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Venmo reparations? Satire merges with reality as white Americans offload their guilt by paying Juneteenth ‘tips’

Venmo reparations? Satire merges with reality as white Americans offload their guilt by paying Juneteenth ‘tips’
Why are white people sending unsolicited donations to their black friends - or forking it over to total strangers? The phenomenon may have begun as satire, but like so many jokes in 2020, “mini-reparations” have become reality.

With race relations in the US front and center ever since last month’s police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some people are taking the matter of reparations for slavery into their own hands. Guilty white people sending unsolicited cash donations to their black acquaintances – or eagerly responding to calls for cash from random social media accounts purporting to be needy black folks – has become so common that “Venmo” (an online money transfer service) was trending on Twitter on Thursday and Friday, converging with the Juneteenth holiday that commemorates the end of slavery.

But while some people are benefiting – whether by assuaging their guilt over their ‘privilege’ or getting their bills paid – it’s making others deeply uncomfortable.

The podcast Reply-All investigated the phenomenon on Thursday, concluding “the world’s weirdest form of reparations: Venmo payments from white people” had its roots in a 2016 routine by standup comedian Milly Tamarez. Producer Emmanuel Dzotsi spoke to Tamarez, who recalled being somewhat surprised when her satirical “White Forgiveness” campaign began taking in real money, with real live white people apparently donating in exchange for being “publicly acknowledged” as “one of the ‘good’ white people.”

The producer also spoke to some recipients of unsolicited Venmo “tips” who wanted to remain anonymous so as not to embarrass friends or acquaintances they thought might have been well-meaning. Several noted that the donations were too small to make any kind of difference financially and resented being used by white people – who in some cases they barely knew - to expiate their privilege.

Not everyone felt compunction about taking guilty white liberals’ money, however. Numerous social media users started threads inviting black people to leave their CashApp and Venmo tags to make things easier for white users to unload their privileged pennies all at one go.

It’s not clear how Juneteenth specifically became associated with this orgy of virtue signaling, though satire site Reductress did post an article in 2018 titled “Celebrate Juneteenth by Venmoing All Your Black Friends $50” that looks eerily prescient in 2020. The site retweeted it earlier this week.

Juneteenth, which commemorates the signing of federal orders freeing the slaves of Texas, has in recent decades become widely celebrated across the US, especially in cities with large black populations. It is typically celebrated with cookouts, street fairs, and other outdoor get-togethers. Senate Democrats on Friday introduced a bill to make it a federal holiday.

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