While the federal government has been slow to move forward on the issue of reparations, many local governments have been debating the repair of slavery and its legacy. Besides the discussion about whether or not reparations are due, there is also an argument now about who should receive reparations. Should reparations be based on race and issued to all Black people? Or should reparations be based on lineage and distributed only to descendants of American slaves?
Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and convener of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), has reiterated that the NAARC is for race-based reparations. Daniels is a veteran social and political activist who ran for president in 1992 as an independent. He has served as executive director of the National Rainbow Push Coalition and was the first Black American to be executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
Established in 2015, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century is a resource center and database engine developing and strengthening the empowerment of Black communities.
NAARC is a group of professionals in law, medicine, journalism, academia, history, civil rights, and social justice advocacy.
Daniels recently tweeted that the move to linage-based reparations harms the reparations movement. He tweeted, “The National Commission Supports Reparations for All Blacks Harmed in America!”
However, many legal scholars have pointed out that race-based reparations could be easily challenged in the courts as being unconstitutional.
Reparations based on lineage have a better chance of overcoming political and legal challenges, according to Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley Law School.
The NAARC has been instrumental in helping some local governments to make decisions about reparations. It helps certify municipal, regional, and state reparations initiatives using the milestone Evanston Reparations Initiative, which was certified by NAARC as a flexible replicable model. In 2019, Evanston, Ill, became the first local government to approve reparations. In 2021, the city established the first part of its reparations initiative, a housing program to distribute $10 million in reparations to Black residents. The housing reparations were open to all Black residents, not just those who were descendants of slaves.
The NAARC has formulated a 10-Point Reparations Program modeled after the Caribbean Community’s CARICOM Reparations Commission 10 Point Program to serve as a frame of reference and guide for the growing discourse on reparations in the U.S.
With the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) as a foundational collaborating partner, NAARC is also at the forefront of the movement to secure passage of HR-40, the Congressional bill that will create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans, according to NAARC website.
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Some argue that opening up reparations to all Black people could mean even people who aren’t actually Black race but identify as Black could receive reparations. One such person could be Rachel Dolezal, a former college instructor and activist who for years posed as a Black woman but was revealed to be white in 2015. She now says she identifies as a Black woman.
California is grappling with the question of who should receive reparations. On March 29, California’s Reparations Task Force is expected to decide who will qualify for reparations under any proposals its committee recommends.
The question of eligibility had been put off until now, and it was a matter of debate since the first-in-the-nation statewide task force began meeting in June 2021.
“If you can’t trace your family ancestry to enslaved Africans, what does that mean, for example, for scores of Black children in the child welfare system who probably can’t trace anything back more than a generation?” said Cheryl Grills, a task force member.
During the January task force meeting, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who authored the AB-3121 bill that established the task force, stressed that reparations should be based on lineage.
“It’s an issue not about being Black. It’s an issue of descendants and lineage,” Weber said. “There will be many Black people who do not deserve reparations, but there will be many whose lineage clearly says very strongly that they deserve to have reparations.”
In February, the task force voted 5-4 to delay the eligibility decision.
Other members spoke of their own personal experience as a way to advocate for an expanded group who could receive reparations — those with lived experience of anti-Black racism, which is, potentially, all Black people in the state, KQED reported.