What South Africa can teach the U.S. about reparations

13 Nov 2019 14:19

In June 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives discussed the issue of reparations for slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws. In an article for the Washington Post, Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman from GAAMAC partner International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, explains that reparations can make a difference, but only if they are accompanied by truth-telling.

After democratic elections in 1994, South Africa set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during apartheid and to provide a platform for survivors and perpetrators to testify, in order to gain reparations for the former and amnesty for the latter.

In this process, a “collective narrative of racism” emerged, though the idea of reparations for its victims was later watered down in favour of more general development programme for all South Africans. Yet, the U.S. can learn from South Africa that the “benefit of reparations is as much about the process … as it is about the actual form that the reparations would be”.