Posted on March 27, 2020

Reparations Debate Resurfaces as America Gets a $2 Trillion Coronavirus Bailout

Bruce C.T. Wright, News One, March 25, 2020

The White House and Congress agreed overnight to a record $2 trillion stimulus package to bail out the American economy from its free fall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But while the economic rescue package was expected — and eagerly welcomed — some Black people were openly wondering on social media how the U.S. was able to come up with so much money so quickly after repeatedly stalling attempts to broach the topic of reparations for descendants of slaves in America.

To be sure, comparing the coronavirus bailout and reparations for slavery is far from apples-to-apples. But it seems the larger point of the timing of the reparations debate resurfacing was the sense of urgency exhibited by Capitol Hill’s fast-acting coronavirus legislation versus the lack thereof when it comes to legislative efforts toward compensating slaves’ descendants.

If reparations and the bailout package had anything in common, it’s that they both would aim to help stop existential threats to Americans — both physically and economically. Coronavirus is killing Americans and the stimulus package includes $130 billion for hospitals to address the shortfall of equipment needed to treat patients. Conversely, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in April introduced reparations legislation that he said also has vastly negative implications for the future of the country if it isn’t confronted immediately.

“I’ve been unapologetic in my belief that this can’t just be about acknowledging the past,” Booker tweeted on the same day he introduced in the Senate a companion version of a House bill introduced by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to form a commission to explore reparations. “It needs to be about actually confronting racist policy that persists right now in the present. Because if we don’t, we cannot guarantee that our future will be any different than our past.”

Again, this is only legislation to form a committee to explore what exactly reparations would look like — not legislation to immediately offer financial payouts to descendants of slaves. And still, the legislation that was first introduced (and repeatedly reintroduced) by former Michigan Rep. John Conyers nearly 30 years ago has gone nowhere quickly.


{snip} None of the reports announcing the deal in the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Associated Press made mention of where the $2 trillion was coming from. Did it just come from the U.S. Treasury? Is it really that simple? The answer is unclear.

The logic is that if the government can make $2 trillion appear so quickly, then surely it can do the same for descendants of slaves with the same apparent absence of worry about further inflating an already record-high national deficit. That is, if the American government really takes the topic of reparations seriously. So far, all indications have been that it doesn’t.