This SSJ platform emerges from the work of the Reparations in Higher Education (RHE) working group. RHE was organized in 2016 after a year of student protests that demanded racial equality. As in other moments, student protests on campuses were inspired and sustained by the larger political context of organizing and activism the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) ushered. Inspired by this context and composed of students, academics, and activists, RHE came together with the aim of developing a broadly conceived vision of what reparations and racial justice might mean in the context of higher education.
SSJ took up the project with the aim of developing a reparation in higher education platform in terms similar to the 2016 “Vision for Black Lives” platform of the M4BL, which included reparations as a central pillar.
The reparative framework mobilized in this platform draws on the long history of black and colonized people who have mobilized the reparations to redress racial injustice. From Belinda Sutton, who successfully petitioned for the payment of a slave pension in 1783 to the recent victories of reparations for for police brutality in Chicago, people of African descent have demanded a reparative framework for slavery and colonialism. The RHE platform draws on this history and builds on the work of organizations like the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) to outline a reparative framework for racial justice in the university.
While SSJ is especially indebted to the struggles for reparations within the United States, this project also takes inspiration from the adoption of reparative frameworks in the struggles for indigenous self-determination and transitional justice within the global South and especially in the context of Latin America and the Caribbean. As with calls for reparations in the United States, these movements imagine reparations to require more than direct monetary compensation for past injustice. Instead, these approaches incorporate material, symbolic, legal, and institutional redress for both individual and collective victims. These projects view redress for past harm as a necessary part of reconstituting societies where racial, religious, and ethnic violence has generated deep-seated divisions.