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Broderick Greer: “No reconciliation without reparations”

Broderick Greer: “No reconciliation without reparations”

Broderick Greer, a senior at Virginia Theological Seminary, recently delivered an address at the College of William and Mary entitled “No Reconciliation Without Reparations.” In the wake of many highly publicized shootings and the “Black Lives Matter” movement, Greer writes:

To say, “Black lives matter”, then, is more than a rallying cry. It is a theological claim, a God claim, a deeply faithful claim. It is saying that Jesus is present in, with, and through the suffering bodies of our own day and that the wounds of crucifixion are the wounds of Walter Scott and Michael Brown. Therefore, to dismiss or ignore the people lynched by police terrorism and brutality is to ignore the broken and fragile body of Jesus Christ. To say “black lives matter” is to resist the insidious temptation of white supremacy, the temptation to minimize and trivialize black suffering or any suffering not endured by white people. It is bringing into stark relief the difficult reality of terrorism inflicted on black bodies on this continent since 1619, six and a half miles from where we stand in this very moment.

Now, a word about “racial reconciliation”. It has a nice rhetorical ring to it, doesn’t it? And my friends, I am happy to read and engage the buzz around this phrase. But first, we must be willing to do the hard work of defining reconciliation, banned its use, dispel the myth that this work of reconciliation is a “two way street”, and remind people that reconciliation can’t take place when a part of the populace is being systematically erased by white supremacist law en- forcement, modern day slave patrols.

Therefore, I would caution you, like I must caution myself, that reconciliation does not come without reparations. And, you can’t reconcile something that was never conciliatory. I repeat: Reconciliation does not come without reparations and you can’t reconcile something that was never conciliatory. Now, it would be nice to go on and on about the utopia we so desperately want, but you can leave that for the birds.

At the center of the season of Easter – which is being celebrated for the next forty-three days in Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic Churches – is the resurrected body of Jesus. It is God mending and healing the breeches of human history. It is God making possible what had before been impossible. It is black people, white people, Indigenous people, Latino/as, Asian people, and everybody else taking to the streets of our cities, towns, and villages to make the radical claim that black lives matter. And as we march on the streets, tweet on our phones, confront apathetic legislative bodies, awaken campus communities, and continue bringing the value of black life to the public square, we are practicing resurrection…

We are imperiled if we cannot recognize the cross of Jesus for what it is: an instrument of torture transformed into an instrument of love; a sword made into plowshares; a spear made a pruning hook. And as you know, this transformation does not occur overnight. It is the slow, vulnerable work of ordinary people, animated by the wild, dancing, contagious, spontaneous Spirit of Liberation. And the difficult, arduous task is ours – white, black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian – to muster the strength to realize we are already Dr. King’s Beloved Community. That law enforcement terrorism ends when we take guns out of the hands of xenophobic police. That another world – where love reigns – is possible.

Posted by Weston Matthews


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Christopher Johnson

You folks might want to hold back your pompous sermonizing until you actually understand how things work around St. Louis County, Missouri.

I live here and Philip Snyder is quite right; the 90-some-odd municipalities that exist in the County make their money off things like traffic offenses because they’re too small to have businesses of their own that they can tax. I’ve faced it here in Webster Groves and I imagine that a lot of other people here have dealt with it in a lot of other towns hereabouts.

Cynthia Katsarelis

I think, Philip, that your theological conundrum can be cleared up. The trespasses are ongoing.

It is a bit colonial of you to expect black people to live by your theology of forgiveness while there is ongoing oppression.

Also, JC Fischer nailed it with the forest and tree analogy. Those trees have served as excuses to avoid the Evil Forest from which we all need to be delivered. That will be the coming of Kingdom when finally it is “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Rev Andrew Gentry

We as a nation have never been honest about our history nor have we taught an honest history to our children. We are NOT the new Zion nor are we the “city on the hill” nor the bastion of liberty. We have been from the very beginning a country and later a nation whose foundations have been built on greed and ego. Slavery was an economic decision and system as much as racism is today. The American flag flew over slavery and the resulting oppression of the African American and the genocide of the Native People long before and after the battle flag of the Confederacy. Until we replace the National Religion of America which is the Golden Calf and until we acknowledge the real history of this country no amount of debate will change the status quo. Reconciliation is absolutely impossible without first confessing the sins past and present in spirit and truth.

John Bennett

The confusion for me is that Greer doesn’t really define reparations well. We white readers have a hard time imagining what he means. I wonder if it is more clear to readers who are people of color.

At the risk of being really off-base, here’s my limited white man vision of what reparations might be: building and funding high-quality, comprehensive schools and family service institutions in poor, underserved neighborhoods for people of color, with at least double the investment that we provide for our white suburbs, until the day that white and black Americans stand on equal footing. At the same time we must revamp the social welfare safety net so it is no longer a subsistence prison for those in need.

I am a white social worker and have worked in inner city institutions my whole career. I can say from first-hand experience that 500+ years of racist oppression has stressed generations of families of people of color, especially African Americans, to the point where its going to take an unimaginable amount of nurturing to give us all the level playing field that has never been there.

We white folks of 2015 might not have been alive during slavery, or even during Selma. At the same time, we benefit from a system that has propped us up for no particular reason for over 500 years, other than that we have the same skin color as the original conquerors.

Are there any people of color here who might suggest what reparations mean to them?

Tom Sramek, Jr.


The point is that reconciliation without confession and repentance isn’t reconciliation, it’s capitulation. The cross is about laying down our own power in imitation of Jesus as the first step in that process of reconciliation. One might well argue the facts in the Michael Brown case, but the fact is that in too many instances the first use of force is the lethal use of force, and the majority of those instances are against unarmed black men.

For a very long time, the establishment (law enforcement, government, etc…) has been tilted in favor of middle- and upper-class white men. Now that the power base is narrowing to the upper-class only, suddenly there is a fresh outcry of government interference. While I refuse to feel guilty about being born into relative privilege as a straight white male, neither can I simply ignore the systemic race and class imbalance that exists. Simply saying “get over it, and we’ll talk”–which is all too often the sentiments from those in power, won’t cut it. Confession and repentance, THEN absolution and reconciliation has always been the process.

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