Armster, Michelle. The Question of Reparations

Armster briefly discusses the World Conference on Racism and the declining support by governments such and the United States and the United Kingdom. She poses several questions for how restorative justice could address the issue of racism

by Michelle Armster

Michelle is the director of Mennonite Conciliation Service and will be attending the World Conference Against Racism this summer.  

From August 28 to September 7, 2001, the United Nations will conduct the World Conference Against Racism in Durbin, South Africa. The conference will attract people from all over the world- all working against racism within their own context.  

The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, however, are threatening not to provide support for this conference on the grounds that the issue of reparations to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade will be on the agenda. Although the United States government has given as much as $6 million to past conferences, they have only pledged $200,000 for this conference. 

Although the United States government has given as much as $6 million to past conferences, they have only pledged $200,000 for this conference. 

In the conflict transformation field, words such as restorative justice, reconciliation, responsibility and, yes, even reparation are used to describe the desired result, of a transformed conflict. Therefore, how could restorative justice principles be used to open and guide the discussion on reparations? In the United States, how can the principles of restorative justice open and guide our discussion on racism? How do we use them to address the issues that continue to oppress First Nations, African-American and Mexican-American peoples?  

On August 28 there will be world-wide, peaceful demonstrations to protest these governmental attempts to keep information from the public. This is the first challenge. Can this be a start to open up the discussion as people come together, showing solidarity and a willingness to join the struggle?  

Reconciliation without justice lacks integrity. Reconciliation cannot happen until the issue of reparations is addressed.


Conciliation Quarterly Vol. 20, No. 3

Reprinted with permission from Mennonite Conciliation Service.

March 2002

Created by: james
Last modified: 2007/05/02 20:45:38.192000 US/Eastern