In preparing for my next OLLI course on local (Northeast) indigenous culture I have written a short essay on reparations.

I will be able to devote only a short amount of time in one class (out of six) that will focus on the issue of racism: its origins in 15th century Europe, and its use in this country in the cause of indigenous eradication and erasure. My essay will provide background for any students who wish to learn more about this issue.

Here are the opening two paragraphs of my essay, with a link to the full document:

I am in favor, in principle, of reparations. What that means in practice, I’m not so sure. We, as a society, need to have that conversation. I am aware that I have benefited from my heritage, and that part of that benefit has come at the expense of disadvantaged people.

In a now-classic 2014 article1 in The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an appeal for us to discuss reparations. Although his focus was on “black Americans” (i.e. African-Americans), I believe his arguments should be applied with equal force to all marginalized groups, such as Native Americans and disabled people. As an autistic person, I am particularly aware of how, for many generations, autistic people were locked away in institutions, ignored by the outside world, abused and neglected; left to die an early death. Echoes of this prejudice and misunderstanding live on in today’s world.2

1Coates (2014) The Case for Reparations


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