Universities across the country are studying their own ties to slavery and are being called on by students to make symbolic and financial reparations.
According to ABC News, during the colonial era the wealth of universities, in the form of endowments and benefactors, was inextricably tied to the slave trade, numerous university presidents owned enslaved people and famous alumni such as John C. Calhoun championed the cause of slavery. Enslaved people were owned by universities and worked on campuses until the abolition of slavery.
Now, students at those institutions are organizing efforts to focus on erecting monuments, taxing endowments, PILOT programs, creating divestment campaigns and offering alternative campus tours that highlight the university’s history of slavery. Students are also pushing schools to identify and support descendants of people enslaved by the universities.
As federal reparations are muted, many are left to devise their own plans.
According to NewsWeek, on the Sunday before Juneteenth, the Seattle’s Rev. Ryan Marsh stood in front of about 50 mostly white parishioners to announce a “reparations distribution” program for the church.
The program entails dedicating one percent of the church’s budget – roughly $6,000 – to reparations efforts as well as encouraging parishioners to donate for a reparations fund that distributes money through lotteries held twice a year – on Juneteenth and in December.
“The white American church has always been complicit in the evils of white supremacy,” Marsh, of Salt House, told his young Lutheran congregation in the suburb of Kirkland. “Reconciliation requires both repentance and repair … and the church cannot wait for governments to act justly.”
According to Bloomberg, a first-in-the-nation California task force on reparations is recommending that the state pay compensation and give free college to descendants of enslaved Black Americans, and that the federal government consider a similar commission for national action.
Kamilah Moore is an attorney and chairperson of the California Reparations Task Force. The California task force’s recommendations are the first from a government commission on the African American community since the Kerner commission’s study of urban unrest in 1968, according to Moore.
“A lot has changed since 1968, but in certain ways, a lot hasn’t changed,” Moore said. “In 2020, there has been this reckoning in the United States but not much has changed in regards to social justice, in regards to systemic racism against the African American community.’’
Rep·a·ra·tion: the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.
Last week in Rhode Island, a panel crafted ideas on how to provide reparations for harms committed to Black and Indigenous people, according to WPRI. With an outline of their recommendations, they plan to finalize a report and submit it to the mayor as soon as this week.
The Municipal Reparations Commission’s recommendations will help Mayor Jorge Elorza craft a proposal for how to spend $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that Providence has set aside for reparations.
The commission’s recommendations would cost much more than $10 million if fully implemented. They include a long list of programs that range from a home-repair fund to wiping out municipal court debt to creating a new charter school for Black and Indigenous students, however, this plan too falls short of providing direct payments to descendants of enslaved peoples.
Reparation is the only solution.
The coalition, Why We Can’t Wait, called upon President Biden to uphold his commitment to Black people in the US and assist the nation to heal from its abhorrent history of chattel slavery, racial subjugation, and ongoing racial discrimination.
Per Human Rights Watch, the commission would examine the issue of reparations for Black people and the ongoing legacy of enslavement and ways to advance American racial equity. The federal bill H.R. 40, meant to establish this commission, has collected dust in the US House of Representatives for over three decades.
Despite receiving a landmark vote out of a congressional committee in April 2021, having a record amount of support, and enough votes for passage in the House, H.R. 40 remains stalled. An executive order would sidestep this legislative gridlock and allow immediate establishment of the commission, the groups state, however, President Biden has made no public comments regarding the potential order.
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