Progressive NY Lawmakers Seek to Pave the Way for Slavery Reparations to Black Residents
By: Serach Nissim
Last week, a task force in California recommended that their state pay out $569 billion in reparations to slaves’ descendants in the Golden State. As reported by the NY Post, that would be some $223,200 per person, and would aim to address lingering housing discrimination practices there. Some New York lawmakers are taking the cue and renewing a push for a state law which would set the groundwork to pay reparations to black residents whose ancestors had been enslaved. Previously, a measure was proposed in NY calling for an 11-member commission to study the impact of slavery and providing reparations. It would be the first step in considering reparations. The measure was approved by the assembly on June 3 in a 104-45 vote, but failed to pass in the senate.
Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Nassau), chairwoman of the New York Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, told The Post that they are now trying to revise the bill and have it addressed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the legislature before the state budget is approved next year, so that any associated costs are built in. “We saw what happened in California. We want to pass a bill that starts a conversation about reparations,” said Solages. Assemblywoman Taylor Darling (D-Nassau) said it would be a “slap in the face” if Gov. Kathy Hochul and the senate don’t pass the bill for a reparations study commission. She also brushed off the per person $223,000 figure set by California’s task force, saying it was too low. “This country was built on the backs of enslaved people. It has impacted everything — housing, economic development, education.,” said Darling.
The bill to form the commission has its critics, though. “I don’t think it’s right to write checks on the basis of race. It’s probably illegal,” former three-term Republican Gov. George Pataki told the Post. Senator George Borrello (R-Jamestown) said reparations would put a strain on race relations. “It’s nothing but a taxpayer-funded giveaway to buy more votes for Democrats,” Borrello said. “Slavery was evil. We fought a bloody war to end it,” the senator said, adding that America was one of the first countries to abolish slavery and that people can’t be expected to pay for their ancestors’ mistakes. “We need to focus more on everyone having an opportunity,” Borrello noted.
Conservative members of the Assembly also found fault with the measure. “It avoids the thorny issues, such as how to determine if a person is actually related to a former slave, how much should be paid, whether payment is pro-rated based on percent related to a slave, whether those who came to the US decades later should pay,etc,” said Andy Goodell (R-Jamestown).
Per the Post, Solages said there are five types of reparations that would be studied by the proposed commission including: restitution of victims’ rights or property; direct compensation; psychological rehabilitation; reforming laws to prevent continued discrimination; and a formal government apology.
Gov. Hochul’s spokesman Avi Small told The Post, “Gov. Hochul will review the legislation if it passes both houses of the legislature. Last March, Gov. Hochul issued an executive order establishing the 400 Years of African American History Commission. That executive order makes no mention of reparations.