The city of Greenbelt, Maryland, has taken a historic step by becoming the first city in the U.S. to approve taking up the issue of reparations on a voting ballot.
Greenbelt is a city in Prince George’s County and a suburb of Washington, D.C.
City council members approved a resolution on July 9 to include the issue of reparations in Greenbelt’s upcoming referendum, scheduled for November 2021. The resolution includes creating a Greenbelt Reparations Commission of 21 appointed members to recommend how to handle reparations for African American and Native American Greenbelt residents, WUSA9 reported.
“If adopted into law, the city council would be resolving that council apologizes and makes amends for its participation in and sanctioning of racism against Black people, and for ‘its enforcement of segregation and its accompanying discriminatory practices,” Greenbelt City Review reported.
Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd has been outspoken about the history of racism in Greenbelt and told WUSA9 that the city has a long history of excluding African Americans from opportunities.
Founded in 1937, Greenbelt was the first and largest of three “greenbelt towns” built with the contribution of African Americans in an obscure New Deal program of the Great Depression. Greenbelt was designed by the U.S. government in part to offer affordable housing for farmers displaced by the Dust Bowl.
While the Greenbelt decision is a landmark move, many in the movement feel that local reparations could actually harm the overall push for reparations.
Reparations scholar and academic Dr. William “Sandy” Darity has consistently argued against local “reparations programs,” saying they are not true reparations if they are approved at the local level rather than the federal level.
“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 in a recent interview with journalist Charles M. Blow, anchor for the Black News Channel (BNC) and a columnist for The New York Times.
Darity continued, “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.”
ADOS co-founder Yvette Carnell agreed with Darity that reparations must be on the federal, not local, level. In a recent interview with BNC’s Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Carnell said, “Reparations has to be a national project because it was America that did this, it wasn’t just local communities…so we have to start at the federal level…we need real money, we need real wealth because wealth was plundered, so wealth must be repaid,” explained Carnell.
ADOS co-founder Antonio Moore called out local reparations programs in an Aug. 8 tweet. “None of these local plans by these cities is true reparations for US chattel slavery. And without reparations #ados black folks are in for a bleak next decade. We don’t need the city of Detroit to do a task force. We need the US government to pay the trillions it owes.”
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