In a significant move, the state of New York passed a bill that would establish a commission to explore the possibility of reparations for slavery to address the enduring and detrimental consequences, AP News reported.
Reparations For Slavery In New York
The state Assembly and Senate both approved the legislation, which will now be sent to Governor Kathy Hochul for consideration. This development follows in the footsteps of California, which became the first state to establish a reparations task force in 2020.
The California task force recommended a formal apology from the state for its history of racism and discriminatory policies, as well as the creation of an agency to provide various services to Black residents. However, specific monetary amounts for reparations were not suggested.
The proposed commission in New York would investigate the extent to which both the federal and state governments supported slavery and examine the ongoing economic, political, and educational disparities faced by Black individuals in the state today.
According to the bill, the first enslaved Africans arrived in what is now New York City in the 1620s and played a significant role in constructing the city’s infrastructure. While the state Legislature passed a law granting freedom to enslaved Africans in 1817, it took a decade for the law to be implemented.
Critics of the bill, such as Republican state Assemblymember Andy Gooddell, expressed concerns about opening a door that was closed nearly 200 years ago. Gooddell emphasized the importance of equal opportunity and suggested focusing on existing efforts rather than reparations.
Reparations in New York, if implemented, could potentially come with a substantial price tag, similar to the estimated responsibility of over $500 billion projected for California due to historical injustices.
The commission formed under the bill would be required to deliver a report within one year of its first meeting. The recommendations put forth by the commission, which may include monetary compensation for Black individuals, would be non-binding, and the legislature would not be obligated to vote on them.
The legislation was praised as a momentous occasion by New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who, as the first African American to occupy this role, deemed it “historic.” Heastie, in collaboration with the state governor and the legislative leader in the Senate, will select three qualified individuals for the commission.
Reparations For Slavery
While other states such as New Jersey and Vermont have considered reparations studies, no legislation has been passed yet. However, the city of Evanston, Illinois, became the first to provide reparations through a $10 million housing project specifically aimed at supporting Black residents.
At the federal level, a long-standing proposal to create a commission to study reparations has faced obstacles in Congress.
Critics argue that while state initiatives for reparations are well-intentioned, they may fall short in terms of their financial capacity to provide significant payouts. Some experts, like William Darity from Duke University, believe that the federal government should take responsibility for true reparations due to its greater financial capacity.
Despite the ongoing debate and varying opinions surrounding reparations, the passage of this bill in New York represents a significant step toward acknowledging historical injustices and seeking avenues for healing and redress.