A noted economist has laid out a roadmap for how the U.S. could make reparations to the descendants of slaves — and estimates it would cost between 10 and 12 trillion dollars to right the historic injustice.
Duke University professor William Darity Jr. and his wife, the writer A. Kirsten Mullen, co-authored a report making the case for systemic reparations to erase the existing black-white wealth gap.
“The U.S. government — the culpable party — must pay the debt,” argues the report, “Resurrecting the Promise of 40 Acres: The Imperative of Reparations for Black Americans,” which was published by liberal think tank The Roosevelt Institute in June.
The authors calculated about $800,000 for each eligible household, using the average wealth disparity between black and white households, rather than the median figures.
The average white household net worth is $929,800, while average black household net worth is $138,000.
“Eliminating the black-white (pre-tax) wealth differential should be a core objective of the redress component of a plan for reparations,” they wrote.
“We estimate that this will require an allocation between $10 and $12 trillion to eligible black Americans. That allocation should serve as the baseline for black reparations in the twenty-first century.”
Eligibility should be restricted to living descendants of people who were enslaved in the U.S. before the Civil War, who have identified as black or African American on government documents for at least 12 years prior to the implementation of the reparations program, they state.
The report attributes the wealth disparity to the legacy of slavery and racial injustices since abolition, anchoring the claim for reparations in the government’s failure to make good on its promise to give freed slaves forty acres of land.
“That is the nest egg,” Mullen told The New Yorker in a July article.
“Had those Black folks been able to develop that land, maybe to leverage it to make other investments that they could have transferred intergenerationally, [it] quite likely could have altered the present moment,” she said, “but they didn’t have a chance to do that.”
The authors are also skeptical of piecemeal programs implemented in some states, such as a reparations initiative Asheville, N.C., announced in June that would aim to increase homeownership and business and career opportunities for black residents.
“Local or piecemeal — little by little — attempts at racial atonement do not constitute reparations proper,” the report states.
“Black reparations are not a matter of personal or individual institutional guilt; black reparations are a matter of national responsibility.”
The report expands on a book by the authors published this spring, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.”
It comes amid fresh calls for reparations, with 142 members of Congress sponsoring a bill to research the issue and put forward proposals and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden saying he supports the study.
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