It’s a big, complicated question. The site offers a concrete solution: a public forum where white people can offer their belongings or services and people of color can request help for a specific need.
But the site isn’t about atoning for slavery, says its creator, Seattle-based artist Natasha Marin.
“It’s about reparations for things that happened earlier today, for yesterday, for last Thursday,” she said. “This is for the present tense.”
Here’s the basic concept: White people have created a political and cultural system that discriminates against and excludes people of color every day. Therefore, white people have a responsibility to actively work to level the playing field for the people of color who are disadvantaged and threatened by racism and racial inequality.
Marin created the project after a demoralizing scroll through her Facebook feed a few weeks ago.
“I realized that the people I connected to were largely disheartened and powerless” after a series of killings of black men by police and racist rhetoric during the presidential race, she said. “We were being bombarded by death and fear.”
So she decided to do something about it. She created a Facebook event and invited her friends of color to post what they would need to “feel better, be happier, be more productive.” She asked her white friends to offer what they could. She had few expectations about where the project would go.
“If it had just been 50 people and some connections were made, generosity shown and gratitude shown, I would’ve been happy,” she said.
Instead, her small experiment continued to grow. Soon, thousands were participating in the website and Facebook group.
“I think people are asking themselves: How can I be just a little bit better?” Marin said. “It’s encouraging to see people remember that it feels good to be helpful.”
The project’s success has also come with an endless slew of racist and negative responses, however. Marin has received death threats.
“It’s an effective way to monetize hatred and turn it into something worthwhile,” she said.
In the meantime, Marin will stick with her project, allowing people to pay and solicit reparations in an organic manner without the regulation of government or committee. Her project takes the word “reparation” back to its simplest meaning.
“It’s a word that means repair,” she said. “And I feel like many people feel broken.”