One of the harms often cited is the racial wealth gap, a major argument for proponents of reparations. According to federal data from 2017, a white family’s median wealth is 9.7 times higher than that of black families. And while black Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, they hold just 2.6 percent of the nation’s wealth, according to Duke University professor William A. Darity Jr., an authority on black American reparations who submitted testimony for the H.R. 40 hearings. Closing the wealth gap, Darity told Mother Jones magazine, would require funding “in the vicinity of $10 trillion to $12 trillion.”
Calculating the cost of reparations is an inexact science and figures vary dramatically, as do ideas for forms the reparations should take and who should be eligible. In his 2014 Atlantic essay, Coates cited different proposals, including one by Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, who supports reparations as “a program of job training and public works that takes racial justice as its mission but includes the poor of all races.”
Holocaust reparations also take different forms. For example, children and grandchildren of German Jews who were stripped of their citizenship between 1933 and 1945 can apply for reinstatement as citizens. Similarly, for the last few years, descendants of Sephardic Jews have been able to apply for Spanish citizenship as reparations for ancestral persecution during the Inquisition (the program ended on Oct. 1); Portuguese citizenship remains available to eligible individuals for the same historical reason.
There is precedent for reparations in the U.S., too. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 on behalf of Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. The act granted $20,000 and a formal apology to each of the 100,000 survivors interned by the government.
Black reparations, however, do not have widespread support from the American public. In a July Gallup poll, 67 percent opposed cash payments, while 29 percent supported the idea. Concerns have been raised about whether it would lead to demands for the same by other oppressed groups.
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