Imagine Reparation Germination

When a tree is planted, establishing the “root ball” correctly is critical to long-term growth and thriving for the entire plant. And placement! Will it have enough sun? How will its growth impact the world around it? Most importantly, is the soil appropriate and nutritious? Without a healthy earthen home, whereby these amazing organisms can absorb the water, minerals, and food they need, it doesn’t matter what beauty and possibility we witness above ground. Inevitably, the tree will grow incorrectly, shrivel, rot, and die before its promised time.

The United States was planted in bad soil. The foundation was, and is, toxic. Beginning with Indigenous genocide and attendant land and resource theft, along with white supremacist chattel slavery that stole life and labor from many to give inordinate wealth and power to few…the wealth, power and “growth” of the United States grew from mass death and suffering, and its been watered ever since with much of the same.

The leaves and even some branches may bear markers of liberty, equality, or democracy, but the roots rot so long as we don’t address the land, and wholesale amend the soil. The proof of this need is in the myriad interconnected injustices that continue to persist today, and to which our still-speaking God urgently calls forth gardeners: our hands, feet, voices and votes.

This extended metaphor is in service to what many consider an outsized topic: reparations. More specifically: Reparations Now, a resolution introduced in Congress by Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri last year, and its stated call for $14 trillion to Black Americans to help close the racial wealth gap, foster sustainable futures, and make restitution for equity stolen since our founding.

Former UCC Associate General Minister Rev. Traci Blackmon spoke at the announcement of Reparations Now in Washington, D.C., acknowledging the price tag that many automatically scoff, balk, or laugh at: “When millions of people have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly process. Inferior education, poor housing, unemployment, inadequate health care — each will require billions to correct. Justice so long deferred has accumulated interest, and its cost for this society will be substantial in financial as well as human terms.’”

Before we ourselves scoff, balk, or laugh off the possibility of making this repair real with the proposed costs, consider these two important things for Black History Month and beyond:

  1. We know the money is there! Finding and prioritizing $14 trillion for reparations is possible. Our country produces the funds regularly; we just invest them in death, destruction, and waste. For example:
  2. The cost of not manifesting meaningful reparations is so much higher than the cost of doing it. Nationally, financially, spiritually: collapse will occur (and arguably is already occurring) without proper soil at the roots. A country and world where bodily needs are met and human rights are secured is one where abundance compounds and communities flourish.

I think of compost when I remember the Latin root of reparation means “make ready again.” We are called to embody resurrection, fostering life from decay and death – in our churches, our cities, country and Congress, in Palestine, and beyond. We can’t afford not to. Collective liberation will be ours for doing so. The richest, most rewarding earth of all.


  1. For those in church communities, plug into Sacred Reckonings to grow your reparations journey! Also please be sure to check out and share this profound conversation between UCC pastors Rev. Traci Blackmon and Sacred Reckonings trainer Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel from last year – click HERE!
  2.  Join the Movement further with the UCC!
  3. Ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor and work to pass the Reparations Now resolution and H.R. 40, the “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.”

Rev. Seth Wispelwey is the Minister for Economic Justice for the United Church of Christ

Categories: Getting to the Root of It

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