Natasha Marin, a Seattle-based artist, felt demoralized after several high-profile police killings of unarmed Black men and the vitriol of this year’s presidential campaign. On a whim, she decided to start a social experiment using a Facebook events page. The concept she came up with was to ask her white friends to offer whatever help or money that they could. She then asked her Black friends to list the things they would need to “feel better, be happier, be more productive.” What emerged to her surprise was lots of people wanting to reach out and help their neighbor. Due to the overwhelming response on the FB events page, Ms. Marin realized she had to instantly create a website in order to facilitate people’s desire to lend a helping hand – www.reparations.me.
The website and the artist’s vision isn’t about atoning for slavery but to simply offer “reparations for things that happened earlier today, for yesterday, for last Thursday,” she said. “This is for the present tense.” Her goal is for people to offer reparations in the true sense of the word, which means repair. She said “I feel like many people feel broken” and that’s the reason for the overwhelming response to help each other. Ms. Marin and her group of volunteers who operate the site don’t match the givers and receivers, they simply provide the place for people to meet and communicate.
Some of the request on the site are as simple as a person in need of books or a mother from Oklahoma who needed help to purchase a new battery for her laptop. Some ways people offered to help was by giving lessons in using Excel spreadsheet or free tarot card readings. The purpose of the website is to ask white people who have historically benefitted from a political and cultural system, to give back to the people of color that have been discriminated against. The goal of the site is to answer the seemingly easy question of, what can I do to help fix racial injustice? Since the website’s inception, the number of offers to help have far outpaced the number of request for help.
Ms. Marin has been blown away by the website’s instant success because as she said, “If it had just been 50 people and some connections were made, generosity shown and gratitude shown, I would’ve been happy.” But with the success has come an avalanche of racist and negative responses, along with a few death threats. In order to combat the hate, she asked people she labelled ‘Troll Slayers’ to donate $1 for every nasty and hateful message the website receives. The monies received to combat the hate is then redistributed to people on the site in need of financial assistance.
Natasha believes, “It’s an effective way to monetize hatred and turn it into something worthwhile.”