Land Reparations


As we try to move through (or, for some people, refuse to believe in) a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting and killing both Black and Native American people in north america as well as move through (or, for some people, refuse to listen to) a movement that rejects Black death and police brutality in north america, many disparities have been brought to the spotlight (or, the attention of white people).

This week I am taking a brief interlude in the ‘anti-colonial conversations about crops posts’ to dive a bit deeper into the concept of reparations and land redistribution in relation to farming. It is important to acknowledge that people who are just learning about the subjects that are centered in our media right now, such as land reparations, are able to hop on the metaphorical train so quickly precisely because activists, authors, thinkers and people of color have been doing work around these subjects for so long already.

Some of the past posts have touched on the context for how land was methodically stolen from Black families, so this week is going to look more specifically at how land reparations work. To start, I will quote what Leah Penniman, farmer/writer extraordinaire, says are the three characteristics of true reparations are in her book Farming While Black. This is verbatim:

  1. “Nothing about us, without us”: Black people get to define what reparations look like.
  2. “No strings attached”: Transfers of land and resources without oversight or conditionality.
  3. “The whole pie”: Give the land, money, and jobs away, even and especially when it entails personal sacrifice.

Penniman goes on to write, “...reparations demands that we release the frontier mentality that plagues progressive spaces. The frontier mentality is the erroneous idea that the way to solve existing problems is to create or grow an initiative led by white people, rather than support existing projects led by front-line communities.”

Essentially, reparations cannot be symbolic or superficial, they must mean actual sacrifice for people, like myself, who are supported by racial and socioeconomic systems of domination. Penniman notes that people can both understand their own resources/assets and what they have to give back (i.e. jobs, pieces of land, money, etc.) as well as push for policy changes that support wealth equity and reparations.

Last week I asked us to think about the actual cost of eating bananas and whether we are willing to give up something so integral to our diet in the interest of justice. This week's question is, for those who have the privilege/capacity, what is one thing you regularly spend money that you could eliminate from your expenses in order to use that money for reparations, instead?

As you think about what giving land backs means, I highly recommend reading Penniman’s work or listening to podcasts that she has been featured on. This link will bring you to a Black-Indigenous farmers reparation map that Penniman’s farm created so that you can work toward liberating the land in your geographical area!

I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy,