Providence, Rhode Island, recently announced a “reparations” program to help atone for its history of racism and discrimination, but critics are blasting it for being race-neutral.
According to a report by The Washington Post, Mayor Jorge Elorza signed a $10 million budget for the Providence Municipal Reparations program. “The radical thing that we did was we put Black voices in the center of city policymaking,” Elorza told the Post.
But Black people are not the only ones who will benefit from the program. Native Americans also automatically quality – a point many did not seem to take issue with.
The caveat that brought the onslaught of criticism: There is an income criterion that could open the program up to over half the city’s white residents.
It’s a fact that’s not going over well with advocates of reparations for Black Americans.
“The white power structure in this country is always playing games on Black folks and some of the things I tell Black folks to watch out for, they never pay attention to it,” activist and author Dr. Claud Anderson said as he discussed the Providence program with Dr. Boyce Watkins.
“You got all kind of significantly inadequate, what I call conflicted, criminally incompetent Black leadership in America, [that] is always trying to do everything for everybody rather than focusing the attention on those who had a problem for 465 damn years,” Dr. Anderson continued.
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Justice Gaines, a local Black poet and community organizer in Providence, expressed concern the program could be a barrier to Black Americans receiving actual reparations.
“This is a short-term response to a 400-year problem because it makes people feel better,” Gaines said. “My big fear is that there are now White people in our state who could say we already gave them reparations.”
Brown University Professor Dannie Ritchie is a member of the African American Ambassador Group that helped write the report about historical and systemic harms done to Black residents in Providence. He’s against the program being called reparations, saying it is “dangerous” to do so.
“I just kept saying don’t conflate what we’re doing with reparations, just don’t do it,” Ritchie said. “You can’t just throw around $10 million for this-and-that program and call it reparations, because then it will be done without ever really having a conversation about what repairing the harm would look like. You’re just throwing terms around.”
Dr. Anderson elaborated on how upset the decision by Providence and many other programs to focus on a broad group instead of Black people specifically and call them reparations makes him.
“Hell, we’re not talking about discrimination. … I have no interest in Black folks eradicating discrimination. It is humanly impossible – physically, mentally and psychologically in any aspect to stop people from discrimination,” Anderson continued.
“Discrimination is not a problem for Black folks. The discrimination issue pertains to those who are what we call fabricated minorities,” Dr. Anderson said. “That is not racism. Racism is a complex, competitive issue strictly between whites and Blacks. It doesn’t include anybody else. And I’m sick and tired! That’s why I’m pissed to the highest level of passivity!”
Black users on Twitter also weighed in.
“This is why we need federal reparations. Any local, state and institutional funds should go toward lobbying for federal reparations so we can bring our full weight to bear on the deliberations,” @negrosubversive tweeted.
“We don’t want no undermining social justice programs when it comes to reparations,” @askari_shakur tweeted. “This isn’t lineage based reparations for Black Americans/Descendants of American Slaves. This is another free for all for everybody.”
“This is an anti poverty program 4 every1..Reparations is a repair 4 intentional harm done 2 a specific group by the Government & must be lineage based..What this city is doing should NEver be confused with reparations,” @adeyemi_cynthia wrote.
“This is NOT REPARATIONS. Don’t be fooled,” @TheLifEofA_KiDD tweeted.
“If it’s not something explictly for Black Americans then it is a lift all boats social program and not reparations. To paraphrase the words of MLK, exclusive harm was done so exclusive repair must me done,” @strixtly4myngz wrote.
“This is a UBI program being labeled Reparations! It’s not reparations for slavery if it doesn’t cover lineage & it’s not repair for the afterlives of slavery if whites can apply,” @kerislovesmusic responded. “Reparations is LINEAGE & RACE based in U.S. & the indigenous nation states they ain’t ask 4 this.”
PHOTO: In this April 25, 2017, file photo, Providence, R.I., Mayor Jorge Elorza, speaks outside the Justice Department in Washington, following a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The city of Providence on Monday, March 29, 2021, released a lengthy historical report on racism in Rhode Island as part of its initial steps to provide reparations to residents of African and Native American heritage. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)