What is the cost of racism? More lawmakers are embracing reparations for Black people

Professional headshot of William A. Darity, Jr. (“Sandy”)

By Phillip Bailey and Terry Collins July 2, 2023

 

As President Joe Biden and Congress have failed to deliver on promises of police accountability and amid a conservative-led backlash against diversity, equity and inclusion policies, many Black Americans are uplifting a centuries-old debate around reparations for slavery as the clearest pathway to racial equality.

Ahead of the July Fourth holiday, more than 45% of Americans said racism is a big problem or the biggest problem facing the United States, according to a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll. About 38% of respondents said racism is a problem but not one of the biggest facing the nation. Only about 14% of Americans said racism is not a problem.

The national discourse on reparations is “a consequence of renewed energy to see a 157-year-old justice claim and unpaid debt finally met,” said William Darity, a Duke University economist who co-wrote the 2020 book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.”

“I don’t think there is any greater degree of frustration today than there was 30 years ago, but there was not the same level of activity around reparations at that time,” Darity told USA TODAY.

He said the federal government should pay at least $14 trillion in reparations to Black Americans “to equalize the average level of wealth between Black and white Americans.”