Dedrick Asante-Muhammad: Not Paying Reparations is More Costly Than Repairing The Damage

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad: Not Paying Reparations is More Costly Than Repairing The Damage


Dedrick Asante-Muhammad (Photo from the author's page of Institute for Policy Studies)

Thought leader Dedrick Asante-Muhammad has focused on racial and economic inequality throughout his career. He recently weighed in on reparations with an opinion piece for the Independent Tribune

According to Asante-Muhammad, reparations might be costly, but it won’t cost nearly as much as repairing the economic and social damage done to Black Americans by the U.S. government.

Asante-Muhammad started his work as the first Racial Wealth Divide Coordinator at United For A Fair Economy. He later worked with the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality and Common Good Program. He was also the Senior Director of the Economic Department for the NAACP. Asante-Muhammad, who has also worked for Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, is currently the Chief of Race, Wealth, and Community for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Asante-Muhammad is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

The racial wealth divide between Black and white Americans has remained a problem for decades. There still remains a major gap in wealth. The median African-American household has just 6 percent of the wealth of the median white-American household, according to the Institute for Policy Studies in 2020. 

“This is a result of public policy — not just slavery but also segregation, mass incarceration, housing and lending discrimination, and other injustices that persist. Closing this gap will also take public policy — including some form of cash payments to help Black families build their wealth, otherwise known as reparations,” wrote Asante-Muhammad.

He mentions the push-back by those who oppose reparations using the argument of expense.

While Asante-Muhammad thinks cash payments can and should play an essential role in economic repair for African Americans, he doesn’t feel payments should be issued in “one large lump-sum payment.” This, he wrote, would not be “ideal for wealth building.”

In his own policy work, he proposed $20,000 a year for 20 years for all African-Americans who meet the requirements for reparations.  

A substantial sum of funds over 20 years is much more likely to be used for sustained economic advancement than a one-time mass payment. Still, cash is just one piece of the puzzle,” he wrote. 

He pointed to the reparations plan proposed recently in San Francisco, which not only addresses cash payments but also other forms of repair, such as a call for the city to: close the school-to-prison pipeline; use land-use controls to reduce the number of unhealthy establishments in Black communities; and offer tax relief and incentives to Black-owned businesses, among other things.

Asante-Muhammad also noted that reparations can not be done solely on a local basis.

“Of course, for local reparations to be most effective, a national reparations program is needed to build on. The federal government is much better able to fund the broad and bold initiatives required to address what many have called our nation’s original sin, white supremacist racism,” he explained.

And ultimately, he wrote reparations would be less expensive than the government trying to repair damage to the African-American community.

“Repairing this damage is expensive. But not making the necessary investments to bridge this divide costs even more,” he stressed….The Black-white economic divide keeps about 1 in 5 African-Americans in poverty and leads to the continuing mass incarceration of African Americans, among many other injustices.”

He continued, “Without deep and widespread intervention, our centuries-old racial wealth divide will continue for centuries. It costs the nation and its African American citizens too much not to invest in reparations.”

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad (Photo from the author’s page of Institute for Policy Studies, https://ips-dc.org/ips-authors/dedrick-muhammad/)