City Cast

What to Expect at the Reparations Bill Hearing

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on June 15
John Wilson building, the home of D.C. Council. (APK/Wikimendia Commons)

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

D.C. is considering rolling out reparations for descendants of enslaved African Americans. The bill was introduced by D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and nine others back in February and will be discussed at a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. today. Let’s catch up quick.

The bill seeks to repair the racial wealth gap in D.C. and acknowledge the government-sanctioned policies that exploited Black people of generational wealth for centuries.

Specifically, the bill calls for three things; 1) start a nine-member Reparations Task Force to develop a framework, 2) establish a database of slave holder records, and 3) create a reparations fund to be distributed according to this data.

D.C. has one of the largest wealth disparities between Black and white residents 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.”

Reparations in the District would be particularly noteworthy because after emancipation, the federal government paid $300 in restitutions … to former slave owners. Now, D.C. wants to flip the script.

The public has not yet weighed in on the bill, nor has Council discussed funding. If the measure passes, D.C. would join Asheville, N.C., Providence, R.I., California, and others in taking steps to offer reparations. We’ll update you tomorrow with the results of today’s hearing.

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