Across the country, several cities have created commissions to discuss paying reparations or have already approved so-called “reparations programs.”
Reparations scholar and academic Dr. William “Sandy” Darity has consistently pushed back against calling these “reparations programs,” saying they are not true reparations if they are approved at the local level rather than the federal level.
In a March 28 opinion piece for The Washington Post, Darity and his wife, A Kirsten Mullen criticized a so-called “reparations program” in Evanston, Ill. Earlier this year, the Evanston, Ill., City Council approved the “Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program” meant to compensate for discriminatory policies and practices in the city’s past. Under the program, qualifying Black residents can receive up to $25,000 grants for repairs or down payments on homes.
While Darity and Mullen said this action was a “good step,” they pointed out this was not true reparations. Darity and Mullen co-authored a book, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,”
They listed four pillars that they say a true reparations program must include. They are:
Darity continued to stress his views of federal reparations versus local reparation programs in a recent interview with journalist Charles M. Blow, anchor for the Black News Channel and a columnist for The New York Times.
“I think that one of the problems is that there is no reason to treat reparations for Black American descendants of U.S. slavery as something that needs to be conducted by states or municipalities. It really cannot be done effectively at the state or local level,” Darity said. “One of the central reasons is just because of the sheer expense that’s required. It will necessitate the federal government taking the primary role here.”
The racial wealth gap in the U.S. is approximately $140,000 in net worth per household or $300,000 per individual, Darity said.
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“The objective of a reparations project must be the elimination of the racial wealth gap in the United States,” he said. “If we were to eliminate that gap across the entire U.S., it would require an expenditure of in excess of $11 trillion. All of the state governments and all of the municipal governments in the U.S. combined have a budget of approximately $3.5 trillion, so they can’t do it.”
Darity concluded, “I think what we have to do is, despite good intentions, move from thinking about reparations as something that can be conducted on a state or local level. It simply can’t. It has to be a federal project”
Jessica Aiwuyor, the founder of the cultural information blog National Black Cultural Information Trust, disagreed with Darity.
“Yes, we need national reparations. However, reparations CAN AND SHOULD also be implemented at the local level,” @JAMAiwuyor tweeted. Aiwuyor said she agreed with @Nkechi_Taifa, who she said “explained in her response to Darity’s dismissal of local reparations which is based on a false premise.” She attached a Rolling Stone article by lawyer Nkechi Taifa refuting Daity’s approach to reparations.