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“It’s Time for Us White People to Pay Reparations.”: A 15-year-old African American Teen Shares Her Thoughts on Reparations and White Privilege


Please listen to this poem from Jordan, a 15-year old African American female student.


A few days ago Jordan was engaged in a conversation with her peers. One of the students made a comment about White privilege. 15-year-olds.  I don’t think my friends and I talked about race when I was 15, but that was quite some time ago.  🙂  The students then decided to do slam poetry on the subject. Jordan wrote the poem you just heard and shared her own analysis of the poem.

White privilege means that they have a head start, if that makes sense. They are equal in the way that the law has been written, but they are not equal in the way they see themselves.  They have more opportunities  because of the color of their skin.

Jordan said, “I was thinking about it. I thought it was kind of strange that we have, as a nation, come so far in that we have gotten rid of slavery, and we have progressed. Black people are considered people, but there is still this stigma that they are probably in a gang, They probably carry weapons.  Yes, there are Black gangs, but there are White gangs and Hispanic gangs too.  What other people have done shouldn’t define me because of the color of my skin. I don’t like being called Black because my skin isn’t black. My pants are black. When I put my hands next to my pants, they aren’t the same color. I am brown.

“Going from a private school, I didn’t saw myself as Black. We were just people. At a charter, I see myself as Black.”

Young people are talking about race in more progressive ways, and they have real questions.  But how does Jordan’s poem connect to reparations?  In the poem, she wrote, “Life isn’t fair.  I have no problem with the privileged. I have a problem with how they got there.  I don’t have a problem with the people now, I have a problem with their history.”

Which is a reason to think about reparations.

“It’s time for us White people to pay reparations.”

Given that we know some people have opportunities just because of the color of their skin, what can we do to level the playing field?   It reminds me of this picture.

Yesterday on LinkedIn I saw the picture to the right, the one where the White person is holding the sign that says, “It’s time for us white people to pay reparations.”  Below the picture, I saw the following comments:

  • “I don’t owe anyone a damn thing.”
  • “Been working since twelve as well and rebuilding my life for the second time.” (middle finger emoticon)
  • “He can pay. I will not pay a dime.”
  • “SMH!!!”
  • “I have two great grandfathers that fought for the North in the Civil War. That’s enough.”
  • “You go first.”
  • “Let him, pay alone, pay as much as he wants, but he speaks not for most of us, only for the snowflake addle brained subjects of Frankfurt.”
  • “Maybe he needs to petition the Frankfurt school to pay their fair share.”

Literally not one comment of support for those who do not have racial privilege in this country. Honestly, I was saddened. I totally believe that people have a right to feel what they feel. I also would have hoped for more curiosity from the folks who responded.  I also thought about the 5 outcomes that I believe are the real end game for staff and students.

Healing practices specifically comes to mind.  What if we asked ourselves this question more often: “How do I bring restoration to those who have been oppressed, even when I am the person who has caused (or passively allowed) the harm?”  What might happen then?

Interest convergence: African Americans gained social justice primarily when their interests converged with the interests of the white majority.

One definition of reparations is “helping those who have been wronged.” Maybe I am wrong, but isn’t that part of what social justice is? But maybe the comments were simple saying, “It’s not our responsibility.  We aren’t interested. Why should we?

How do we help those who do not see the point in helping others who have been wronged to feel compelled to do so? Honestly, there are lots of reasons. Then, I started to think about interest convergence. Interest convergence is the notion that “African Americans gained social justice primarily when their interests converged with the interests of the white majority.”  So maybe part of the answer lives in interest convergence, rather than altruism.  Maybe it is about showcasing how developing active empathy for those who have been wronged actually benefits all of us, even the oppressor.

We all have an opportunity, and responsibility, to pay reparations to someone else because of our privilege.  So what can each of us do?

  • If you are male, offer reparations to a woman.
  • If you are Christian, offer reparations to a Muslim.
  • If you have a higher income, offer reparations to someone with a lower income.
  • If you have a formal education, offer reparations to someone who does not.
  • If you are heterosexual, offer reparations to someone who is gay, transgender, bisexual, or transgender.
  • If you are White, offer reparations to a person of color.
  • If you are outspoken, share the perspective of the silenced.

The real opportunity is that reparations is a chance for each us, regardless of our privilege, to develop a deeper level of empathy so that we are more likely to sacrifice our privilege for the sake of others and thereby offer justice to those for whom life has not been as fair.


For bookings and inquiries, send an email to [email protected]  I’m more than happy to confer about ways we can partner in achieving meaningful outcomes for students, particularly the ones below, outcomes that align with cultural responsiveness and social justice.

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