Reparations: the U.S. presidential race

Imagine with me

After the first Democratic presidential debate, I had a thought: What if all candidates except Sen. Kamala Harris threw in the towel for their own candidacy—and put all their fundraising and campaigning resources, policy smarts, and passion into getting Harris elected?


I believe that for the U.S. to become a country that is truly just, democratic, and equitable, reparations must be made to Black folks and the Indigenous people of this land. It is a necessary starting point in addressing the legacy of slavery and genocidal colonization on which this nation is built, and it is necessary to begin to heal the deep wounds embedded in the nation’s psyche.

Lots of people have ideas on what reparations might look like—including Harris herself. I am in favor of a comprehensive system that truly addresses the harm caused to generations of Black and Indigenous folks. I know that won’t happen during this presidency. But I think it’s important for us to exercise our imaginations about what reparations could look like in the meantime.


I should say here that I agree with many of the Democratic candidates’ positions and disagree with as many. I know that our work as a movement for social and climate justice will not be over once we get a Democrat—even a Black woman—in the White House. We will still have a very long way to go.

That said, I would be over the moon if Harris became president. I’ve always admired her integrity, intelligence, and compassion. And although I’m sometimes impatient with her pragmatism on issues that I think need a more radical approach, I can see how her approach could get a whole lot of shit done. And I know we would need to continue to work to keep her accountable, as we would with any president.

Image description: Sen. Kamala Harris standing at a podium with a microphone, smiling. She is wearing a black suit and a double-strand pearl necklace. The sign on the podium says “California Democrats State Convention.” Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, creative commons.

Just imagine what would happen if all 25 candidates and the whole Democratic National Committee put everything into Harris’ campaign. If the current candidates, particularly Biden, Warren, and Sanders went around the country talking with their supporters about the ways a Harris presidency would make their lives better—and meaning it. If the DNC amplified her voice and perspective through all their channels, with all their resources. 

Just imagine how they could build a kind of unified focus and power that the left has only dreamed of in recent times. (And just maybe it’d inspire House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to step aside and support Rep. Ayanna Pressley, or  Rep. Ilhan Omar, or Rep. Gwen Moore, or Rep. Barbara Lee, or any of the other amazing Black women in the House to be Speaker.)

Of course any political pundit would dismiss this idea as utterly foolish. But I am interested in the power of our collective imagination to move far beyond what talking heads and pundits believe is possible or practical. I believe that, as adrienne maree brown has said, “what you pay attention to grows.” I believe that visioning and visualizing the world as we want it to be is the first step to creating that world.

So imagine with me, how such a move by the Democratic candidates and establishment would build incredible power, would demonstrate a kind of moral force and authority we need to get the current occupant out of the White House. How it would get a powerful and smart woman into the White House. How it would be a step toward this country coming to terms with our shameful history and to right the wrongs of the colonizing and enslaving ancestors of this country. How it would be a step toward the liberation of all of us.

How are my gifts my responsibility?

Due to a technical glitch/Mercury retrograde, some of you did not get the last edition of the newsletter in your inbox. If that’s you, I invite you to browse on over and check out the essay that meditates on the concept of our gifts and our responsibilities being different sides of the same coin, as Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about in her amazing book, Braiding Sweetgrass.


What else I’m reading/listening to/thinking about:

Re-humanizing immigrant communities in the age of Trump: 5 language practices. If radical imagination has the power to move us toward a different kind of future, language has the power to shape it. Radical Copywriter Alex Kapitan’s latest post investigates the ways Trump is using dehumanizing language—and how we can counter it. It is an important and timely—not to mention beautifully written—piece.

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