City Cast

Time Is Ticking for DC's Reparations Bill

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on October 5
John Wilson building

John Wilson building, the home of D.C. Council. (APK/Wikimendia Commons)

Last session, D.C. Council held its first-ever hearing on a bill that would introduce reparations for descendants of enslaved African Americans. That’s major progress on a bill that D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie first introduced three years ago. But the council ran out of time to pass it then, forcing McDuffie to reintroduce the bill in February. Now it’s in danger of stalling out again unless the Council moves quickly.

What the Bill Includes:

The legislation seeks to repair the racial wealth gap in D.C. and acknowledge the government-sanctioned policies that robbed Black people of generational wealth for centuries. It would do this by:

  1. Starting a nine-member Reparations Task Force to develop a framework.
  2. Establishing a database of slaveholder records.
  3. Creating a reparations fund.

The Context:

D.C. has one of the largest racial wealth disparities of any U.S. city. Researchers say white households’ average net worth is 81 times higher than the typical Black household in D.C. McDuffie says “it will take government-sanctioned action to atone for these lingering effects of structural racism.”

What’s Next:

Reparations in the District would be particularly noteworthy because after emancipation, the federal government paid $300 in restitution ... to former slave owners. Now, D.C. wants to flip the script. But D.C. Council will have to make a decision by the end of the year.

This article was updated from when it was originally published on June 15, 2023

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