Grassroots reparations is a form of restorative justice. Islah is an organization designed for those who feel that they were/are complicit in war, occupation, and displacement and who want to take responsibility for harm committed in their name.
Giving reparations is an opportunity to put into action the words we speak and the goodwill we feel when we think about our position in the global order and the violence wrought to sustain that position. This framing of reparations is meant to scale-down, de-institutionalize, de-monetize, and de-quantify reparations in order to prevent it from becoming a mechanism of institutions to erase the past, buy silence, or sustain model of justice that are punitive and fail to account for the importance of repair as a collective, interdependent, unequal, always-fraught practice.
What Does Reparation Mean?
- Reparation is a form of social repair in which compensation is given for past injustice or violation.
- Reparation requires one party to acknowledge and take responsibility for inflicting harm, or for complicity in inflicting harm on another party.
- Reparation requires consent and desire from recipients. If imposed, the transfer of goods or labor does not qualify as reparations.
- Giving reparations is not a one-time act that absolves future responsibilities. Instead, it is a lifelong discipline.
- While it is common for states to pay reparations, the primary goal of Islah is to provide individuals the opportunity to pay reparations.
What Does Giving Reparations Do?
- Giving reparations acknowledges that the harm inflicted cannot be undone. Instead, partial restoration and partial justice may be achieved through three stages: acknowledgement and truth telling, acceptance of responsibility, and material exchange of compensation (through transfer of money, goods, or labor).
- Giving reparations does not absolve an individual or group of responsibility, does not right past wrongs, and should never be used as a tactic for silencing or historicizing the lasting impact of harm.
- Reparation is not about blame: reparations are a way to act upon one’s responsibility for harm, not of assigning or accepting blame. Many donors to Islah are people who struggled against the acts of harm committed in their name and were unable to stop those acts from taking place.
- Giving reparation is one part of a broader justice process that includes truth-seeking, institutional reform, legal justice and other forms of redress.
What Reparations Are Not
- Dialogue: Giving reparations is a material and action based philosophy that acknowledges the limitation of words in social restoration or collaborative efforts for justice. Reparations are “post-dialogue.”
- Gifts and Charity: Reparations are not charity. Reparations are not gifts. While Islah is registered as a 501C3 charity nonprofit, individuals who give reparations through Islah should not feel that they are offering a charitable service or charitable gift. Giving reparations is not an act of altruism or generosity. Instead, it is one small step in a project of social repair. By giving, one acknowledges and accepts responsibility for harm committed in her or his name.
- Help: Giving reparations is not about helping. We acknowledge that, like charity, “help” is an insulting frame for human interaction. Reparations are as much about helping ones’ self as about helping one another: we are all mutually responsible for each other’s well-being. In an exchange of reparations, the giver and the recipient are on equal footing.
- Punitive Justice: Punitive justice systems individualize systemic problems that should be addressed collectively. Punitive justice does not take restorative measures and contradicts repair: often, punitive justice produces more harm, more violence, and greater inequality.
- Peace: The paradigm of “peace” approaches violence in 3 problematic ways: it historicizes violence and dismisses the lasting impact of harm, it presumes equality such that peace for the aggressor means the same thing as peace for the victims, and it absolves the aggressor of responsibility for restoration and repair in the “aftermath” of violence. Giving reparations acknowledges that peace is often associated with pacification.