Volume 31, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2011
Which Way to Justice?
Reconciliation, Reparations, and the Problem of Whiteness in US Protestantism
IN THE LAST TEN YEARS SEVERAL MAINLINE PROTESTANT DENOMINATIONS have gone on record as supporting reparations for slavery. Reparations represent a new approach to racial justice and a transformed understanding of racial relationships from that which has characterized mainline US Protestantism since the civil rights movement. These initiatives importantly raise the issue of whiteness and white moral agency as these pertain to racism, without attention to which, the author argues, racial justice efforts will be inadequate. The essay engages in analysis that juxtaposes the difference between reconciliation and reparations approaches to healing racial injustice, locating these in historical moments in US Protestantism. It then explores movements for reparations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church in the United States and considers how these do and do not demonstrate a new (and more adequate) paradigm for understanding racism.