About the Western Center

The Western Center for Social Impact and Innovation works at the intersections of science and social justice and impact to engage Miami and the surrounding community in problem-solving for some of humanity's most pressing challenges. Western Center programming includes academic courses and co-curricular opportunities such as lectures and service learning experiences. The center operates as a nexus for engagement with local, national, and global problems. The center connects diverse students, faculty, alumni, experts, and community leaders to explore both public and private sector solutions.

The Western Center uses biennial themes, to help focus its programming. Through spring of 2023 the theme is Reparations as Restorative Justice, which includes topics related to truth-seeking and repair of racial injustice.

By curating programming that brings scholars and practitioners together to discuss innovative solutions, the center helps to facilitate the strong interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary legacy of the college. The Western College for Women and the Western College Program have a long legacy of engagement and activism and a commitment to civil rights, international education, and leadership development. By combining with the existing individualized studies major, the Western Center for Social Impact and Innovation (Peabody Hall, Room 022) will strengthen Western's legacy of interdisciplinary study and global social impact for today's Miami students and future generations.

2021-2023 Theme: Reparations as Restorative Justice

Reparations as Restorative Justice is the Western Center's current theme because it is a critically important part of how we create equitable, inclusive, and resilient communities and institutions for all of us. Reparations require that we confront the truths of profound historical wrongs and their current legacies--such as slavery and genocide--and work with surviving communities toward the repair of those harms.

Although its US roots begin in the 19th century, it is only now starting to gain visibility in mainstream media outlets and among broader sectors of the US population due to the work of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities involved in the most recent wave of racial justice organizing. Long-time racial justice activist and scholar, Dr. Fania E. Davis, writes in her 2019 book The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation, “We have reached a historical point in this country where it is clear that if we do not seek both justice and healing, injustice will keep replicating itself ad nauseum and we will find ourselves intoning the very same social justice demands generation after generation.

Why are Some Scholars and Practitioners Calling for Reparations?

This answer depends on which communities have been or are being victimized by the harm, and which harm is the focus of redress.

Some harms may best be repaired by direct monetary compensation to survivors and their descendants, while others may best be addressed by targeted community investments in universities, court systems, and banks. One such example that involves a multi-faceted approach is the case to close the US racial wealth gap for African Americans.

The median net worth of a typical white family is 10 times the net worth of a typical Black family. This infographic demonstrates the racial wealth gap’s roots in slavery and subsequent institutional policies of exclusion. Then it outlines an approach to correct it, which involves government-funded initiatives that include direct individual payments, university scholarships, and grants for Black-owned businesses.

What are Some Existing Examples of Reparations?

Germany has paid $90 billion dollars in monetary reparations to Holocaust survivors since the 1950s, via various government initiatives. Payments have been renegotiated over time in response to survivors’ changing needs.

The United States government has adopted monetary programs of reparations for Japanese Americans, imprisoned by the US government during WWII.

A few US states, including North Carolina and California, have paid or plan to pay monetary reparations to survivors of coerced or forced sterilization. Poor, disabled, and women of color (some as young as 13) were disproportionately the targets of this abuse.

In 2005, the United Nations adopted a resolution that sets forth general principles and guidelines for the legal right to remedy and reparations.

Black South Africans and the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand have received reparations for past and subsequent harms cause during racial apartheid, forced displacement, and other violent processes related to settler colonialism. These reparations took the form of individual and collective community payments, as well as support for the rebuilding of cultural institutions (e.g., schools with indigenous language programs) and the return of land.

Where Can I Learn More About Current Calls for Reparations in the U.S.?

From Duke professor Dr. William A. Darity Jr. and award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates to the LandBack Movement to the city of Evanston, IL, more scholars, activists, and practitioners agree that reparations are an important tool in the restorative justice toolbox.

The Western Center will use an intersectional approach to explore past and current cases for reparations. It will work with Collaborating Scholar Dr. Rodney Coates (Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies), as well as its other campus and community partners, to guide programming. Academic and co-curricular programming will include both US and international perspectives, as well as diverse proposals to repair the harms caused by racial injustice.

View WST301 Course Description