I attended a Facebook friend’s presentation on reparations. As the average black person knows, we never got our 40 acres and a mule after slavery ended in 1865. The 100 years of Jim Crow laws that followed slavery were designed to keep us in an enslaved mindset. During the 55 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the criminal justice system has turned into our latest nightmare and a continuation of enslavement.

Many of the horrors of slavery have been internalized by black people, so that those designed behaviors have become institutionalized by us, as well. Those behaviors are being passed down from one generation to the next. Self-hatred, group hatred, distrust and a preference for individual achievements over group success are some of the core behaviors 

As I sat listening to the presentation and watching the videos regarding slavery, even I, a seasoned and knowledgeable student of black history, couldn’t take it. I felt the pain my ancestors suffered. My emotions overwhelmed me as I envisioned the 360-degree debacle that was slavery. It was brainwashing. It was mind control. It was institutionalized into acceptance and normality by both the slave master and the slave.

Every descendant of an enslaved African needs to begin to think of what reparations should consist of, because once reparations is paid — no matter the form of payment — our ability to bemoan to the masses regarding our former enslavement becomes null. It is the ultimate “we’re even” moment.

I have always advocated that my vision for reparations is to cease paying taxes into this system. Property taxes, income taxes, taxes on food, taxes on license plates, city stickers, you name it. All the money that this government takes away from me, I need to be able to keep. That is my individual vision for reparations. 

As a group, we need criminal justice reform. The abuse of the criminal justice system against black people has been systematic and successful. Prison populations that were once predominantly white are now predominantly black. Some of it is our fault, but a lot of it has to do with too many black people going down the very path of destruction that was designed specifically for us to take.

If you have access to Netflix, watch “Time: The Kalief Browder Story.” Kalief was a 16-year-old child who was walking home from a party with a friend. The police pulled up and Kalief and his friend were accused of having stolen someone’s book bag. Khalif was arrested and ended up spending more than three years in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. 

For me it was an eye-opening account of just how the criminal justice system can break a person. Kalief’s mental anguish and pain following his release from jail run parallel to how a lot of black people came out of slavery. 

Reparations is the right step in the healing process. The question remains what the treatment will be.