A group of legislators led by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., has introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of reparations. The resolution, which includes a $14 trillion price tag, is the latest in growing efforts across the country to implement reparations programs for Black Americans as a way to redress the enduring legacy of slavery and racism in this country.
Rep. Bush discussed the latest push in favor or reparations in a press conference last Wednesday. Joined by fellow member of Congress Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-TX) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Bush discussed the resolution, which would support existing and future legislative efforts towards reparations at the federal, state and local levels. “Black people in our country cannot wait any longer for our government to begin addressing each and every one of the extraordinary bits of harm it has caused since its founding,” Bush told reporters. She added that these injustices against Black Americans persist “each and every day all across our communities all across this country.”
According to NPR, Bush’s new legislation calls for a total of $14 trillion in reparations to Black Americans. That price tag for the Reparations Now Resolution is consistent with an estimate by Duke economist William Darity, Jr. concerning the total amount needed to address the ongoing impact of slavery and its aftermath. The proposal by Bush is the boldest reparations proposal yet to emerge at the federal level. It is a complement to H.R. 40, the bill that has been proposed every year since 1989 in order to compel the federal government to study the idea of reparations for slavery and to propose potential methods of compensation. Though H.R. 40 has never received a formal vote by Congress, the bill and the general movement towards reparations have gained prominence over the past several years and saw significant interest during the period of racial reckoning in 2020.
In addition to the federal proposals for reparations, various local and state-level initiatives are currently undergoing to make up for slavery and racism. St. Louis became the latest major city to explore reparations when it convened its Commission on Reparations last month. Earlier this month, Washington state signed into law a program to provide financial compensation for victims of “redlining” housing discrimination. The California Reparations Task Force created in 2020 has formally endorsed a slew of major proposals to redress the impact of slavery, mass incarceration, and other forms of anti-Black systemic racism in the state. These include tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments to Black Californians as well as a host of other reforms; the state legislature could soon begin voting on these measures which could constitute the largest reparations program in the country so far.
Bush’s $14 trillion Reparations Now bill is unlikely to pass in the currently divided Congress. Yet, her bold statement represents the massive effects of racism and the radical steps necessary to address it in this country.