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Reparations | Munk Debates

EPISODE #12

Reparations

Be it resolved, justice demands the payment of reparations for the victims of slavery and their descendants.

Guests
Julianne Malveaux
Coleman Hughes

About this episode

Supporters of reparations believe they are essential to addressing the historical wrongs of some of darkest chapters in American and world history and achieving social justice in our own time. The trauma of slavery in western societies is ongoing and responsible for the discrimination and social ills experienced by millions of people. Reparations substantively acknowledge and address these wrongs. Critics of reparations argue that the people who are owed reparations are no longer living and by collecting on their debts millions of fellow citizens would be defined, without their choice or input, as victims. Reparations also risk undermining public support to address the range of important issues facing racialized communities today including police violence, housing, poverty alleviation and justice reform.

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Guests

Julianne Malveaux

"The wrongs from slavery reverberate, and reparations is one of the ways to make it right. It's social and economic justice. It is a moral imperative."

Julianne Malveaux

"The wrongs from slavery reverberate, and reparations is one of the ways to make it right. It's social and economic justice. It is a moral imperative."

Dr. Julianne Malveaux has long been recognized for her progressive and insightful observations. She is a labor economist, noted author and colorful commentator. Her contributions to the public dialogue on issues such as race, culture, gender and their economic impacts are shaping public opinion in 21st Century America. Currently, Dr. Malveaux serves on the boards of the Economic Policy Institute as well as The Black Doctoral Network. She is President of PUSH Excel, the educational branch of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. A native San Franciscan, she is the Founder and President of Economic Education, a 501-c3 organization focused on personal finance and economic policy education and their connection. Economic Education is headquartered in Washington, D.C. In 2019, she began recording MALVEAUX! for University of the District of Columbia Tv.

Coleman Hughes

"Any amount of reparations that would even seem to be appropriate morally would be absolutely deranging politically and financially"

Coleman Hughes

"Any amount of reparations that would even seem to be appropriate morally would be absolutely deranging politically and financially"

Coleman Hughes is an undergraduate student at Columbia University majoring in Philosophy. Born and raised in New Jersey, he briefly attended the Juilliard School before dropping out with the intention of pursuing a career as an independent jazz/hip-hop artist. Shortly thereafter, he discovered a passion for philosophy and enrolled at Columbia. He is a columnist for Quillette magazine but his writing has also been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street JournalThe National Review, City Journal, and The Spectator. He has appeared on several podcasts, including The Rubin Report, Waking Up with Sam Harris, and The Glenn Show. In June 2018, he testified before U.S. Congress. 

 

Show Notes

HR 40 is a congressional bill brought forward by Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee that would create a commission to study and examine reparations proposals. A hearing on HR 40 was held in June 2019, with both Dr. Julianne Malveaux and Coleman Hughes testifying for and against the passage of this legislation. This Atlantic article provides an examination of previous attempts to secure reparations.
 
There is a no consensus over how much money would be due to the descendants of slaves if a reparations law was indeed passed. One financial writer estimates it would cost $16 trillion, based on treasury bond interest rates to the money over decades since slavery ended. That’s around $1 million per African-American household.
 
Julianne talks about the promise of reparations in 1865. Freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule as a way to provide compensation for years of unpaid labour. Here is some background on this proposal and what became of it.
 
Both debaters talk about the racial wealth gap that exists in America. Data from the US Census Bureau reveals that black wealth is about 7% that of whites. The gap is worsening. Between 1983 and 2013, white households saw their wealth increase by 14%. But during the same period, black household wealth declined by 75%.
 
Coleman talks about failures in the criminal just system, particularly the mass incarceration of black Americans. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. One out of every three black boys born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino boys—compared to one of every 17 white boys. Read more about the racial disparities in prisons and criminal sentencing here.
 
Other persecuted groups have received reparations in the past:  In 1988, US president Ronald Reagan formally apologized for the US government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and paid $20,000 in reparations to over 800,000 victims of internment. Germany has also paid over $89 billion in reparations to victims of the Holocaust during World War II.
 
Coleman refers to President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, which centered around four pieces of legislation: food stamps, social security amendments, the VISTA program, and the Education Act. Data shows that Johnson’s efforts worked: poverty is down from 1967 to 2012, from 26 percent to 16 percent.
 
Georgetown University students recently voted to increase student fees in order to raise $400,000 a year to benefit the descendants of the 272 enslaved people who were sold to help keep the college afloat nearly two centuries ago
 
Last year, the city of Chicago passed legislation providing reparations to victims of racially motivated police torture committed from 1972 to 1991.
 

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