Renewed Call for Reparations

Image via The Atlantic

Public conversation about reparations has moved to the forefront again with the May 21, 2014 article, The Case for Reparations, published in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director/Senior V.P., Policy and Advocacy:

Coates' article, "The Case for Reparations,"  makes renewed compelling arguments for the current bill in Congress, HR 40, reparations for African Americans, introduced by US Representative John Conyers Jr. The NAACP has made many efforts for reparations and support the HR 40 Commission to Study Reparations Proposal for African Americans Act.

In 2005, the NAACP began targeting corporations that had ties to slavery, seeking economic justice. The effort included encouraging cities to complete extensive slavery studies before they were allowed government contracts.

'The NAACP also passed numerous resolutions, including in 1999, 2003 and as late as 2010, which was ratified by the National Board of Directors and is the current policy of the Association, which includes all of our 1,300 units.

Here is a snippet of the resolution:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP call upon the United States Government and several foreign countries which participated in or benefited from the African slave trade countries to make such investments to improve the conditions of 2010 African-Americans through better schools, health clinics, job training, environmental cleanup of landfills, and other such environmental injustice to allow the people of color damaged by slavery's policies to develop the health and economic standards of the entire country.

Read the resolution in its entirety here.

Coates' article notes many examples of reasons for systemic economic issues affecting African American neighborhoods today:

It was the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, not a private trade association, that pioneered the practice of redlining, selectively granting loans and insisting that any property it insured be covered by a restrictive covenant—a clause in the deed forbidding the sale of the property to anyone other than whites. Millions of dollars flowed from tax coffers into segregated white neighborhoods.

The NAACP addressed these concerns with housing lawsuits and releases report cards, detailing the diversity of many corporations that benefited financially from slavery. The latest report reveals that "top management positions remain firmly dominated by white employees, despite the development of programs to increase diversity and inclusion."

Coates' article affirms the NAACP's belief that slavery's offspring, predatory and discriminatory lending practices, are issues that must be addressed by the U.S. government and corporations alike.

When subprime lenders went looking for prey, they found black people waiting like ducks in a pen. "High levels of segregation create a natural market for subprime lending," Rugh and Massey write, "and cause riskier mortgages, and thus foreclosures, to accumulate disproportionately in racially segregated cities' minority neighborhoods."

The NAACP strongly supports H.R. 40, legislation that is addressing and seeking remedy for the lingering effects of this dehumanizing institution.

Click here for the action alert.

For further background on reparations, watch Bill Moyers' feature, Facing the Truth: The Case for Reparations with Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor of The Atlantic magazine.