Slavery Reparations in the U.S.
In 2014, median household income in the United States was $71,300 for whites vs $43,300 for blacks. The difference in wealth, which often reflects inequality going back generations, is even starker. White households had a median wealth of $144,200- almost 13 times the median wealth of black households of $11,200.
It’s possible that some of the wealth gap can be traced all the way back to slavery. But even if not, blacks have faced many forms of severe economic discrimination in the many years since.
Jim Crow laws mandating segregation in such things as public schools and transportation, were enforced through the 1960s. Blacks were deprived of voting rights by poll taxes, literacy tests, and intimidation.
There was blatantly economic discrimination as well. 1935, farm and domestic workers were excluded from social security at its founding. These were primarily blacks. Between 1934 and 1968 the Federal Housing Administration intentionally shut blacks out of the opportunity to purchase a home. Many were pushed into wealth stripping land contracts. This was a predatory and costly arrangement in which buyers paid an exorbitant price to purchase a home and in which a missed payment led to eviction and the loss of all equity.
Even if some reparations were to be given to blacks by the United States government, how would this be done? Blacks who were actually enslaved are long gone, and their descendants difficult to identify. Much of the United States’ current population traces its origins to immigration well after that era. In any case, how much should these payments be? Who would receive them? What would the money be used for?
Although these are difficult questions, there are possible solutions. Reparations could be funded by a tax on wealth rather than income. The money could be spent on providing educational and business opportunities to the black population at large rather than individuals.
Every year from 1989 to 2017 Representative John Conyers of Michigan introduced a bill establishing a commission to study the necessity and feasibility of slavery reparations in the United States. In all this time it has never even been brought for a vote. If we’re serious about this matter, wouldn’t examining these issues be the first step?
The Case for Reparations
An article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic magazine titled ‘The Case for Reparations: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.’
What Would Reparations be Like?
‘This is What Reparations Could Actually Look Like in America’ from Quartz.
‘We Absolutely Could Give Reparations To Black People. Here’s How’ from the Huffpost.
Gap Between Blacks and Whites
Statistics on the current economic gap between blacks and whites in the U.S. from the Pew Research Center.
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