The topic of reparations is, as Bernie Sanders noted from the 2016 campaign trail, “divisive.” The notion that the U.S. government should give African Americans payments to make up for the collective sins of slavery is wildly divisive. Yet that was the inspiration for a gathering at one local bar last week, and it has a lot of people talking.
Last Monday evening, a bar in Portland, Oregon held what they called a “Reparations Happy Hour.” Here’s the basic premise. White people were asked not to come. “People of color,” as Fox notes, were given “a symbolic gift” of $10.
“A local activist group, Brown Hope, wanted the event to be a space for people of color in a mostly white city to meet, organize, discuss public policy and potentially plan various actions,” Fox writes.
Slavery was undoubtedly wrong. Yet many people balk at the idea that the government, or anyone else, should pay money to American citizens in the 21st century to compensate for actions dating back to the 17th, 18th, and 19 centuries.
Others contend that reparations should be made for more than slavery. Reparations would compensate for the racism and inequality of of the 20th century, too.
“The economist Robert Browne once estimated a fair value for reparations of $1.4 trillion to $4.7 trillion and wrote that reparations should ‘restore the black community to the economic position it would have had if it had not been subjected to slavery and discrimination’,” Fox adds.
“Part of our history is our grandparents participating in these acts of terrible violence [against black people],” Eric J. Miller, a professor at Loyola Law School, told reporters. “But people don’t want to acknowledge the horror of what they engaged in.”
“The cognitive dissonance of learning that your property is got and preserved on the back of the misery of others is not an incredibly nice thing to live with. So people would rather discount it,” Miller said.
The event in Oregon was spearheaded by Cameron Whitten, a 27-year-old activist who wanted to bring attention to specific conditions in Portland.
“We’re creating a platform to make sure our leadership is being seen and honored,” Whitten explained. “This isn’t just, ‘We’re here to socialize.’ We’re here to do the work. In a place like Portland, where our community is so fractured … our first step is to bring us back together, and then from there organize and mobilize to create policies to create justice in our communities.”
Though the numbers haven’t been publicized, Whitten says the event was funded mostly by white people.
The group plans to hold more of the events, and plans to brand them as a “Reparations Power Hour” to get away from the stigma associated with drinking.