By Meera Jagannathan
June 8, 2020
Nearly every 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden, eventually backed the idea of studying potential reparations proposals. During a campaign event last week, Delaware state Sen. Darius Brown pushed Biden to actually fund reparations rather than study them, the Washington Post reported.
A number of smaller efforts to consider reparations have also sprung up in recent years. Schools including Georgetown University have examined their legacies of slavery and sought to compensate descendants of enslaved people through various means. A bill in California seeks to launch a task force to recommend reparations plans, while the Evanston, Ill., city council has committed to putting tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales toward reparations.
Duke University economist William Darity, a leading proponent of reparations, said he believed there had been momentum building recently for the idea to receive serious consideration.
“The reaction to the recognition of the types of atrocities that are associated with police brutality may swing the pendulum further in that direction,” Darity said. “I’m not certain, but one might view this as a more hopeful moment than any other that we have had since the aftermath of the Civil War, when the formerly enslaved were promised 40-acre land grants, but that promise was never fulfilled.”
Darity speculated that if those 40-acre allocations had been made, and formerly enslaved people had been protected in their ownership of that property, “we may not have needed to have a conversation about reparations today — because that was the beginning of the construction of the black-white wealth gap in the United States.”
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