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💬 "How Reparations Could Transform The United States"

Code Switch

Photo by Stephen Walker / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Shereen Marisol Meraji
Guests: Erika Alexander, Whitney Dow, Podcast Hosts, ‘The Big Payback’
Category: Society & Culture | 💬 Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[6:23] WD: “I came to reparations after doing a lot of work on race and keep finding that all the stuff that I had on race didn't include me. […] It was all about some horrible racist or some terrible racist crime or whatever it is. I'm like, well, where am I in this? Am I […] avoiding the whole thing?”

[6:49] EA: “I keep looking for an explanation to why my life feels so limited. And it's frustrating for me. […] [The] loss of human potential, that's what happened really for hundreds of years because we stifled and we oppressed those people, we didn't get their real gifts. […] You start to see […] all these invisible barriers in these structures that are working against you and you want to tell that story. I want to tell the story of why these things are out there and then I want to help remove them. If I can't get rid of some of these things by taking my life's journey and exploring and asking why, but also finding remedy, then what the heck am I here for?”

[8:18] EA: The most obvious one [people] say [about me], because she's famous and a celebrity, that she's obviously won the lotto. And I have, but I also have been building [my production company] Color Farm Media, [and] there's less than […] two percent of black female people who've created companies [that are] funded at all. […] That's a loss of potential as far as I'm concerned. I have to work ridiculously hard to raise money to do these things. […] Everyone always wants to make […] a sort of false equivalency. But there are things that black people can literally point to, to say you're not working as hard as me and you're getting the benefit of the doubt.”

[9:10] “When I was coming up as a young actress, the first thing I thought is, wow, this is great. Until I realized I was dark skinned and nappy headed and I was limited by what I could do subtly, even being a female. Again, that's another thing. But I wasn't Scarlett Johansson, so I would never be the ingenue I had. And my own agent said to me, Erica, no one would ever mistake you for an ingenue. […] I can only play foster children, slaves and prostitutes, which I had already done in that order.”

[11:26] WD: “If people say talk about repair and reconciliation, for me as a white person, I don't even think reconciliation is the point. The point is that […] as a white person acknowledging the injury caused by my community and making the restitution. […] I believe that one of the things that stopping reparations and stopping this movement to fully embrace black Americans by white people is that it's this existential threat to the story about ourselves. How […] can we imagine ourselves if we accept that we are the beneficiaries of the system? How can we imagine ourselves if the legacy of what we have is this horrific violence and oppression? Well if you start by making that admission and you start by making restitution, you can then start a new story. It's like apologizing to anybody. Once you apologize, you can move on, I think in the same way that it would be a new beginning for black Americans. It could be a new beginning for white Americans as well.”

[16:52] WD: “I really believe the only way towards a true reconciliation is to create a funded reparations program. And white Americans have to decide if they want to rise with black Americans or fall with them.”

[18:33] EA: “Life is so hard. And then you put race and gender and just human cruelty on it. America is supposed to be different. It would be different if we sold ourselves differently. We didn't. We sold the American Dream. It's a nightmare. Because you can feel so able, so optimistic. And also feel smothered by, again, the loss of potential. The consistent, dark hearts that want to plunge people down for no good reason. So any sort of conversation that authentically or at least honestly wants to approach it is painful.”

[20:13] WD: This horrific story [of slave markets, like one just around the corner of Wall Street], which is really the worst that our country was founded on, it's intentionally not acknowledged. […] The plaque [acknowledging that there once was a slave market] is relatively new. [….] So the fact that here's this thing where […] thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives were destroyed by and passed through. You look what we've done for the 3000 people who were killed at Ground Zero. They have this […] huge, massive memorial […] and here's this little plaque.”

[23:39] EA: “I don't think we're all trying to work to be our best selves, because I don't think there's any incentive in it often. And if you see that 70 million people could vote for an openly racist and evil administration. [….] If you see that people will self sabotage and destroy themselves in order to bring down others, all you have to do is look at the Nazis.”

[27:02] WD: “I always […] get really annoyed about […] these inclusion officers that are everywhere, inclusion and diversity officers, because it basically is sort of admitting that the structure is OK. Inclusion means come on in, transformation is something else entirely. They should be transformation officers. […] And I think that once you really engage this, […] you're going to be changing things in a profound way. And that's what I'm not sure that people are really ready for. They can say defund the police. They can say black lives matter. They can say reparations now. But can they say we want a complete transformation of our society into something that is totally different?”

Rating: 🍎🍎🍎

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 30 min | 🗓️ 02/26/2021
✅ Time saved: 27 min