The debate around reparations for Black Americans continues to rage across the country as some states and cities move forward on implementing the controversial policy. While polls show a majority of Americans are against reparations, proponents say it is time for the United States to pay for the harm caused by slavery and racial discrimination.
Democrats in California pushed a legislation creating a task force to study reparations, the legislation was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020. Earlier this month, the California Reparations Task Force recommended $1.2 million in payments to every qualifying Black state resident. And in our nation's capitol, "Squad" member Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., introduced a resolution calling for the federal government to pay $14 trillion in reparations.
Fox News Digital spoke with civil rights leaders, professors, to descendants of slaves to get their perspective on reparations. Together, their views shed light on the varied contours of a national dialogue centered on reparations.
Harvard Kennedy School professor Cornell William Brooks called reparations "long overdue" and pointed out how the debate is often focused on the financial cost rather than the harm actually caused by slavery.
"Reparations is about repair and to the question of who gets reparations. Reparations is owed to those who've been harmed,"Brooks told Fox News Digital, adding that the push is to make amends for America’s history of slavery. "The reason why we are experiencing this momentum at the moment is because the present is catching up with overdue history."
President and founder of The Woodson Center Bob Woodson labeled reparations a "misuse of the rich legacy of the civil rights movement."
"There were 3,700 free Blacks who owned 13,000 slaves. Well, do the descendants of those people pay?" Bob Woodson asked, asserting that attempts of a resolution are ‘more complicated’ than just identifying victims and those guilty. "You have Native Americans on the Trail of Tears going from Oklahoma. They had 3,000 slaves that they took on that journey to Oklahoma. Well, do the descendants of those Native Americans pay?"
South Carolina congressional candidate Gregg "Marcel" Dixon told Fox News Digital that, "Reparations is about a debt that is due. It is not to fight against racism. It is not to punish White people. It is not race based, reparations is linear status based. So pretty much anyone who is identifying as Black, and they are a descendant of an American slave, or a person who was emancipated by the U.S. government, a freedman, they qualify for reparations."
Dixon added that President Biden's failure to take on reparations is because, "he doesn't have to."
"Unfortunately, Black Americans, we are a captured electorate and that is our fault," Dixon said.
Jesse Rhodes, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst shared with Fox News Digital the varying degree of support between those who support reparations and those opposed.
"At present, what we found is that just over a third of Americans either somewhat or definitely support the idea of providing reparations in the form of cash payments to descendants of enslaved people, but that just under two thirds of Americans think that the federal government definitely should or probably should not," Rhodes said. "And so we're really seeing kind of a 2 to 1 split where just under two thirds of Americans are opposed to reparations."
Rhodes highlighted that "the most common reason" among those who opposed reparations in the form of cash payments was that, "descendants of enslaved people did not deserve cash payments." Adding that this perception might be due to Americans's "difficulty understanding," how slavery, "may continue to have consequences for African-Americans today."
Former Princeton professor and "Black Eye for America" co-author Dr. Carol Swain called on supporters of Democrats' reparations efforts to "look at history" and ask themselves, "Have they come through in the past."
Dr. Swain told Fox News Digital that current reparations efforts are simply a push "to gain votes from voters."
"This reparations push is not new, it's being repackaged, and it will not benefit Black Americans, nor will it benefit Americans. They are pushing it not because they care about Black people. I believe that the Democrats. You know, I hate to politicize it, but this is what they do, that they see this as a way to get Black Americans all excited about 2024, believing that if they elect a Democrat president, that somehow that person will push it through Congress," Dr. Swain said. "And we've seen this before. They make all kinds of promises. They promise the moon, they deliver nothing, and it's more of the same."
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson called reparations a "scheme" for politicians to gain voters.
"Once the vote is over, they'll say, ‘We're still working on it.’ The next vote will come around, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, we're almost there,’" Robinson told Fox News Digital. "It's just simply a scheme to gain votes from voters. That's all it is."
California's Reparations Task Force vice-chair Dr. Amos C. Brown told Fox News Digital that the founding of the Ku Klux Klan was San Francisco and called on the city and California to pay its debt, what he referred to as a "sin bill," for the "enslavement, discrimination, intimidation, and terrorizing" of Black people.
"When you look at it deeply, the horrors, the hellishness and the harm that was done to African-Americans and their descendants, if you can't pay all of that, say what you can pay, that's the point. But you cannot put a dollar sign on what has been done to Black people," Dr. Amos said. "I repeat again, our sin bill, in this nation has been so high, because of the long years, of doing nothing, the interest has grown."
Dr. Brown also claimed that opponents of reparations show a lack of respect towards the "humanity of Black people."
Hoover Institution senior fellow Richard Epstein pointed to the difficult in putting together a program to address the concerns of those pushing reparations efforts.
Epstein told Fox News Digital, "The thought that the wealth that was around in 1865 has just been put in an idle bank account accruing interest for the next 250 years, and we could gather it, this is just another one of these kinds of fantasies."
However, Brookings Institution senior fellow Andrew Perry labeled reparations a "suite of redress." He told Fox News Digital that reparations should occur, "because some of the injury was really resulted in a loss of income and wealth."
Perry also raised concerns of scammers if reparations occurred. "There's going to be scamming in every program and every initiative. We've seen this during the pandemic," Perry said.