Unitarian Universalist leader Carl McCargo says the United States cannot heal without reparations.
Speaking earlier this month at Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, McCargo talked about the tragic legacy chattel slavery left behind, but he’s hopeful the U.S. can heal the inter-generational trauma caused by centuries of an oppressive system.
The service, held over Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s birthday weekend, included a dialogue over what reparations are, why they’re needed and how reparations would work.
McCargo began his talk by quoting Dr. King: “You can’t legislate morality. You have to win hearts first.” We win hearts by knowing and speaking the truth, according to McCargo.
The former civil service psychologist said the only way for the U.S. to heal is through reparations. He compared reparations to repairment, stating that reparations is not revenge or welfare but necessary to fix crimes against humanity.
For McCargo, reparations would entail giving people and neighborhoods access to what they need financially and in infrastructure. This could mean supplementing college educations and ensuring equal pay for equal work.
“We have to start calling these injustices pathologies … It’s access to education, good lawyers, whatever you need to help you stay functioning.”
Reparations are a prerequisite for healing in society, McCargo said. “If we do not heal all of our citizens, then how can we continue to call ourselves the shining city on a hill?”
The consciousness of chattel slavery is still alive, McCargo said. It’s seen in a country that has the highest rates of poverty in the developed world while still being the wealthiest nation.
McCargo said the legacy of slavery is evident in the disparities between white and Black communities’ access to healthcare, quality education and wealth, among other things.
The first step to reparations, according to McCargo, is educating people about the transatlantic slave trade and African American history because understanding slavery addresses the underlying cause of racism.
Connecticut recently became the first state to require high schools’ curriculum to include Black and Latino studies.
Here in Illinois, the Chicago City Council created a subcommittee on reparations in September.
Everyday people can petition their members of Congress, join pro-reparations groups like the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), and start or join an anti-racism book club, just to name a few things.
“I would like to see our society accept the challenge of equalizing Black and white Americans,” McCargo said.