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My Own Journey – Melissa’s Story

My family’s wealth was accumulated through my maternal great-grandparents’ family trucking business in the 1930s.  After my great-grandfather died, my great-grandmother took over the business with help from her two sons, my 18 year-old grandfather and his younger brother. They  quickly learned the business, and together they built a national trucking company over the next five decades. There is so much nostalgia in the stories, like my great-grandparents taking their first truck to drive across the state, or learning how many people, including some of my family members, worked tirelessly to create this dream. 

I now realize how much of my family’s wealth was built on the realities of systemic racism, oppression, stolen resources, and white privilege.  I now consider my family’s wealth to be stolen.

It was acquired not only from the hard work, creativity, and ingenuity my family members have accomplished in our family’s business, but also by relying on the backs of Black and indigenous people through a complex series of systemic laws and practices that benefit white and economically privileged people.

There are hundreds and possibly thousands of ways my white family has benefitted and succeeded based on white supremacy and structural racism, and I can’t buy into the individualistic idea that my family has become wealthy by their own determination.

A few years ago, after thawing from the paralysis that accompanied the awareness and shame around my inherited wealth, I began a journey to understand what reparations means. How do the leaders in our racial justice movement define reparations, and what will my own personal form of reparations be? With gratitude to organizations like Resource Generation, Black and brown justice activists, mentors and friends, and white anti-racist peers, I have found a few avenues to practice reparations.

One is to participate in Black-led land projects and cooperative businesses. Another is to engage in meaningful, honest, and risky conversations and direct reparations with friends of color and their friends and colleagues. When I found out about Stolen Wealth Returns. I believed it was an exciting development.

I have feelings of relief and aliveness from releasing my own stolen resources without having to know prying details about the activists themselves, their debt, or their financial choices. I have learned so much from my relationships with the returners, especially from their analysis of systemic racism and their work toward reparations. I am grateful for the ability to move money that needs to be redistributed without engaging in a time and energy consuming process.