DC lawmakers to reconsider paying reparations to African American residents

There is a renewed effort by D.C. lawmakers to provide reparations to the descendants of enslaved people.

Meant to acknowledge and address centuries of policy that “exploited Black people as chattel property, violently robbed Black communities of generational wealth and baked anti-Black racism into the core of our institutions and society,” the legislation reintroduced by At-Large Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie was first proposed in October 2020.

The Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023 would create a nine-member task force to study and develop proposals for how the city could pay African American families directly wronged and traumatized by slavery, Jim Crow and institutional racism.

“We do not live in a post-racial society, and racial equality has not been achieved,” McDuffie said.

McDuffie’s bill said it’s necessary for government-sanctioned action to atone for its role in slavery, segregation and racism that denied wealth-building opportunities for Black families — noting a typical white household in D.C. has a net worth 81 times greater than the typical Black household.

“The District of Columbia has one of the largest disparities in wealth between Black and white residents of any city in the United States,” McDuffie said in a statement. “And, any claim that these stark racial disparities can be eliminated by free market forces, or if Black people simply changed their behaviors, rather than government-sanctioned efforts to atone for the lingering effects of structural racism is flawed.”

Eight other members of the council: Trayon White, Anita Bonds, Robert C. White, Jr., Janeese Lewis George, Zachary Parker, Brianne Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Charles Allen, and Vincent Gray support the bill set for consideration this spring.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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