Two people quit Detroit reparations task force

December 6, 2023

The liberal movement to pay reparations for slavery has hit another stumbling block, after two members of a Detroit task force on the subject quit in frustration. 

Co-Chair Lauren Hood and Maurice Weeks cited a "lack of progress" and a failure to agree on what "reparations" actually means.

"I think, collectively, that group of people has different ideas about what reparations is fundamentally and we didn't get to a place where we had a broad strategic vision," Hood said.

Reparations committee in chaos

The task force was formed after a ballot initiative to study reparations was approved by a majority of Detroit residents, 77 percent of whom are black.

Detroit's budget is funded partially with state sales taxes.

The task force had its first meeting in April, but progress has been slow. The situation has led to tensions with City Council.

The task force says they haven't received enough support from the government, but the City Council says they expected the task force to take the initiative.

"The Taskforce was designed to not have Council involved in day-to-day activities and instead be community-led and driven," Council President Mary Sheffield said.

Things began to unravel after the death of Rev. JoAnn Watson, said city councilwoman Mary Waters.

"My staff has been going to the various meetings. But they’ve seemed to have some difficulty just kind of getting things off the ground, because she [Watson] was in fact, the leader for that Task Force. That was her brainchild some years ago," Waters said.

Divisive concept

The reparations movement was turbocharged in the wake of George Floyd's death in 2020, with California taking the lead.

But there has been little tangible progress toward concrete action, owing to the divisiveness of the concept and the impracticability of deciding who is entitled to compensation, let alone financing the massive payouts.

One proposal in California would cost the state - which never practiced slavery in its history - $800 billion.

William Darity, a leading proponent of reparations, has put the national price tag at $14 trillion. The federal government spent $6 trillion in 2023.

Advocates cite the persistence of the so-called "racial wealth gap" as proof that blacks face systematic discrimination, but many say reparations would unfairly penalize people living today who had nothing to do with slavery in the past.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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