Former slaves and their descendants have been calling for reparations since the Civil War. Even when it seemed like there might some restoration in 1865, when “Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman ordered that land confiscated from Confederate landowners be divided up into 40-acre portions and distributed to newly emancipated Black families,” this remained an unfounded promise.
After President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and replaced by Andrew Johnson, “the order granting ‘40 acres and a mule’ was swiftly rescinded …[and t]he majority of the land was returned to white landowners.”
Fast forward to present day, and now every single day in America, “someone somewhere…is being compensated under the concept of what is known as restorative justice.”
Be it farmers, those who’ve lost their pensions, fishermen, veterans, coal miners, or those hurt on the job, and these are only a few of the “people and groups who receive compensation either from or through the government for the harms they have suffered.”
But it appears that all reparations are not equal, because many view reparations for Black Americans as highly controversial.
According to a Pew Research Center survey found that a majority of whites, Asians, and Latinos opposed reparations. While Pew also found that most Blacks support reparations, “even…supporters of reparations considered them unlikely to happen in their lifetime.”
While some progress is being made at the federal level, albeit slowly, some states are taking matters into their own hands.
Here’s a snapshot of what the current fight for reparations is looking like in these states:
A task force wrote a report recommending a reparations program for the state, which would include “a formal apology to Black residents and billions of dollars in payments,”
In 1994, by passing a reparations law, Florida was the first state to do so. The statute sets “aside $2 million for survivors of the 1923 Rosewood massacre where a white mob burned churches and buildings and killed at least six Black residents.”
Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, is the first U.S. “city to make reparations available to Black residents through a $10 million housing project in 2021.”
The last state in the north to abolish slavery, and home to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice launched a council to study the lasting impact of slavery” and provide recommendations for methods to achieve racial equity.
A bill creating “a commission to consider reparations to address the lingering, negative effects of slavery” is awaiting signature by Governor Kathy Hochul.
In 2021, a reparations bill was passed targeting schools that have links to slavery.
Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that would “create a downpayment assistance program for people affected by the racist covenants,” and “[d]escendants of those discriminated against would also qualify under the law.”
African and African American Studies professor at Duke University William Darity believes that while state level reparations might be well-intentioned, they are “presumptuous” in that many states will be unable to finance the large payouts. “My deeper fear with all of these piecemeal projects is that they actually will become a block against federal action because there will be a number of people who will say there’s no need for a federal program,” said Darity. “If you end up settling for state and local initiatives, you settle for much less than what is owed.”