Airline miles. Therapy. Crisis intervention. Energy clearing. Yoga. Tuition assistance. Life support. These are some of the services both offered and requested on “Reparations,” a website, conceptual art project, and social experiment by Seattle-based artist Natasha Marin.
The website, simply speaking, aims to provide people of color with the assistance they need to get through the hurdles of daily life. A person of color uploads a #request, and anyone able to fulfill it can do so with the click of a button.
Individuals can also upload #offerings to the website, listing goods or services they are ready and willing to offer to those in need. The project gives people of color a space to ask for help, and a way for white individuals to counteract their privilege with an act of kindness.
As explained on the “Reparations” website:
What if a stranger restored your belief in humanity, if only for a moment, by supporting you and allowing you to claim something you need in a material way?
I invite People of Color to ask for what we need to feel better, be happier, be more productive by posting in this space. These may be both material and immaterial requests.
I invite people who identify as White to offer services or contributions to People of Color in need of time, energy, substantive care, and support.
You do not necessarily have to be white to fulfill a request ― the first people to volunteer their services, Marin noted, were people of color. However, the piece is meant to inspire meditation on the lived realities and ramifications of whiteness. “There are people across the political spectrum who don’t understand that they have privilege,” Marin explained to the LA Times. “So in many ways the site lets you cash in your whiteness to help other people.”
For example, on July 31, a woman named Enne uploaded a #request asking for an engagement ring for her fiancé. “I have been through enough heartache to last a million lifetimes, and now, I’ve found my ONE. And I want to ask her for her hand till the end of time,” she wrote.
“I want to marry this amazing woman. I want to spend all the moments being her wife and partner in this life. But I cannot afford to get her a ring. I am struggling so hard to pay my part of the mortgage, and pay on a loan to rebuild my credit, as well as financial needs of my kids ... I would love to give this woman a beautiful engagement ring. Perhaps you could help me make that possible.”
A red label reading “satisfied” sits above Enne’s request.
Marin, who is black and born in Trinidad, explained in an interview with The Guardian that her mission is not to create divisions or evoke “white guilt.” Rather, she hopes “Reparations” opens up a safe space for people to help each other, in ways physical and immaterial, in any way they can.
“I’m trying to create moments of solidarity between people of color, and between people of color and people who are white,” she explained to The Guardian. “I’m not into polarizing. I’m into people working together for solutions … who can you help, who can you connect with, how can you offset your privilege.”
Although the concept of reparations is often associated with the legacy of slavery in the United States, as expressed in recent demands made by Black Lives Matter, Marin specified in an interview with conservative website Breitbart that the project is in no way trying to alleviate the deep scars slavery left behind. How could it? As Marin explained: “Can you make up hundreds of years of torture and murder with a Starbucks’ gift card or a ride to the airport? I DON’T THINK SO.”
Since the project’s inception, it has been the target of trolling, ignorance and hate. Comments run the gamut from “Get a job like the rest of us!” to far worse. Some even offered fake donations without following through. A veteran in need of a service dog, for example, was forced to upload his request three times.
Marin has developed a “Troll Fund” portion of her website especially to deal with such despicable behavior. Thanks to a team of Troll Slayers, every hateful comment posted on the “Reparations” site will be met with a one dollar donation towards someone in need of financial support. You can become a Troll Slayer by following the link. Through the fund, Marin has managed to turn even the most disturbing elements of the project into a force of good.
Thus far, “Reparations” has received 64 offers and 33 requests, 23 of which have been satisfied. Visit the website to see how you can ask, give, share, spread love, or all of the above.