Louisville, Kentucky — home of the late Breonna Taylor, an emergency room technician who died in a hail of gunfire during a botched police raid — has joined a list of cities moving forward to support reparations for the Black descendants of American slaves.
The Louisville Metro Council doesn’t plan to set aside money for Black descendants of slaves but it has approved a resolution to support H.R. 40. That’s the proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that seeks to create a commission to study the effects of slavery on descendants of slaves and recommend “appropriate remedies.”
The council approved the resolution in a 13-8-4 vote, with all seven Republicans and Democrat Council member Mark Fox, D-13, voting against it. Four council members voted “present” on the bill, LEO Weekly reported.
Jecorey Arthur is a Louisville Metro District 4 Councilman and one of the resolution’s sponsors. “Policy broke us, so policy must fix us. Policy hurt us, so policy must heal us. Policy did this, so policy must undo this,” Arthur said.
The council’s resolution urges Congress to pass House Resolution 40, which was first introduced in 1989 by former U.S. Rep. John Conyers. H.R. 40 would establish a 13-member commission to study how slavery and racial discrimination have continued to impact Black Americans. In addition to recommending reparations, the commission would also decide how the federal government should apologize for its actions toward African slaves and their descendants.
The House Judiciary Committee voted in April to move forward with the bill.
Instead of waiting for the passage of H.R. 40, a number of cities have approved their own repartitions programs.
In June, 11 U.S. mayors from Los Angeles to Tullahassee, Oklahoma, pledged to pay reparations for slavery to a small group of Black residents in their cities, USA Today reported. While no details were released, the mayors vowed they were committed to paying reparations instead of just talking about them.
In March, Evanston, Illinois, becomes the first U.S. city to pay reparations to Black residents when the Chicago suburb’s City Council voted 8-1 to distribute $400,000 to eligible Black households, NBC News reported. And Asheville, N.C., approved reparations for Black residents that would provide funding to promote homeownership and business opportunities, but stopped short of stipulating direct payments, The New York Times reported.
In August, the city of Greenbelt, Maryland, took a historic step by becoming the first U.S. city to approve putting reparations on a voting ballot. Greenbelt is a city in Prince George’s County and a suburb of Washington, D.C.
In June, California passed a bill in the Assembly creating a task force to develop reparation proposals for African-Americans. The bill is being considered by the Senate.
The mayor of Providence, R.I., signed an executive order in September 2020 to commence with a “truth-telling and reparations process,” The Providence Journal reported.
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While some see local decisions as a boost to the reparations movement, others say reparations can only be achieved on a federal level and must involve direct payments. Reparations scholar and wealth inequality expert William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told the New York Times that he was “deeply skeptical about local or piecemeal actions to address various forms of racial inequality being labeled ‘reparations.’”
For reparations to be effective, he wrote, they would have to close the pre-tax racial wealth disparity in the U.S., which would cost about $10 to $12 trillion — three to four times more than total state and municipal spending.
“Piecemeal reparations taken singly or collectively at those levels of government cannot meet the debt for American racial injustice,” Darity said.
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