Reparations, Time and Struggle

by Larry Lohmann

first published 3 November 2023

Calls for reparations are resounding throughout the world today: for example, reparations for the injuries of centuries of white supremacy in the Anglo world of the US and the UK; reparations for centuries of colonialist extractivism in Latin America; payment for the immense “climate debt” owed to the global South; and reparations for the damages of male sexual predation, as exemplified in the Korean and Filipina comfort women struggles, the #MeToo movement, and many others in the Americas and elsewhere.

Yet incorporating reparations practices (or even just the “reparations” vocabulary) into liberation work means contending with with their histories and contexts and reworking assumptions at the promptings of practical daily politics, like the proverbial ship’s crew rebuilding a vessel at sea.

It means confronting the ways that, as a result of those histories and contexts, reparations practices can and will be retranslated and modified both by friends and by enemies, as well as all the movement impacts that result. And it means understanding that, as has been well said, “reparations” is also a “call that allows people to begin to talk about other things.”

See also