09 June 2023

New York passes bill to consider slavery reparations

09 June 2023

New York will create a commission to consider reparations to address the lingering effects of slavery under a new law agreed on Thursday.

The bill, agreed by the state Assembly and Senate, will be sent to Governor Kathy Hochul and would see New York follow California, which became the first state to form a reparations task force in 2020.

The New York legislation would create a commission that would examine the extent to which the federal and state government supported the institution of slavery.

This is about beginning the process of healing our communities

It would also address persistent economic, political and educational disparities experienced by Black people in the state today.

“We want to make sure we are looking at slavery and its legacies,” said state Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages. “This is about beginning the process of healing our communities. There still is generational trauma that people are experiencing. This is just one step forward.”

The commission would be required to deliver a report one year after their first meeting but their recommendations, which could potentially include monetary compensation for Black people, would be non-binding. The legislature would not be required to take the recommendations up for a vote.

New York Assembly speaker Carl Heastie, the first Black person to hold the position, called the legislation “historic.”

The speaker, governor and legislative leader in the state Senate would each appoint three qualified members to the commission.

Other state legislatures that have considered studying reparations include New Jersey and Vermont, but none have yet passed legislation.

A Chicago suburb in Evanston, Illinois, became the first city to make reparations available to Black residents through a 10 million dollars (£7.9 million) housing project in 2021.

In California, the reparations task force’s report estimated the state is responsible for more than 500 billion dollars (£398 million) due to decades of over-policing, mass incarceration and redlining that kept Black families from receiving loans and living in certain neighbourhoods.

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