This toolkit explores the long history of struggles for reparations for Black people, lays out key facts, concepts, and international human rights law underlying reparations demands, and provides case studies of struggles for reparations at the
institutional, local, state, and international levels. Our goal in creating this toolkit is to provide a foundational definition of what reparations are, to advance our argument that reparations for Black people in the United States are essential, to inform public discussion about reparations, and to support organizers seeking reparations at the local, national, and international level in order to advance our collective struggles for Black liberation

Learn about the impact of Joint Terrorism Task Forces and Operation Legend tactics with this handy download.

Over 73 million people—or one in three people in the U.S.—currently have a record of past criminal history, triggering dozens of collateral consequences affecting access to education, employment and professional licenses, housing, social services and benefits, parental and adoption rights, freedom of movement, and voting rights. Given profound racial disparities at every stage of the criminal punishment system, Black people are disproportionately affected by these restrictions and exclusions

Since 1990, the U.S. Department of Defense has transferred over $6 billion in military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, including school and campus police, through the Excess Property 1033 Grant program. Military weapons, including tanks and grenade launchers, have disproportionately been deployed by SWAT Teams against Black communities in the “War on Drugs” and suppression of dissent. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has also received at least $39 million in military equipment through the program, deploying military weapons against migrants.

The use of pretrial detention and money bail has contributed to the 500% explosion in U.S. jail populations over the last forty years. Tonight around 600,000 people will sleep in a local jail, even though over 75%, or about 462,000 people, have not been convicted of any crime. Most are caged, in some cases for periods of months or years, because they are unable to post bail. Others are there because they were deemed a risk to themselves or their communities, often by racially biased risk assessment tools. Still others are there because they were unable to pay a fee or fine imposed by a judge in a criminal or civil proceeding.

While the vast and web of surveillance spreading throughout the U.S. impacts everyone, the harm to targeted groups, including Black, Latinx, Arab, Muslim, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and migrant communities, disabled people, low- and no-income, homeless or precariously housed people, and anyone receiving government benefits or using public services – including health care, housing, and schools – people involved in the sex trades and other criminalized economies, people who may be seeking self-managed abortion and other forms of health care, and activists who challenge state and corporate power is grossly disproportionate. Surveillance is increasingly being proposed as an alternative to incarceration, and corporations are increasingly profiting from our data.

The “War on Drugs” has been a primary driver of mass criminalization, incarceration, and law enforcement violence targeting Black people over the past five decades, devastating families, communities, and generations. Prostitution enforcement has consistently served as a mechanism for profiling, pathologization, targeting, physical and sexual violence, criminalization, and structural exclusion for Black women, trans, and gender nonconforming people, and regulation of sexual and reproductive autonomy. Both the drug war and prostitution enforcement divert millions of dollars away from meeting the needs of people with substance dependence and people in the drug and sex trades, including non-coercive, accessible, and evidence-based treatment, housing, health care, education, and living wage employment.

Black people, including Black disabled, LGBTQ and low- and no-income people, are disproportionately sentenced to death in the U.S.The United States currently imprisons more human beings than any other country in the world, both in real numbers and as a percentage of the population.

The United States currently imprisons more human beings than any other country in the world, both in real numbers and as a percentage of the population.

 
The number of migrants, including children separated from their families, incarcerated in detention centers has reached record numbers. While Black people represent about 13% of the population of the U.S., we represent upwards of 40% of people caged in jails, prisons, and juvenile detention. One in 3 Black men, and 1 in 2 Black trans women, will face incarceration in their lifetimes. Black women represent the fastest growing prison and jail populations.  Black disabled people are disproportionately incarcerated in youth and adult jails, prisons, detention facilities, and state “hospitals.” One in 2 Black women have an incarcerated loved one, and 1 in 9 Black children has an incarcerated parent.

Incarcerated people are subjected to endemic physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual violence, deprivation, degradation, violation, isolation, medical abuse and neglect, and forced labor, in gross violation of their civil and human rights. Mass criminalization, incarceration, detention, and deportation have devastating, generational impacts on individuals, families, communities, and generations of Black people.

