Are you a guilty, rich white liberal with a kush government job getting paid to shuffle around papers in some useless bureau for $90,000 a year and harbors internalized racism? Well now you can absolve your white guilt with the new Reparations Happy Hour. That’s right, the aforementioned guilty white liberals can show up to a bar in Portland, Oregon and give away free money to black folks so they can booze it up. I’m sure these white liberals feel a lot better about themselves with that burden of whiteness off their shoulders now.
It’s been four years since Ta-Nehisi Coates made an exhaustive case for reparations in the pages of The Atlantic.
And on Monday, white Portlanders who agree with the idea had the chance to kick in $10 and buy a drink for a neighbor of color. It was an event billed as a “reparations happy hour” by prominent local activist Cameron Whitten, 27, and hosted by Brown Hope, a nonprofit he co-founded.
The premise was simple: Black, brown and indigenous folks could show up and collect $10 at the door donated by their white neighbors. In total, 40 people attended Monday’s event.
“The best part for me was showing up like Portland Oprah and see their eyes light up when I handed them $10,” Whitten said. “Because it was about more than that.”
The reparations happy hour signified the transformation of an idea that progressive Portlanders support into something tangible for the city’s residents of color.
“We do a lot of talking. We do a lot of making excuses,” Whitten said. “But how often do we actually recognize and acknowledge someone’s suffering? We’re so used to being denied any sort of justice that $10 is a respite.”
In fact, the longtime activist, best known for a 55-day hunger strike in front of City Hall to protest housing issues and his presence on the front lines of the many Portland demonstrations during the first year of the Trump administration, recruited seven white allies to fend off possible threats from alt-right groups threatening to disrupt the happy hour.
“We see a lot of folks who want to paint us in a bad light just because black, brown and indigenous people want a safe space,” Whitten said.
The happy hour is just one of many events Whitten and Brown Hope are organizing to address inequality across the city. He’s finalizing details for another event in August. And fundraising is currently in the works for a $2,000 Brown Hope Prize for an individual or group that promotes the organization’s core mission.
“Our goal is to heal from the disease of racism. And we see that happening through deep civic empowerment and through trauma-informed activism,” he said.
The Root adds:
Let’s get drinks, but make it reparations.
To be fair, I’m not certain what that means, but apparently Portland, Ore., is now the place to go if you want to take part in a Reparations Happy Hour, where black attendees get $10 cash, mainly from white donors.
“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Whitten said, according to the site. “What I want to do is end the cycle of exploitation. For black, brown, indigenous people, you face so many barriers, whether it’s tokenization or straight-up poverty.”
Whitten says that several white people donated and signed up to be regular, monthly donors. He’s also gotten donations from black people, too.
“I felt so good. That was my best part of the night, just giving out that money,” he added. “I feel like Oprah—like, fuck, I’m Portland’s Oprah right now. And I want to give more than $10.”
As Raw Story notes, Whitten is known throughout Portland politics. He held a 55-day hunger strike at City Hall over the city’s housing crisis and then exposed the racism within a city housing-advocacy group. In one particularly shocking incident, white activists in the group were caught mocking an indigenous person’s request not to sing “This Land Is Your Land” and locked the individual out of the room and sang the song loudly. The white woman at the head of the housing group ended up resigning because of Whitten’s work.
Whitten was recently fired from the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement, an act that he says is a result of racism and for which he is seeking to file a lawsuit, according to Raw Story.
“In Portland in general, when they say ‘people of color,’ they mean light-skin, white-passing Asian and Latino,” he said. “Very often we don’t see black people in charge of things. And we see a lot of anti-blackness.”
“This is a hostile environment,” he added, noting that was why many black friends of his have left the city. “They don’t die physically, but they leave Portland because they’re not getting what they need to nourish their spirit here.”
It is through events like the happy hour that Whitten hopes black and brown people can start to feel more comfortable in the city.
If you’re a guilty white liberal who feels the need to absolve themselves of their whiteness and inner racism, you can donate to Whitten’s organization on their Donor Box page right here.
I suppose the real question is what would happen if Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King walk in and demand a cut of the loot?