There’s nothing wrong with asking for help with something – whether it’s related to a job, money, or food – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with offering assistance. In fact, a website that provided a platform for requests and offers would be a good idea. After all, offering to help others through charitable contributions establishes a sense of community between givers and receivers, and is far superior to anything the government can offer with taxpayer money.
The website reparations.me provides such a platform. But even the name of the website is a dead giveaway about what the motive behind the site is.
The website – and accompanying Facebook page – was started as a “social media experiment” by a Seattle woman named Natasha Marin. Marin happens to be black. She also believes that whites are privileged, and that white supremacy is entrenched in American society, even as a matter of public policy.
But she also believes that there is something that white people can do to relieve at least part of the guilt that they should feel for oppressing black people. While she says that her website is not the answer or solution to white privilege and white supremacy, it is a start – a step in the right direction. Or, as Marin put it, a way for white people to “extricate themselves from the guilt they are mired in,” but “is in no way a pardon for years of systemic abuse.
Marin said that she’s “particularly exhausted by this notion that folks, especially white folks, are somehow helpless to make a difference,” adding, “That couldn’t be farther from the truth.” She said that white people have “a lot of power and privilege at their disposal that can be leveraged to offset some of the trauma that people of color are dealing with daily.”
Her website is designed for people of color to make requests for things they want or need, and for white people to offer assistance to those people. People of color make requests for things such as a new laptop, a phone, financial assistance for their rent or mortgage, a new car, tuition money, childcare, massages, a vacation, etc. Then guilt-ridden white people respond by offering to contribute in some way. Here’s one example of a request by a user named Lynne:
“I’m getting a doctorate and the school (built by slaves, named after Christopher Columbus) charges me fees every semester to continue to study there. I can’t afford them and I’m not sure what to do. I already work an outside job and can’t ask for money from my family because they are poor too. I will go crazy if I have to get one more job while working on my dissertation. I am also maxed out on student loans. If anybody can help, please do.”
Here’s another from Osiris:
“I am the kind of person, who has trouble asking for help. This may be unrealistic, but I need an investor for my million dollar ideas. I work hard- tirelessly, over 80 hours a week, with 3 jobs. I have made so many white people rich, but not myself. I host monthly community events, I feed the homeless and friends alike when I can, and donate/ raise thousands of dollars to causes I believe in.
“I have a great life, a tidy home, food on my table, bills are always paid, but it’s been so hard for me to build a fund to really start a sustainable business of my own. I have wonderful ideas, I’m creative, I’m talented. I’ve been written up in several press and media, but success seems so far, and I’m still struggling! If not an investment in my ideas, I would love for someone to invite me over for dinner sometime to just talk about my dreams and goals.”
On the other hand, people – mostly white – can offer their services to others – mostly black – and people can take them up on their offer.