D.C. could be the next municipality to offer reparations to African Americans

Washington-DC

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (August 2019)

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — A new bill brought to D.C. City Council could lead to reparations for African American residents, as well as declare racism a public health crisis in the District of Columbia. The bill was brought to the council by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie on Tuesday, October 6.

While introducing the bill, Councilmember McDuffie said in part, “The notion that, with hard work, everyone born in the United States has an equal opportunity to succeed and achieve the American Dream is sadly not the case. We do not live in a post-racial society, and racial equality has not been achieved. If ever we are going to achieve racial equity in this country, it will require official recognition of the role of government-sanctioned slavery, segregation, and other actions in denying wealth-building opportunities to Black Americans.”

The proposed measures are called the Reparations Task Force Establishment Act of 2020 and the Sense of the Council to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis in the District of Columbia Resolution of 2020.

The first measure will create a task force with nine members. The task force will study and develop the reparations proposal for African Americans in the district. A press release from Councilmember McDuffie’s office said there will also be a special consideration for African Americans who are descendants of people who were enslaved in the United States.

According to the press release, the second measure will not only declare racism a public health crisis in the District of Columbia, but also acknowledge that racism has resulted in the race being identified as a social determinant of health, with persistent racial disparities in education, housing, healthcare, employment, worker protections, climate, food access, technology, and our criminal justice system.

Councilmember McDuffie also said, “We must be intentional in our efforts so that Black Americans might finally be compensated for their ancestors’ labor and significant contributions which built wealth for generations of white people. The District of Columbia has one of the largest disparities in wealth between black and white residents of any city in the United States. Moreover, our city is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. These statistics should convince any reasonable person of the need for this task force. And, any claim that these stark racial disparities can be eliminated by free-market forces or if Black people simply changed their behaviors rather than government-sanctioned efforts to atone for the lingering effects of structural racism is flawed.”

The councilmember was met with encouraging words from within the community.

“I applaud Councilmember McDuffie for introducing the Reparations Task Force legislation. This
bold action is long overdue in our city and a necessary step if we hope to make serious strides at
bridging racial equity gaps,” said David Bowers, Enterprise Community Partners Vice President, and Mid-Atlantic Market Leader. “Enterprise has commissioned reparations related research will
inform and support the Task Force’s efforts. I urge the Council to move quickly to enact the
legislation.”

“With the establishment of this task force, DC is taking its rightful place in the rising tide of cities who are designing and deploying comprehensive strategies to achieve reparative justice for all Black people in America. Our capacity for paying reparations and living by the ethics of reparative justice will not only provide redress for the historical and ongoing harms experienced by Black folks, but they also might serve as the redefined values necessary to save America’s precarious democratic experiment. Given this, Washington, DC is just the place to model and live into this future.”

Ronnie Galvin, V.P. Racial Equity and the Democratic Economy at The Democracy Collaborative.

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