If conversations around racism are difficult, the particular topic of reparations is difficult in the extreme. Some of the difficulty lies in how reparations are defined. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines the term as "the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged." In other words, how much money is enough, and what else can help?
For instance, as an "otherwise" form of help, does affirmative action qualify as reparations? Affirmative action has been used for the past half century to encourage the success of African Americans in particular. (2) It is a political policy designed to make amends for their underrepresentation in workplaces, contracts, and education admissions. (3) Over the years, affirmative action expanded to cover many kinds of differences in a commitment to diversity. That diversity could include severely ill psychiatric patients who encountered stigma and other obstacles to recovery. The policy has also helped White women, perhaps the most out of any groups. (4) However, it is currently of concern for its use as a means of discriminating against Asian American college applicants. Along with the dramatic success of Asian Americans in admission to and performance in college, a form of backlash has emerged, such as the claim that Harvard has recently been manipulating their admissions process against Asian Americans. (4)
On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making June 19th a federal holiday commemorating emancipation. Of course, it does not contain any particular financial reparations, but it may provide a measure of moral and psychological reparations. It will update our Declaration of Independence, commemorated on July 4th, because that declaration was not fully inclusive of African Americans or women. Nationally celebrating July 4th alone may be an example of unintentional hid den structural racism; Juneteenth can chip away at that. What a formal societal step forward this is from June 19, 1865, when General Granger arrived in Galveston to notify slaves that the Civil War was over and that they were free--of course, this came more than 2 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
From the psychiatric perspective, making amends would refer to supporting the mental health of the victims in any way possible, including the provision of physical and mental health care. Health, education, and child development services would therefore need improvement. Moreover, making amends seems to overlap or follow forgiveness, a psychological process that can help both the perpetrator and the victim. A clear example of that might be the man-made traumas of posttraumatic stress disorder, for which the perpetrator(s) made enough amends to help the victim, say, in a sexual abuse case, and the victim conveyed some forgiveness.
In the United States, the societal discussion about reparations seems rightly focused on African Americans. However, as with affirmative action, it can pertain to other races, cultural groups, or populations across the globe. In the United States, there are...