Follow a social media hashtag into some hater hive, and it’s easy to lose a grip on what’s good in the world. Reparations.me, the website founded by Seattle artist Natasha Marin, is a response to the disorienting effects of a long scrolling session. Scanning a Facebook feed full of struggle—police brutality reports, lost jobs, general life-weary angst—she thought: Surely humanity can’t be this hopeless. What if I just invited people to help one another? Today, people of color from all over the world post requests for help. And anyone can respond with offers of aid or donate to a “Troll Fund” to combat the scary vitriol that Marin’s encountered since its debut.
Why was it important to limit who could ask for help?
I ask people who identify as white not to make requests because there are many platforms for that already. It is actually really difficult to ask for help. If you’ve ever had to ask somebody to borrow money, or fundraised, you know how uncomfortable it can be. I hope that this project reminds people that it’s much easier to offer help than it is to ask for it.
And how does that relate to reparations?
Reparations, in its purest form, refers to the concept that something broken can be repaired, something wounded can be healed. How does one individual fix police brutality? I don’t know that it’s possible. But one individual can help another individual with something they need.
What kinds of things are people requesting?
Getaways, massages, microwaves, child care. There was the veteran who needed a service dog because his previous service dog had passed away. He had raised about $1,200 of the $5,500 he needed, and two days ago he let me know he met his goal.
How did the site’s Troll Fund come about?
This is not a postracial society. We still have racists who would like someone like me to lynch herself. But it doesn’t matter where you land on reparations; most people are not in favor of mothers of small children getting death threats. And some of those people become troll slayers.
By pledging a dollar when Reparations gets trolled.
And those donations fill existing requests. So in some ways trolls have been helpful.
Given the response, this must be a ton of work. Is it sustainable?
I sleep, like, four hours a night. It is not sustainable. So people who have app development skills, or web building skills, or admin skills: If you have time to volunteer, please reach out to me. I am experiencing the difficulty of asking for help.