Talk Of Reparations For Slavery Moves to State Capitols: Pew Charitable Trusts

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Written by Ann Brown
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Talk of reparations for slavery has moved to several State Capitols, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont.
Image By Autumn Keiko

This is a major development. Talk of reparations for slavery has moved to several State Capitols. 

In Pennsylvania, State Rep. Chris Rabb, a Democrat, recently announced plans to introduce major legislation that would award reparations to African-American state residents. Pennsylvania isn’t the only state seriously debating about issuing reparations to descendants of the American slave system. Lawmakers in California, New York, Texas, and Vermont have also introduced legislation proposing compensation to the descendants of slaves.

“This year, Democratic lawmakers in California, New York, and Vermont — states that either outlawed slavery before the Civil War or never allowed it — have introduced legislation that would apologize for their state’s role in slavery; recognize the lasting, negative impact of slavery on current generations of African Americans; and explore monetary reparations,” Pew Trusts reported.

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Over in Texas, Democratic lawmakers in Texas sponsored a bill urging the passage of a federal reparations bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, also a Democrat, in April. Florida lawmakers, in September, debuted a $10 million reparations bill for the descendants of victims of a specific, 1920 Ocoee massacre. In Nov. 1920 a white mob attacked African-American residents in northern Ocoee, resulting in the deaths of 56 Black people and 2 white. African-American-owned buildings and residences were burned to the ground, and the remaining Black residents were driven out making the town all-white.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Chris Rabb is backing a reparations bill this legislative session that would offer African Americans in the Keystone State remuneration.

“He proposes a statewide reparations plan for Pennsylvania that would involve multiple tiers of compensation, with the greatest awards going to residents who can prove they descended from generations of Black Pennsylvanians. To qualify for reparations, residents would have to prove they’ve lived as African Americans through government records such as census records or birth certificates,” Pew Trusts reported.

“When we wonder why these racial disparities endure, we have to start at the origin,” said Rabb, who is Back. “It’s policy. It’s not a cultural deficit. It’s not bad decisions by individual Black people. It’s the system.”

There are some however feel the states should leave the decision of slavery reparations up to the federal government. And others, even some Blacks, say it’s too late for reparations.

“It’s a weird sense of accountability,” said Walter Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University in Virginia who opposes all reparations.

“What people are suggesting is that we help a black person of today by punishing a white person of today for what a white person of yesterday did to a black of yesterday,” said Williams, who is Black. “That’s a perverse sense of justice in my opinion.”

As a whole, most Americans oppose monetary reparations. A recent Gallup poll revealed two-thirds of adult U.S. residents opposed cash payments to Black descendants of slaves. Black respondents, on the other hand, supported the idea by 73 percent.

Ann Brown
Image Attribution: Talk of reparations for slavery has moved to several State Capitols, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont. Image By Autumn Keiko, Talk of reparations for slavery has moved to several State Capitols, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont. Image By Autumn Keiko