Local Reparations Discussion Mirrors National One



Rev. Summerville speaks at the meeting. Photo by Jackson Guilfoil

Congress heard arguments in favor of reparations for slavery on Wednesday, but so did a South County Marie Callender’s.

On Juneteenth, the anniversary of when the last slaves in the union were freed two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Reverend William Summerville extolled his views on the necessity of reparations paid to the descendants of slaves as part of a monthly South Orange County Democratic Club meeting.

According to Summerville, reparations should go beyond the financial compensation of the estimated $97 trillion of unpaid labor, but also extend into housing, education and social sectors.

“The goal of reparations is to get rid of the practice of white supremacy that has turned into racism and has now joined with corporatism,” Summerville said. “If there is no financial restitution to be offered, then our society remains in a racist holding pattern that cuts off any possibility to disable white supremacy.”

Congress featured arguments and pushback against reparations that day, but the speech Summerville gave in the restaurant’s event room was met with much less contention from the majority white audience in the restaurant.

In his speech, Summerville called for a more comprehensive reparation process, rather than just financial compensation for the effects of post-slavery racism. He elucidated a multi-tier reparations process aimed at changing the educational, legal, housing and public policy systems on behalf of descendants of slaves, going beyond the “40 acres and a mule” model of reparation coined by General William Tecumseh Sherman after the Civil War.

Not all voices are united in the call for reparations, and the conservative Black public policy group Project 21 voiced their opposition in a press release.

“Reparations is a sham. This so-called study is solely presented as a means of checking a box called locking up black support,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper in the press release. “By falling for this sham, Congress has made it clear that there will be no meaningful requirement that policies beneficial to blacks will ever come from this House of Representatives.”

According to Project 21, the window for reparations has come and gone with the deaths of formerly enslaved Americans, and that reparations would only worsen race relations.

In Orange County, where hate crimes have steadily risen over the past 3 years, according to the OC Human Relations nonprofit, some black residents pointed out their experiences with racism. Summerville, an Aliso Viejo resident, talked about fearing for his life when he gets pulled over by the police.

“I’ve just experienced racism,” said Brian Johnson, a Torrance resident at the meeting. He specified he was “ getting awkward looks, the feeling that I don’t belong,” as he walked through the Historic Town Center Park during a concert. “Some people feel uncomfortable with what they’re not familiar with.”

The members of the Young Black Professionals of Orange County at the meeting, of which Johnson is a member, said they favored reparations. Armond Herndon, an Irvine resident, sees it as a way to foster growth and development within the Black community in Orange County.

Descendants of slaves should not only receive financial compensation, but also lines of credit and assistance with a variety of things such as college tuition, mortgage payments and loan qualifications.

“Because this is public funds…there needs to be some accountability,” Summerville said. “Similar to veterans who receive payments for going to war, I see African Americans as almost like the domestic veterans of the United States.”

As of 2018, 2.1 percent of people in Orange County are Black according to the Census population estimate.

“We fix racism, we fix America,” Summerville said.

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