The Times and Democrat: U.S. needs reparations

The Times and Democrat, July 1, 2019: U.S. needs reparations

This June, the House Judiciary Committee finally debated HR 40, which would form a commission to study the legacy of slavery on U.S. society — and how to make reparations for it.

The legacy of slavery is a history of racial wealth inequality that started with the foundation of this nation: Black people in this country were used as wealth, and denied any opportunity to build their own. That legacy continued through segregation, redlining, mass incarceration and other policies that have left an enormous racial wealth divide today.

That divide is where history shows up in the present. There’s no myth of hard work or deservedness that can justify why white median wealth in the United States is 41 times median black wealth. Or that the home-ownership rate for whites today is 70%, compared to just 40% for blacks.

These differences are the result of our centuries-old failure to make economic atonement for slavery and all the other policy violence that followed. Policy created the racial wealth divide, and we need policy to fix it.

White people with little in the bank to show for their racial advantage may see this as a reason not to support reparations. If they never owned slaves — and neither did their ancestors — why should they, as taxpayers, have to pay?

The biggest bill for reparations, then, can go to the ultra-wealthy Americans who’ve benefited most from this inequality — who are, not accidentally, almost entirely white. With that in mind, several concrete mechanisms could fund a national Reparations Trust Fund.

White wealth in this country was built by slave labor on stolen land. Until we face the reality of our history — and our present — our society will continue to be marked by arrested development, unequal opportunity and an immoral, living legacy of white socio-economic supremacy.

The greatest beneficiary of America finally investing in reparations won’t be only the low-wealth population that deserves this investment. It will be the moral foundation of our country.

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