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This discussion guide is designed to get you and your colleagues learning and talking about racism. This guide forms part of a six-week Black Lives Matter Discussion Group series that we had internally at Hive Learning. We’ve published this guide so you can use it to have honest, uncomfortable and entirely necessary conversations about racism with your team, too.

To end this Black Lives Matter Discussion Group series, we wanted to talk about how we, as a society, can make amends for past wrongs.

Our resource for discussion is an article in The New York Times Magazine by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones called What is Owed. It’s a deep-dive into why reparations are needed that states that to achieve justice and equality, the US needs to seriously consider what it owes Black Americans.

To this day, the only Americans who have ever received government restitution for slavery were white enslavers in Washington, D.C., who were compensated for their loss of human property.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Here’s what you’ll need:
Participants: 2+
Time: 1 hour (plus an additional 50 mins to read or listen to the resource)
Difficulty: Easy
Resources: Key resource, discussion questions, anything you usually need for any remote joiners

This guided discussion will:

⚡ Ask you to think about how we atone for mistakes of the past

⚡ Help you understand the reasons behind the call for reparations

⚡ Allow your team to share their thoughts on what kinds of reparations they agree or disagree with

Key resource: What is Owed, an article by Nikole Hannah-Jones in The New York Times Magazine (50 mins)

🔗 Link:

🎧 There’s also an option to listen to a recording in the article.

Questions to think about and discuss
💡 Is there a risk that, if reparations are paid, some people would assume that this chapter is closed and we don’t need to carry on conversations about the legacy of slavery?

💡 According to the article, in the US Black people are more likely to live in poorer neighbourhoods than white people. Even if they earn more at work. This is partly due to white people being able to build wealth over generations so that they can put deposits on houses in affluent neighborhoods. Do you think financial reparations could address the segregation seen in certain neighborhoods?

💡 Reparations aren’t just about giving money to a group of individuals. Sometimes they can take the form of a meaningful apology, a change in the law or giving back land. What kinds of reparations do you/don’t you favor and why?

💡 How do we decide who is eligible for reparations? And how do we decide who should be held accountable?

💡 How do we atone for mistakes of the past? Do you think that people from today should apologize for something that happened hundreds of years ago? And how far back do we go?

One week before
✅ Send out an email and calendar invitation including the link and discussion questions.

One day before
✅ Send a reminder to everyone to read or listen to the key resource before the session. Note down some of your own thoughts which you can share to prompt others to do the same

On the day

  1. Welcome everyone and introduce the key resource and discussion topic, which is Nikole Hannah-Jones’ New York Times Magazine article, What is Owed. (3 mins)
  2. Ask everyone for their initial thoughts from reading or listening to the article. What resonated with them most? (5 mins)
  3. Work through the discussion questions. Be mindful of the time and nudge the conversation on to the next topic when someone stops speaking. If people need more encouragement to speak, start by sharing your thoughts. (50 mins)
  4. Wrap up by thanking everyone for attending and for their input. Let everyone know that they are welcome to continue the conversation in your company’s social channels and to share feedback on the discussion with you. (3 mins)

✅ Send a follow-up email to thank participants and to re-share the resource and questions with anyone who couldn’t attend.

Short on time? Check out our card, The way forward, for a bite-size overview on reparations, part of our Inclusion Works programme pathway on systemic racism.

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