Reparations: the Real Me Facts
In my first post of this reparations journey, I didn’t tell you everything you need to know. The next part isn’t easy, and it would be simple to ignore it and leave it out. But it goes to the heart of the question: why am I making this journey at all?
The Salacious Part
My dad died when I was three years old. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that. Daddy Joe’s car ran into a train (if you’re gonna follow this journey, you might as well get used to these family names.) At the time of the accident, Daddy Joe was on an out-of-town business trip. Another woman was in the car with him. She was a work acquaintance. Her brother said she was hitching a ride to see her fiancé who lived in the town where they hit the train. The wreck killed her too.
Losing my dad at such a young age has made me more attached to my paternal family than reason dictates. I have spent my life reaching towards them for a connection to my dead father, one my dad himself didn’t have. I mean, as soon as he was an adult, he left them. He went out west and to South America. After serving time in the Pacific in WWII, he returned to the west where he took my mom after they married and where he lived until he was killed by the train.
Reparations: the Fealty, or Lack Thereof
This paternal family is the one where most of my racial difficulties lie. Particularly with Daddy Joe’s maternal line. Thing is, that family cut me out of it.
The man I’ve named The Scoundrel (I’m not just talking enslavement; this man’s white club of racists figured prominently in the Vicksburg Massacre) divorced my ancestor, hooked up with an 18 year old, and moved to another state where he exited the family story forever. His granddaughter, Daddy Joe’s mother whom we called Bigmama, chose not to recognize her deceased son in devising her property. Whether the way Daddy Joe died set her course or not, I don’t know.
Does it Matter?
When considering reparations, what does my relationship with that family matter? What do I do with my emotional need and adoring love for them? How do I weigh that against the reality of our financial disconnection? In other words, must I take financial responsibility for a family that didn’t take financial responsibility for me?
Reparations: try a New Analysis
I think the answer lies in setting my approach to reparations.
As the book Be the Bridge notes, reparations isn’t a ledger question. To quote the book, the question is, How do I make myself a credible witness for racial reconciliation? What is my role in repairing what has been broken? And, most importantly, what new legacy would I like to leave for this difficult branch of my family?
These questions create a deep shift in focus. It ceases to be about my responsibility for their actions—asking, am I actually a victim? Instead, you ask yourself, how can I be an actor for the good here?
In answer to the first question: I can’t be credible if I use inheritance treatment as an excuse to disregard the family from which I received so much.
As to the rest, I don’t know if I can repair what they broke, but, man, a new legacy would be awesome.
Next post: Warnings before you begin this journey.