Haas Institute researcher EJ Toppin participated in a panel discussion on the issue of reparations on April 1, 2019 at a conference on fair housing in San Rafael. EJ addressed the resistance among white people to reparations, saying that the issue must be framed larger than simply economics and the extreme wealth and equity gaps between Black and white Americans as a result of slavery and persistent forms of racial discrimination and exclusion, noting that facts and figures alone are not enough to move people. EJ said resistance to reparations revealed a crisis of national identity in the country. The American concept of market fundamentalism argues that people must be paid for their goods and services, thus denying reparations to Black people is tantamount to saying that the Black labor that built this country and the value that was extracted from them is not worth paying for. The national identity crisis is hinged on a notion that if reparations are paid, it would mean taking money from wealthy whites who historically profited from slavery, which is interpreted as an attack on white identity. But EJ reframed the issue to argue that reparations is not a devaluing of white identity, but it means giving up white dominance in exchange for a gain in humanity and moral standing. He said: "It isn't a cost that we're asking white people to pay, but the termination of the cost Black people continue to pay toward making white identity."
Watch other videos from the event here.