Reparations Task Forces are popping up in states all over America, but some are concerned that white people could take advantage of any state programs that might be created.
On March 30, California’s reparations task force, which was established back in 2020, voted to make state compensation eligible to Black Californians who are descendants of slaves in the U.S. The vote established that Black Californians “who can trace their lineage back to enslaved ancestors will be eligible for the state’s reparations.
In June, the task force released a report which determined 12 areas of harm associated with the lingering effects of slavery.
Those areas included enslavement, racial terror, political disenfranchisement, housing segregation, separate and unequal education, racism in environment and infrastructure, pathologizing the Black family, control over creative cultural and intellectual life, stolen labor and hindered opportunity, an unjust legal system, mental and physical harm, neglect and the wealth gap.
According to Newsweek, the task force also partnered with the economics team to identify five areas that could be supported by a compensatory framework. These areas included housing discrimination, mass incarceration, unjust property seizures, devaluation of Black businesses and health care
But some experts believe the language of the eligibility criteria would leave room for white-identifying individuals to possibly receive reparations if they prove descendance and meet the criteria.
“There’s always a problem if the proposal is designed or written in such a way that individuals who are currently living as white who may have ancestors in those two categories would be eligible for black reparations, professor William Darity told Newsweek.
“I think it’s problematic if somebody who has lived in a world where there are benefits and advantages to being white and who has lived under those conditions, makes a claim for reparations. I think that’s highly problematic and unethical.”
California isn’t the only place that could allow white people to apply for reparations.
According to WaPo, Providence, R.I. mayor Jorge Elorza recently signed a $10 million budget to create the Providence Municipal Reparations program, which Black and Native Americans in Providence would automatically be eligible for.
But the city has established separate criteria that could include about half its white residents. Only 12% of Providence’s residents are Black, and some critics worry that money will not be allocated to the folks who were actually harmed by systematic racism.
Reparations movements in America are on the rise. According to WaPo, there are more than a dozen states including New Jersey, New York and Illinois that are creating reparations committees to tackle the effects of 400 years of racism and oppression.
The city of Evanston, Illinois, became a symbol of hope for being one of the first cities to ensure the federal government disseminates reparations to the descendants of slavery. The reparations rollout included several phases, the first of which would provide $25,000 to Black residents who were victims of housing discrimination. The funds would be allocated towards home improvement costs, down payments, closing cost assistance and mortgage payments. But right-wing pushback has slowed the process tremendously.
In Asheville, NC, the reparations conversation has finally moved from just words to real action. The city has created a Community Reparations Commission which will help the city make reparations for some of its Black residents a reality. The commission plans to work with the community to pinpoint what the compensation will look like.
As California and other states look to shape what reparations will look like for Black people in America, let’s just keep our eyes on this space.
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