Reparations is a Path to Restorative Justice

Nationally, the effort to win reparations for the legacy of slavery is embodied in a Congressional effort:  HR40 -- the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.  The national ACLU as well as our Santa Clara Valley chapter is in support of HR40 as are many advocacy and community organizations on the national, state, and local levels.

The issue of reparatory justice is both new and not so new, and in recent years it's been appearing in a variety of news media and national and local discussions.  This swelling of interest in the subject comes on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement, the on-going efforts to take down statuary celebrating the Confederacy, as well as growing efforts to rename institutions and buildings that have borne the names of political and business leaders who were white supremacists.

Most significantly, the issue of reparations for the legacy of slavery has been steadily spreading past TaNehisi Coates' groundbreaking article on the topic in the Atlantic magazine to a number of private as well as local municipal efforts to make reparations, one example being legislation in the city of Evanston, Illinois to provide reparations in atonement for racist housing discrimination.

HR40 was introduced in 1989 by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and it was modeled on the Commission Bill that kicked off the legislative and grassroots efforts to win redress/reparations for Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed and incarcerated during WWII as perpetrated by the U.S. government on the basis of race and ancestry rather than individual due process rights.

HR40 does not itself propose specific remedies but rather proposes the formation of a commission to conduct research and hearings and to ultimately recommend to Congress what an equitable and meaningful solution should be.  Currently, HR40 has 196 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives and 20+ additional committed yes votes, essentially enough to win a floor vote.  There are on-going efforts to push House Democratic Party leadership to bring HR40 to the floor for a vote.

For more information on reparations for the legacy of slavery, see this online hub from ACLU National:

If you are interested in this issue, please contact our chapter to see how you might contribute to this effort.