Officials in Tennessee’s largest county, which includes Memphis, voted Wednesday to study reparations for the descendants of enslaved people, joining a growing list of local and state governments that are considering or starting similar programs. have been
The Shelby County resolution will allocate $5 million to study and find “actionable items” addressing five key areas: affordable housing and homeownership, health care equity, criminal justice reform, increased career opportunities, and financial literacy and increased access to generational assets.
The resolution was overwhelmingly approved, with the support of all eight black members of the 13-member board of county commissioners, on the heels of widespread outrage over the lynching death of Tyra Nichols, who was killed by Memphis police officers last month.
Several commissioners said his name, which was called out repeatedly during the long hearing on Wednesday afternoon, was a reminder of racism and inequalities.
Commissioner Mischa Clay Bibbs said, “Five million dollars won’t fix the wrongs of the past.” “My people are dying everyday. That’s why I support it.”
But Commissioner Mick Wright, who voted against the resolution, said the county is $5 million short of paying for the study and developing a framework for implementing it.
“We don’t have $5 million available – we were actually negative in November,” he said.
Boston officials this month appointed 10 members to their new reparations task force, which was created to study slavery’s lasting impact on Boston. The city formally apologized in June for its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Evanston, Illinois; Asheville, North Carolina; St. Paul, Minnesota; And other municipalities are making similar efforts.
In 2020, California became the first state to adopt a law that paves the way for descendants of enslaved people to receive reparation payments. The task force released a 500-page report last year detailing the harm done to descendants of enslaved people and how federal, state and local laws, public officials and courts were active in perpetuating systemic racism in all aspects of life for African Americans .
A California task force to study and develop compensation proposals for African Americans, created by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, recommended a long list of actions the state could take to address the racial wealth gap. including implementing housing reforms, reducing mass incarceration, building a state-subsidized mortgage program for qualifying African Americans, and expanding California colleges and universities to offer free tuition and expand scholarship opportunities.