This article is also a weekly newsletter. Sign up for Race/Related Here.
After 50 years of slavery, Belinda Sutton she was freed and received a pension from the estate of the man who had enslaved her, but not for his generosity. Sutton, originally from Ghana, had to go to court to receive income for her work, carried out on an estate near Boston. And she had to keep coming backto enforce the legal decision that would be paid.
His fight in 1783 for restitution – one of the first known cases in the United States – foreshadowed the difficulties formerly enslaved people and their descendants face in seeking similar reparations.
Black Americans renewed their call for reparations that compensated for slavery, post-Civil War land ownership restrictions for newly freed people, Jim Crow laws, redlining, discriminatory lending practices, and job discrimination.
The first statewide task force to consider reparations, in California, officially filed a sweeping one relationship which recommended a formal apology and demanded payments from eligible black residents.
Despite pockets of momentum in the various citiesthe fight for repairs is an uphill struggle.
What are repairs?
Reparations are measures that seek to rectify an appalling injustice with an acknowledgment and an apology. In this context, they refer to an attempt to remedy the unpaid labor of millions of Africans who came to the British North American colonies as human chattel. Their labor was vital to the accumulation of American capital, but neither they nor their descendants shared the benefits.
The goal of any reparation plan today is to compensate the 40 million descendants of slaves and, in theory, reduce the inequalities caused by slavery.
Why is there a wider interest in the reparations debate?
The topic was largely confined to the political left until June 2014 article in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates has elicited a more vigorous discussion. Coates argued that after being exploited by nearly every American institution, black Americans should be adequately compensated.
Momentum built in 2019, the 400th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of Africans to the Colony of Virginia. Coates was the star witness in a congressional hearing that considered a bill, House resolution 40, requesting a commission to study reparations for slavery. Further attention has been drawn to the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans by The Times’ The 1619 Project.
After high-profile deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police officers, such as the 2020 murder of George Floyd, calls for racial justice have become intertwined with claims for compensation. Calling for reparations also became a more prominent campaign issue in 2020, including in the Democratic primary.
Why might repairs be needed?
White Americans, particularly those who belonged to slave-owning families, amassed significant wealth from the unpaid labor of Africans. Enslaved people grew cotton, built railroads, and developed major universities that fueled the growth of the American economy. After the Civil War, four million people were freed, but without a dollar to their name.
Land ownership has been the primary driver of wealth in the United States, and the denial of access to it for Black Americans is the foundation upon which the wealth gap exists today.
THE Farm Law in 1862 bestowed hundreds of millions of acres in the West (which were the traditional or treaty lands of many Native American tribes) to white Americans; and free land was used to incentivize white foreigners to emigrate to the United States.
From 1862 to 1934, the federal government donated nearly 10 percent of the country’s land to more than 1.5 million white families. About 46 million American adults are descended from those homeowners.
Restrictions on land ownership Left Black Americans collectively have less rural land than the five largest landowners in the country, all of whom are white. Six million black Americans were forced to flee the terror of the Jim Crow South, and many of them left behind farms, homes, shops, vehicles and other economic assets.
A federal government measure notes the average the median wealth for black households is $24,100, while the median wealth for white households is $188,200.
Breaking it down, a black family has 12 cents for every dollar a typical white family has, a division that has grown over the past half century.
When were reparations paid in the US?
Americans who have received reparations for historical injustices include: Native Americans, for land seized by the government; Japanese Americans, to be held in internment camps; survivors of police abuse in Chicago; victims of forced sterilization; and black residents of Rosewooda Florida city that was burned down by a murderous mob of whites.
“It raised the specter of disloyalty that hung over us for 42 years because we were incarcerated,” Rep. Robert T. Matsui, a California Democrat who interned with his parents as a child, said at the time. « We have been made whole again as American citizens. »
Payments of $20,000 to some 80,000 eligible Japanese Americans did not come close to compensating them for the property they had lost, and other examples of reparations usually fell short.
Today the institutions have assumed a leading role. A leading order of Catholic priests has said it plans to raise $100 million for the descendants of the people it has enslaved. Virginia Theological Seminary, created a $1.7 million fund to support black seminarians and black faithful. Princeton Theological Seminary said it would spend $27 million on scholarships and initiatives to make amends for his ties to slavery. Georgetown said it would raise about $400,000 a year to benefit the descendants of the 272 enslaved people who were sold to help college nearly 200 years ago.
Some cities and towns have taken action. In 2021, the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois was the first to pass a measure, providing up to $25,000 to direct descendants of its black residents who were harmed by discriminatory housing policies between 1919 and 1969.
What is the argument against the idea of reparations?
Some critics argue that all who are owed reparations are dead, and people who did not benefit from the slave trade, or those who never owned slaves, should not repay the descendants of enslaved Africans. The reparations would create more racial tension, they add.
Others argue that the country paid its debt in blood during the Civil War and that black Americans benefited from social programs like affirmative action, which the Supreme Court recently terminated for college admissions. Some insist that Black Americans today are better off in the United States than in Africa. Dwelling on the issue, they say, continues a psychology of victimization rather than individual responsibility.
Questions are also being raised about the affordability of cash settlements, after San Francisco city councilors proposed a $5 million one-time payment to anyone eligible, and a California state reparations task force recommended up to $1.2 million for older black residents. None of these will be taken up by lawmakers for months.
How is the idea of repair seen?
About 80 percent of white Americans say they believe descendants of people enslaved in the United States shouldn’t be repaid in some way, according to a Pew Research Center survey, while only 17% of Black Americans oppose reparations. Additionally, 58% of Hispanic adults and 65% of Asian respondents are not in favor; together, these two growing groups make up a quarter of the population.
Opinions are divided between Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Eight percent of Republicans and right-leaning people say descendants of enslaved people should be repaid in some way, according to Pew.
Racial and ethnic inequalities have cost the US economy an estimated $51 trillion in lost output since 1990, an economic analysis Shows. Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, who has been looking at the economy’s lost output, said: « The imperative for equity, to fill some of these gaps, is not only a moral one, it’s an economic one. » « .
Invite your friends. Invite someone to sign up for the Race/Related newsletter. Or send your thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.