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Sen. Corey Booker Introduces Reparations Bill

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On Monday, Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) introduced a senate bill proposing slavery reparations. The bill will create a commission to study possible reparations for descendants of slaves.

Booker pronounced this as “a way of addressing head-on the persistence of racism, white supremacy, and implicit racial bias in our country.” The plan will hire experts to determine what reparations will be made to “finally begin to right the economic scales of past harms…”

The bill duplicates one presented in January 2019 to the US House by Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee. Lee says the commission would look at the continued impact of slavery on the black community, and will begin a process of atonement.  According to a study by Thomas Craemer in Social Science Quarterly (April 2015), the cost could reach as much as $14 trillion. Calculations estimated hours worked by slaves, multiplied by the average wages at the time, plus 3 percent per year for inflation. The calculations use the dollar value as of 2009. Today the figure would likely be higher.

Booker says overt policies oppress African-Americans

Booker claims since slavery, the US has continued “overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism that have oppressed African-Americans economically for generations.” He also claims policies existed which “systematically excluded blacks through practices like GI Bill discrimination and redlining.” Relining denies loans or insurance because it’s believed the person is a bad financial risk.

Slavery reparation is a hot-button topic this election season, and at least 8 Democratic candidates for president back the bill. Among them are Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Beto O’Rourke. Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson called for $100 billion in reparations, a figure much lower than the estimated $14 trillion cost.

Not all 2020 candidates agree

However, not all 2020 presidential candidates feel reparations will have any real impact. In March, on The View, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he felt “what we have got to do is pay attention to distressed communities: black communities, Latino communities, and white communities…” He went on to say, “I think there are better ways to do that than just writing out a check.” Instead, he and others back legislation by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) which focuses federal funds on areas impacted by severe poverty.

Critics say the bill only throws trillions of dollars at the idea of racism and inequality without actually doing anything to help bring change. They argue the US has a reparations program already in place. The Philadelphia Plan, created during the Nixon administration, enacted quotas in the construction trade that eventually spread to many industries and education.

At this time, Republicans have not countered with their own proposed legislations regarding reparations.

Sarah Morton

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