Black migrants now account for 10% of the Black population and 7.2% of all non-citizens, and are disproportionately demonized and targeted for violence and exclusion at the border, criminalization, detention, and deportation. Among all migrants, Black migrants are nearly 3 times more likely to be detained and deported as a result of an alleged criminal offense. Migrants seeking to enter and living in the U.S. are subject to intensifying and violent militarized border enforcement, interior enforcement and raids, bans and bars to entry into the U.S.; the elimination of opportunities to claim asylum, as well as surveillance, policing, profiling, and criminalization; detention under inhuman conditions; family separation; and exclusions from access to programs to meet basic needs. At each of these points, migrants are experiencing physical and sexual violence, violation, degradation, torture and abuse, family separation, gross medical neglect, demonization, and are being forced return to dangerous or desperate conditions.

Black people across the U.S. have shorter life expectancy, higher rates of stress-related medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and unmet mental health needs, higher rates of chronic health issues, devastating rates of Black maternal and infant mortality, and high rates of mortality among our trans and gender nonconforming family. 

One quarter of the Black population in the United States, 35% of Black people aged 44-65, and almost half of Black people over 65, have some form of documented disability.

A history of systemic racism, ableism, medical violence, and neglect within the health care system, combined with denial of universal, affordable, competent and quality care, has placed access to medical care out of reach for the majority of Black people. Additionally, in the current political climate, Black women, trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming people are increasingly being denied access to full sexual, gender, and reproductive autonomy.

Discrimination, harassment, and violence against Black trans, intersex, queer, and gender nonconforming (LGBTQ+) people pervade virtually every institution and setting, including schools, workplaces, systems of policing, prisons, parole and probation, immigration, health care, and family and juvenile courts. As a result, Black LGBTQ+ people experience high levels of poverty, criminalization, health disparities, and exclusion in the U.S. Black trans women and gender nonconforming people in particular experience some of the highest levels of killings, violence, poverty, policing, criminalization, and incarceration of any group in the U.S.

Discrimination, harassment, and violence against Black trans, intersex, queer, and gender nonconforming (LGBTQ+) people pervade virtually every institution and setting, including schools, workplaces, systems of policing, prisons, parole and probation, immigration, health care, and family and juvenile courts. As a result, Black LGBTQ+ people experience high levels of poverty, criminalization, health disparities, and exclusion in the U.S. Black trans women and gender nonconforming people in particular experience some of the highest levels of killings, violence, poverty, policing, criminalization, and incarceration of any group in the U.S.

Black women have historically and continue to experience some of the highest rates of violence, including lethal, physical, and sexual violence; highest rates of maternal mortality and stress-related medical conditions; and some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment, of any group in the United States. Black women also have the highest rates of stops, police violence, arrests, incarceration, and carceral control among women, and represent the fastest growing prison and jail populations in the country. Black women also bear the brunt of the financial impacts of mass incarceration. Black women have been subjected to a long history of reproductive control, and are increasingly being denied access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive and gender affirming health services, and are primary targets of child welfare policing and the foster system.

Black youth are systematically profiled and targeted by police, and make up 35% of arrests of people under 18; twice as likely to be arrested as white youth; disproportionately tried as adults; twice as likely to be sentenced to life without parole; five times as likely to be incarcerated or committed; and more likely to be sent to adult facilities, and to be held in solitary confinement. Disabled youth enter the system at 5 to 6 times the rate of nondisabled youth, and LGBTQ youth are disproportionately incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities.

The explosion of surveillance, policing, mass criminalization, incarceration, and deportation that has devastated Black communities over the past four decades has been fueled by large-scale investments at all levels of government, accompanied by massive disinvestment from meeting community needs. The U.S. currently spends over $100 billion a year on policing and another $80 billion a year on jails and prisons, at a tremendous cost to the lives of Black people and communities, and to public safety.

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) launched the Vision for Black Lives, a comprehensive and visionary policy agenda for the post-Ferguson Black liberation movement, in August of 2016. The Vision, endorsed by over 50 Black-led organizations in the M4BL ecosystem and hundreds of allied organizations and individuals, has since inspired campaigns across the country to achieve its goals, including campaigns to end money bail, divest from policing and invest in community needs, and build political power. During that time, we have also produced critical popular educational tools, webinars, and teach-ins to support our movements to actualize the vision, including a bail reform curriculum and reparations toolkit.