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Reparations in America: How cities from San Francisco to Wilmington are trying to get it done

Reparations proposals continue to sweep across the country as cities and states debate whether to give Black Americans

The latest example of an advancement towards reparations happened on Thursday in California, which formally apologized for the state's role in slavery. 

California is part of a trend of local and state governments across the U.S. establishing a task force that would recommend how reparations would be executed.

For example, in Boston, Massachusetts, task force members will propose reparations measures based on historical research and other factors compiled by the experts for City Hall to consider. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul established a reparations task force last year in December. 

Reparations can take different forms but broadly refer to payments or other forms of recompense to the descendants of Blacks affected by slavery or past racist policies.

Reparations have also been proposed or expected to be implemented in other cities in California, as well as Fulton County, Georgia; Shelby County, Tennessee; Detroit; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Durham, North Carolina.

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The practice is even being considered at the federal level, with "Squad" member Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., sponsoring a resolution that seeks to establish that the U.S. has a "legal and moral obligation" to institute reparations.

Here is a list of what reparations task force committees are pushing across the U.S.

The push for reparations is making gains in Wilmington, Delaware, President Biden's hometown. The Wilmington City Council on May 2 approved recommendations from the local reparations task force. 

According to Delaware Online, the 10-member task force was established in December 2022 to investigate the impact of slavery and the Jim Crow laws on Black residents in Delaware. 

The investigation led to a 31-page report showing the legacy of slavery in Delaware. Delaware Online reported that the task force found disparities in housing and economic equality, policing, health, environmental justice, and education.

Per Delaware Online, "In the report, the committee said it identified issues that disproportionately affect African Americans in Wilmington. These include uneven law enforcement, differences in accessing city services, limited benefits from government policies and reduced business opportunities."

Among a slate of proposals based on the findings of the impact of slavery on Black residents is for the city council to issue a "formal apology" like the state of California and the city of San Francisco.

Other proposals include establishing the Wilmington Reparations Housing Fund that would boost Black home ownership and financially support Black renters. They also want scholarships for health care training and to support young Blacks to access and stay in college, as well as a "Black Wall Street" economic development program in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

After two years since the Asheville Reparations Commission was established, the commission members in May voted on recommending a guaranteed income program to distribute payments for people who have been "harmed by historic, systemic, and ongoing wage and employment discrimination." 

According to commission documents, the members seek to "fund a guaranteed income program as a way to ensure basic needs are met for individuals with low-income and assets."

The guaranteed income program is among four projects pushed forward by the commission. 

Furthermore, the commission wants an Economic Development Center "designed for and led by Black residents," to establish a Support for Existing Neighborhood Plans, and an Incentives Reparations Accountability Council.

The 25 members of the Reparations Commission were appointed by Asheville City Council on March 8, 2022.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors put out an official apology last month – an eight-page resolution that stated, "The San Francisco Board of Supervisors offers its deepest apologies to all African Americans and their descendants who came to San Francisco and were victims of systemic and structural discrimination, institutionalized racism, targeted acts of violence, and atrocities." 

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When the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee published its final recommendations last July, it said that "the City and County of San Francisco and its agencies must issue a formal apology for the past harms, and commit to making substantial ongoing, systemic, and programmatic investments in Black communities to address historical harms."

Despite the committee’s efforts to rectify the past with a symbolic apology, members of the committee and scholars voiced that such a resolution was not enough.

The resolution comes after the committee argued the city owed millions of dollars in compensation to Black residents for decades of discrimination. The committee proposed that eligible Black adult residents receive $5 million in cash payments and a guaranteed income of nearly $100,000 a year to address the racial wealth gap in the city.

According to the L.A. Times, the city’s mayor, London Breed, said that $5 million payments could amount to $100 billion, far more than the city's $14 billion annual budget. The Times added that Breed is not committed to cash reparations.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced in January that the city has established teams that will play a role in their reparations task force.

After examining the city’s slavery history and its impact on current residents, the Boston Reparations Task Force will create a report of recommendations "for reparative justice solutions" to aid Black residents for the city officials to consider. The task force members in March called on "White churches" to step up and pay the Black community back for racial inequities that root back to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, according to reports.

Grassroots activism has emerged amid the city's push to formalize reparations. In February, the Boston activists called for the city to "fully commit to writing checks" and for a $15 billion payout since the city’s wealth was built on slavery.

Evanston, Illinois, was the first city in the nation to pass a reparations plan, pledging $10 million over 10 years to Black residents.

Robin Rue Simmons, the former alderman for Evanston, Illinois, spoke at a meeting with civil rights leaders in Annapolis, Maryland, in July last year. The alderman encouraged other cities to follow Evanston's example. 

A Maryland lawmaker wants to increase taxes to invest in reparations efforts.

Sen. Jill Carter, D-Baltimore City, sponsored the Maryland Reparations Act of 2024, calling for a "certain amount of revenue from the State individual income tax and Maryland estate tax to be distributed to the Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund."

Maryland established the Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund in 2023 to provide funds to organizations that would serve the individuals "most impacted by disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition before July 1, 2022." Carter's bill would allocate more funding to the Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund by changing the state's tax code. 

Per state law, the money would service low-income individuals and "disproportionately impacted areas."

The California Assembly passed a bill Thursday that will accept responsibility for "all of the harms and atrocities committed by the state" and will head to the Senate, the Los Angeles Times reported. AB 3089 was passed unanimously among Democrats, but some Republicans abstained from voting.

The Golden State’s Legislative Black Caucus in February introduced a series of reparations measures in response to a report from the state’s reparations task force that detailed how systemic discrimination impacted Blacks within the state and across the country.

However, cash payments did not make it into the package.

According to a news release, the 14 bills proposed address criminal justice reform, discrimination against certain types of hairstyles in sports, and dissolving criminal histories that have become a barrier to obtaining a business license. 

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom declined to endorse the cash payments — which could reach as high as $1.2 million for a single recipient — recommended by his reparations task force, telling Fox News Digital that dealing with the legacy of slavery "is about much more than cash payments." 

"Squad" member Rep. Bowman wants the federal government to be held accountable for slavery and the aftermath of it.

According to the Journal News, the lawmaker wants the federal government to push a $14 trillion reparations measure.

Bowman is among nine sponsors of H.R. 414, which seeks to establish that the U.S. has "a moral and legal obligation to provide reparations for the enslavement of Africans and its lasting harm on the lives of millions of Black people in the United States."

The measure, introduced in 2023, would prompt the federal government to spend $14 trillion on a reparations program that would support the descendants of enslaved Black people and people of African descent. Blacks make up 12% of the population in the U.S., according to Census figures.

The measure to establish a federal commission on the impact of reparations was reintroduced this year and Bowman is a sponsor of it. The measure could address concerns over perceived racial disparities in housing, mass incarceration and education outcomes, and, as the bill states, "eliminate the racial wealth gap that currently exists between Black and White Americans."

Bowman believes that the $14 trillion could be distributed over decades.

St. Louis University stands out to be the only example of reparations being pushed outside a municipality. Descendants of the enslaved Black people who built the university calculated that they were owed up to $74 billion in unpaid labor.  

Reparations developing on the higher education front show that the measure could be manifested in other ways outside of local and state governments.

A civil rights attorney representing descendants of the enslaved Black people who built St. Louis University shared how cash payments are one way of recognizing the harm done by slavery.

"It's not that cash payments by themselves are enough. It's that cash payments are one way to recognize the harm that was done," civil rights attorney Areva Martin told Fox News Digital.

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