Written by J. Bennett Guess
At least 100 UCC members were among the estimated 2,000 who attended the Aug. 17 march on the Washington, D.C., mall calling for reparations for slavery.
Church members from New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and the District of Columbia were among those who participated in the rally. St. Albans UCC in St. Albans, N.Y., chartered two buses.
DeBorah Gilbert White, Minister for Anti-Racism and Conflict Resolution for Justice and Witness Ministries in Cleveland, said speakers offered a variety of perspectives on how reparations might actually be designed and implemented. "But one central point was emphasized: The economic legacy of slavery continues to this day," she says.
"There is so much misunderstanding surrounding reparations, so many false assumptions," says Edith Rasell, the UCC's Minister for Labor Relations and Community Economic Development. "This is about righting wrongs in constructive systemic ways. We must learn that the mere passage of time does not create justice." Rasell was the only European American on a chartered bus from Cleveland.
"It is important for persons of all races to understand that a formal apology for slavery has never been offered by the U.S. government," she says, "and that the vestiges of slavery continue to impact the great institutional disparities that exist in our nation."
In 2001, General Synod approved a resolution calling upon UCC congregations, Associations and Conferences to be educated about the historic evils of slavery, including the structural economic inequity that stems from two centuries of uncompensated labor. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) also passed a similarly worded statement.
"Reparations is a process to remember, repair, restore, make amends for wrongs, reconcile, and can never be singularly reducible to monetary terms," the UCC resolution states. "It is an historical reckoning involving acknowledgment that an offense against humanity was committed and the victims have not received justice."
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess is Minister for Communication and Mission Education for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.