While the decision to grant reparations for slavery is still up for debate on the federal level, states, cities, private institutions and companies are already making moves towards making reparations.
Portland has called on Congress to approve reparations, announcing that it will lobby the federal government to provide financial payments to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans as well as for Native Americans harmed by U.S. governmental policy.
The Portland City Council recently unveiled plans to lobby the federal government, The New York Post reported. It wants the federal government to “establish federal reparations for Black and Indigenous communities” and to “strike the ‘Punishment Clause’ of the 13th Amendment to fully abolish slavery in the United States.”
The 12-point proposal also asks the federal government to provide funding to stabilize households, businesses, and cultural institutions, especially for Black-American communities.
“The federal government has to be a partner in any type of reparations conversation,” Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty told the Oregonian.
The federal stance on reparations has stalled after some progress in 2019 with the first congressional hearing on the issue. But there has been movement on the bill HR 40, which would approve a commission to “study” reparations.
Reparations have also moved forward in California, where the State Legislature passed a bill for a task force of scholars to look at the economic benefits of slavery to owners and businesses and report back to the assembly. California was not a slave-holding state. Also, the U.S. Conference of Mayors included reparations analysis and congressional lobbying on its 2020 agenda, the Harvard Business Review reported.
Recently, the Asheville city council in North Carolina voted 7-0 to provide its Black residents with reparations in the form of community investments.
There is already a large body of reparations research. In April 2020, the Brookings Institute pointed out the historical background of racism in the U.S. and the economic effect it has had on Black America. Its report, “Why We Need Reparations for Black Americans,” suggests reparations in the form of direct cash payments to descendants of African slaves, college tuition remissions, student loans forgiveness, housing down-payment grants and low interest loans, as well as business startup capital and investments.
Reparations advocates William Darity and A. Kristen Mullen wrote the book, “From Here to Equality,” a comprehensive analysis of reparations and the economic impacts of slavery. Their plan calls for acknowledgment, including a national apology, redress or restitution, and closure and atonement.
“Specifically, restitution for African Americans would eliminate racial disparities in wealth, income, education, health, sentencing and incarceration, political participation, and subsequent opportunities to engage in American political and social life,” Darity and Mullen wrote.
“And so we must imagine a new country,” Coates wrote. “Reparations — by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences — is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely.
“The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is — the work of fallible humans.”
Black business leaders have called for reparations as well. BET Founder Robert L. Johnson urged business and government leaders to consider $14 trillion in reparations and wealth transfer to U.S. descendants of African slaves to close the wealth gap, the Harvard Business Review reported.
“I’m calling for reparations and asking for two things,” Johnson said. “First, that white Americans recognize that reparations is a payment to atone for the largest illegal wealth transfer in this nation’s history; and second, to understand that the phrases ‘equal justice’ and ‘economic equality’ will ring hollow to Black Americans until they are made whole.”
Vista Equity Partners CEO, billionaire Robert Smith, has proposed a corporate “2-percent solution” which includes funding Black-owned banks and businesses.
Smith’s 2 percent plan calls for 2 percent of the net income of the largest U.S. corporations (approximately $25 billion annually) to be invested over the next 10 years, the Harvard Business Review reported.