Will Slavery Reparations Bill Pass in New York in 2023?
A bill in New York State that would create a community led coalition to study the harms of slavery and determine reparations has "never been closer" to passing.
According to a report by Tim Williams and Nick Reisman for Spectrum News, the bill is gaining traction in the New York State Senate after passing twice in the New York State Assembly already. The bill would create a community led coalition to study the long-term harms of slavery and determine the appropriate reparations.
The bill, as written, states "An act to acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery in the City of New York and the State of New York; to establish the New York State community commission on reparations remedies, to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against people of African descent, and the impact of these forces on living people of African descent and to make determinations regarding compensation; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof."
Now if you're wondering what slavery has to do with reparations 200 years later, racial inequality stemming from slavery has infected New York down to the very infrastructure. In fact, if you've ever traveled on Long Island you're familiar with the parkways that have bridges so low that only cars can utilize the roadway.
Those highways were designed by a man named Robert Moses with the specific intent of keeping buses off the highway. When built in the early 20th century, owning a car was a luxury that only wealthy white people were afforded.
Then after World War II, the United States Government began to offer veterans extremely favorable mortgages for homes, leading to a mass exodus from New York City. Happening in the years before the Civil Rights movement, this flight to the suburbs was not as available to minority communities through a process called redlining, which effectively kept minorities out of new towns like Levittown, which according to Data USA remains nearly 75% white to this day.
And for what it's worth, some Long Island real estate agents are still practicing an under the table form of redlining today. An investigative piece by Ann Choi, Keith Herbert, Olivia Winslow and Arthur Browne for Newsday called "Long Island Divided" examined current real estate practices on Long Island and found clear racial bias, like real estate agents telling a minority couple a school was good but a white couple that the same school was horrible or even showing white couples and minority couples with the same financial qualifications houses in completely different neighborhoods.
Now this may seem like a tangent that has little to do with reparations from slavery, but consider this. The most valuable thing almost anybody will ever own in their lives is a house. And for generations, Long Island has been a prime example of how slavery, even generations later, has had a massive negative economic impact on minority communities, who were intentionally kept out of the suburban areas, where property values have risen drastically over decades. That is just one example of the kind of inequality that this coalition would look at and attempt to justify.
Jabari Brisport, the Democrat sponsor of the legislation, stated that "reparations are extremely late" and "better late than never." The bill currently has 15 co-sponsors in the New York State Senate, all Democrats, and it is currently in the Senate Finance Committee. According to Brisport, focus on New York State Governor Kathy Hochul's budget proposal has kept the reparations bill from moving forward for the time being.