For roughly 250 years, commerce and capital accumulation in Europe and the Americas were inextricably bound up with the transatlantic slave trade (as well as the forcible expulsion and repression of Native Americans). In the 19th and 20th centuries, legal and social structures in the United States enabled wealth creation among “white” Americans at the expense of other racial and ethnic groups, especially African-Americans. Moreover, legitimate opportunities for power and truth-telling were stolen at the same time. The systemic legacy of this history continues today, and calls for its repair should be especially resonant with Christians—due to our theological commitments, our heritage of activism, and the historical culpability of the American church.
The politics and policy issues involved make a broadly legislated program of reparations unlikely, if such a program is even advisable. Still, voluntary acts could be meaningful and significant; considering financial wealth alone, if white American evangelical Christian households chose to divest two percent of their net worth, that would be an asset transfer on the order of $55B.
We see an opportunity for organizations to create pathways for voluntary acts of reparation through advocacy, and by offering tangible ways to take action in the restoration of wealth, truth, and power. Possibilities abound, including in real estate development, fund structures, capital access, business ownership processes, media and advertising, and more. Such ventures could dramatically advance the cause of repair and restoration of this grievous aspect of our history.
In today’s commercially-driven world people are more likely to be seen and referred to as 'consumers' than anything else. Instead of being met with resistance, this shift has often meant that individuals have formed their identity through a composite of brands, and product purchasing can be guided more by the desire to make a statement about one’s identity and values than strict utility. As a result, the lines between social movement, capitalism, and community are increasingly blurry (see: Nike, Whole Foods, and Patagonia).
Given this reality (which is with us for both better and worse), we’d like to support entrepreneurs with a vision for building brands with a counter-culturally virtuous and optimistic view of the world, spreading hope and beauty, eliminating stigma, and most fundamentally, redirecting our identity away from materialistic consumption and toward lasting contentment.