Reparations Image: A black woman with eyes closed stands over a background of open fields, a tribal statue, and a donkey

Reparations are a tool for repair. They are not solely about monetary compensation; they also have to do with the process of healing and restoring dignity and fundamental human rights.

At its core, reparations deal with divesting from systems created to perpetuate harm.

Reparations have long been a demand by social movements. There are a few ways to understand the concept: payback for historical harms, redistribution of resources, and the construction of new and equitable institutions to administer a better world. Ultimately, the demand for reparations is a demand for political change.

Reparations have been proposed in different ways and needs to happen at multiple scales. There is the well-known Reconstruction-era call for “40 acres and a mule,” which called for the land reclaimed from Confederates to be distributed to formerly enslaved Black people in the US—a promise that was never kept. Current calls for cancelling the debts of countries in the Global South are also an effort to repair the political and economic harms of colonialism.

For reparations to meaningfully transform the world, political decision-making must also change. Democratic forms of governance such as participatory budgeting and public ownership of land and utilities are concrete and constructive ways to change the ways that racial capitalism has shaped the world as we know it.