy Week, a collaboration between YES! Magazine and the New Economy Coalition that brings you the ideas and people helping build an inclusive economy—in their own words.


Last May, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations” threw a national spotlight on a debate and a movement that have been ongoing, though largely under the radar, for more than 150 years. Reparations was suddenly a topic of national debate, which tended to focus on the merits of the idea itself and minimized questions of what reparations for African-Americans could actually look like.

In the months that followed, police killings of unarmed African-Americans set off a wave of protest and resistance that swept through Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, Baltimore, and most major cities across the country; catalyzing Black Lives Matter’s growth into a national black liberation movement. But, despite the attempts of many activists and organizers, much discussion of the movement has focused narrowly on police procedures and protocols and not on potential solutions to the systemic racism at the root of state sanctioned violence.

In his work with the Fund for Democratic Communities, the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, and the Southern Reparations Loan Fund, Ed Whitfield has been at the forefront of not just envisioning, but actively building a new economy grounded in justice, democracy, and sustainability.