Reparations for historical violence against African American people in New Hanover County.

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We are at a turning point in our civic life. We are hearing calls for racial justice, for fairness and equal treatment. We are seeing people call for accountability from police brutality, and we are seeing people enduring unimaginable pain from centuries of unacknowledged racial injustices. The time for reparations to victims of institutionalized racism has come. We urge the Wilmington City Council, and the New Hanover County Commissioners to establish and fund a Board for Establishing, Calculating, and Distributing Monetary Reparations to victims of racial terrorism, systematic racial exclusions, and continuing racial segregation in New Hanover County, North Carolina.

Background

              Racial injustices in Wilmington are part of the origins of this city and this county, beginning with but not limited to thousands of African people who were enslaved here, and Indigenous people who were driven away and enslaved.  The institutions of slavery were brutal, violent, and destroyed the lives countless families. Enslaved people built property and cultivated crops and served their “owners” whose wealth grew and was bequeathed to the descendants of those enslavers. Because Black people’s lives did not matter. The generational wealth extracted from the bodies and lives of enslaved people is still a foundation of comfort for many people today. The talents and ingenuity of enslaved people also were exploited for the profit of the enslavers and rarely generated wealth for those who created new technologies and methods of production because for many years it was illegal for enslaved people to apply for patents or to own land, or to build businesses. Black people did not benefit from their own talents because they were not legally permitted to. Their talents mattered mainly to those who could profit from them. Because Black lives did not matter. Yet former enslavers received compensation after the Civil War for the property they lost a result of Emancipation and war, because their lives mattered most.

              In the aftermath of the Civil War, there was a period of growth and accomplishment among the formerly enslaved people and their achievements were impressive. The successful livelihoods being built during Reconstruction could have been a strong foundation for the transfer of generational wealth, security, and independence. However, here in New Hanover County, white supremacists resented Black achievements, progress, and political participation, who violently overthrew the Fusion government and installed an all-white system of government. In doing so, they murdered unknown numbers of African American people, drove many out of town, confiscated property and destroyed businesses that were the foundations of hopes and aspirations of Black Wimingtonians, because Black lives did not matter.

              Since the 1898 massacre and coup d’etat, the communities of color here continue to suffer the lack of opportunity, segregated and underfunded schools and direct descendants of the massacre and coup victims have not received compensation for their lost/stolen property and lives. Poverty rates in NHC remain racially disparate, economic opportunity is not equally available, and disparities are evident across our society from the educational achievement gap, the school-to-prison pipeline, to mass incarceration, health disparities, housing segregation, and many others, because Black lives have not mattered.

Petition for Reparations

              In 2020 we have borne witness to unbearable violence across the country against African American people: George Floyd, Amhad Arbery, Brionna Taylor, and others; compounding hundreds of other such tragedies preceding them. We have seen some cities rise up to the current moment and have passed resolutions in favor of reparations (for example, Asheville, NC recently did so). We have seen an explosion of Black Lives Matter banners, posters, social media campaigns, and street art across the country. We have had massive peaceful protests calling for criminal justice reform, defunding police, and expanding more racially just opportunities. These protests have spanned the globe beyond the United States. The world is watching to see what we do next.  Tragically, some of these events have compounded the harm.

              It’s time for Wilmington and New Hanover County to publicly make amends for the harms done to African American and Indigenous people here; harms that have not been remedied. It is never too late to make amends; it is never too late for the truth to be heard and acknowledged. It is never too late to offer reparations. In fact, it is the right and just next step for our government to make. This is a debt owed. This is the time. Can we finally acknowledge and act upon the commitment that Black Lives Matter to us; to our city; to our county; to our state?

              We urge the city and county government to establish a Reparations Board in New Hanover County. We urge a public resolution and declaration to support, calculate, and distribute monetary reparations to those who continue to survive under the weight of institutionalized racism. We urge the county and city government to revise all current policies and practices that reproduce institutionalized racism in our area. We realize this is going to be hard work; and we must do it anyway.

Wilmington, NC Chapter of Coming To The Table.