Opinion | America’s Responsibility: Reparations for Victims of Racial Terrorism

Meeting Sarah Collins Rudolph, a petite woman sitting comfortably on a corded khaki sofa in her dimly lit living room in Birmingham, Alabama, was a moment of profound significance. Her living room serves as a solemn shrine, commemorating the tragic 1963 act of terror that claimed the lives of four innocent little girls, sparing only Rudolph herself. She was the fifth little girl, miraculously surviving the Ku Klux Klan bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham six decades ago. Among the victims were her sister and a close friend.
Birmingham had earned the derogatory nickname “Bombingham” due to the frequency of bomb attacks carried out in resistance to integration. Rudolph, only 12 years old at the time, was caught in the blast, shards of glass piercing her body, even her eyes. In the midst of the chaos and destruction, she was found standing dazed amidst the rubble. Rushed to the hospital, she tragically lost one eye, yet the doctors were hesitant to remove the glass from the other, fearing it would result in total blindness.
Recalling the moment she discovered the fate of the other girls, Rudolph shared, “I wanted to cry, but all I could do was feel the deep hurt because I knew that with my impaired eyes, I couldn’t cry as I wanted.” A photograph on her coffee table captures her in a hospital bed, her face scarred and bandaged, with both eyes covered. It evokes an overwhelming desire within me, perhaps paternal or simply human, to comfort the child in that image, to hold her close and shed tears on her behalf.
In the days leading up to the bombing, Governor George Wallace had vehemently expressed the South’s resistance to integration, declaring that “white people nowhere in the South wanted integration” and suggesting that what was needed were “a few first-class funerals.” Tragically, Wallace’s wish was granted with the killing of those four girls. Thousands attended their funeral, and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had vehemently denounced Wallace in a telegram, delivered their eulogy, passionately declaring, “The blood of our little children is on your hands.”
However, Rudolph herself was unable to attend the funeral since she was still recovering in the hospital. Proper mourning for her was delayed for a significant period, as her trauma was met with silence. Shortly after her release from the hospital, she was forced back into a terrible school environment without any counseling or support. Most of her classmates were sent away, fearing for their safety, while her own mother sparingly mentioned her as “my baby who was in the bomb at the 16th Street Church.”
It wasn’t until her forties, when a preacher recognized her “nervous condition,” that Rudolph finally opened up about the bombing. The preacher assured her that God would heal her, prompting her to find her voice and advocate for the restitution she believes she is owed. However, despite decades of medical expenses, the only assistance she has received is help from the county to replace her prosthetic eye, valued at a mere $2,000.
Expressing his frustration during our conversation, Rudolph’s husband, George, interjected, “Right now, she still has to go to the eye doctor and pay out of her pocket. That shouldn’t be the case.” In response to Mrs. Rudolph’s demand for restitution, Governor Kay Ivey issued a tepid apology in 2020, directed not to Rudolph herself but to her attorney, filled with empty platitudes and evasive language regarding the possibility of compensation.
Throughout our interview, it became evident that the couple feels disrespected, dismissed, and undervalued. As Mr. Rudolph pointed out, “She ought to be treated like 9/11, Mother Emanuel, Boston Marathon. Those families received compensation, but they won’t do it for Sarah. And what I don’t understand is, what’s so difficult about that?”
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, Congress established a victims’ compensation fund, allocating a total of $5.12 billion over three fiscal years to individuals injured or relatives of those killed in the attacks. The families of victims and survivors of the 2015 Charleston church murders sued the federal government, arguing that the FBI’s background check system failed to prevent a self-proclaimed white nationalist from purchasing a firearm. The case was settled for $88 million.
Similarly, the One Fund Boston was created after the Boston Marathon bombing, raising nearly $80 million from over 200,000 donors to support survivors and the families of those killed in the attack.
The Rudolphs perceive themselves as victims of a terrorist act—how else could it be seen? Yet, both the State of Alabama and the nation have acknowledged their suffering without providing compensation. This raises a crucial question: what does America owe the victims of its past racial terror?
This issue is part of the broader reparations debate. However, the responses thus far have been woefully inadequate. In 1994, 71 years after the Rosewood Massacre, the Florida Legislature approved a $2.1 million compensation package for survivors and their descendants, including direct payments and scholarships. In comparison, the families of September 11 victims received an average tax-free compensation exceeding $2 million per claim.
Just recently, an Oklahoma judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre seeking reparations. Twenty-three years ago, a state commission recommended compensating survivors, but the promised funds were never delivered. Some Tulsa high school students were awarded “reconciliation” scholarships, and a New York nonprofit provided $1 million to three survivors in 2022.
At the funeral for the little girls in Birmingham, Dr. King proclaimed, “History has proven over and over again that unearned suffering is redemptive.” Yet, history also demonstrates that Black individuals who endure racial injustice are often denied reparations.
The Rudolphs, as they settle into their twilight years, are acutely aware that time is running out for them to obtain the restitution they deserve. As Mr. Rudolph poignantly stated, “I’m hoping something will happen, you know, before we leave this earth.”
Follow Google News


Denial of responsibility! Vigour Times is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
Denial of responsibility! Vigour Times is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
DMCA compliant image

Leave a Comment