The ongoing burden of American slavery is largely economic. Survivors of slavery never received the type of reparations that Japanese, Native American, Jewish, or European communities (New Deal & Marshall Plan) received. Why is this so crucial now? As reported by The New York Times (June 2020), with Covid-19, Black Americans face a financial catastrophe unlike any in nearly a century. They had already lost the largest share of their wealth of all racial groups as a result of the last recession, and have struggled the most to recover. Black citizens are also the only racial group whose household median income is less than it was in 2000.
Why does this matter?
Already more than half of black adults are out of work. Black businesses are withering, and their owners were almost completely shut out of the federal paycheck-protection program — just 12% of Black and Latino business owners who applied for the small-business loans received the full amounts they requested (source)
The racial wealth gap is about the same as it was in the 1950s .. The typical black household today is poorer than 80 percent of white households. “No progress has been made over the past 70 years in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households” (source)
We need to pass legislation (including funding) to study the economic, health and psychological effects of slavery on descendants of slaves, to find the appropriate method of restitution, and to deliver a formal apology for the institution of slavery
This year, 142 members of Congress have co-sponsored H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act... compared with only two members in 2014 (source)
H.R. 40 would form a committee of 13 members of Congress who would compile a report of findings and recommendations on the issue and send it to Congress
How can we tackle it?
We need to continue this momentum, and get this important bill to the finish line. It has been sitting in the Senate, waiting for a vote
Engage with your elected Senators to enact H.R. 40 using our step-by-step guide
How else can we tackle this?
Reparations should include a commitment to vigorously enforcing existing civil rights prohibitions against housing, educational, and employment discrimination, as well as targeted investments in government-constructed segregated black communities and the segregated schools that serve a disproportionate number of black children. They must also include individual cash payments to descendants of the enslaved in order to close the wealth gap. (source)
Help further the conversation, in determining solutions, by engaging in The Forum, or via your social channels. Some potential approaches:
Reparation Land Grants. Black people were prohibited from participation in national land grants, homestead acts, and other land grabs afforded white men. If they were fortunate enough to acquire land, it was often stolen from them. Many were intimidated out of living in rural areas. Field Order 15 to provide 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves was repealed under suspicious circumstance, leaving black people without even the basic building block of self-sufficiency --- land. The federal government owns roughly 640 million acres, about 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States. There are ~38 million African-Americans (or 12% of the population), and the gov’t could set aside 76M acres of Federal Land, and make it available for purchase by the descendants of slaves with 0% interest loans, at 3/5th the prevailing valuation of the land
Revisit 40 Acres & A Mule. A recurring theme has been returning to the first official government action.
The amount of cropland required to meet that commitment today has a value of about $160bn (0.7% of American GDP in 2019). (source)
Thomas Craemer, an associate professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut, used 40 acres and a mule — but a different method in a study published last year. He used the current average price of agricultural land and figured that 40 acres of farmland and buildings would amount to roughly $123,000. If all of the 4 million slaves counted in the 1860 census had been able to take advantage of that offer, it would have totaled more than $486B today — or ~$16,200 for each descendant
In another approach, William Darity takes into account compounding interest and inflation, putting the present value at $2.6 trillion. Assuming roughly 30 million descendants of ex-slaves, he concluded it worked out to about $80,000 a person (source). Considering that the United States budget this year is $4.7 trillion, this amount would need to be spread consistently over a period of decades (source)
Non-cash Investment Targets. Some economists argue that reparations should fund training and education programs, or subsidize business lending
Some point to “baby bonds”, which would be targeted at poor children and help them pay for university or to start up a business
Money paid out to Japanese ex-internees has been used to fund academic chairs and historical archives. Reparations from Germany pay for food and medicine for Holocaust survivors (source)
A Social Innovation Fund could create a private/public partnership to fund such Opportunity Centers. Moving to Opportunity grants and K-12 education savings accounts would help minorities to move to integrated schools. Collective impact structures could coordinate local action and use data to find what works. (source)
Community land trusts let low-income families buy homes on land owned by non-profits, which vow to use the land for the good of the community. This lets homeowners gain equity and ensures that the property remains affordable for future home buyers (source)
100 Year Tax Holiday for Descendants of Slaves. Eligibility for any tax holiday could be determined by genetic evidence. William A. Darity Jr., an economist at Duke University and a leading scholar on reparations, suggests two qualifying conditions: having at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States, and having identified oneself as African-American on a legal document for at least a decade before the approval of any reparations (source)
Criminal Labor Reparations Tax. It is well known that many of the Fortune 1000 have histories that are connected to slave era labor. These companies owe citizens who are survivors of slavery, and the nation that will need to pay reparations, their fair share of the cost. The federal gov't could establish a 1.5% tax on corporations and their subsidiaries/derivatives that are proven to have benefited from free slave labor