Commissioners of the Tennessee county that includes Memphis have voted to launch a feasibility study to examine reparations for the descendants of slaves.
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted on the measure on Wednesday, which allocates $5 million to fund a feasibility study to ‘establish, develop, and implement reparations.’
All eight black members of the commission voted in favor of the measure, while the five white members all voted against it or abstained, citing financial concerns about the $5 million allocation.
The reparations study, which is just the latest of similar pushes in many US cities and states, follows the police killing of Tyre Nichols, a black man, in Memphis last month, in a beating by police officers who were also black.
Nichols death was referenced in by many of those in favor of the reparations study, including Commissioner Miska Clay Bibbs, who said: ‘My people are dying on the daily. That’s why I support this.’
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted to launch a feasibility study to examine reparations for the descendants of slaves. All eight black members of the commission voted in favor of the measure, while the five white members all voted against it or abstained
‘It’s clear something has to be done. That’s all this resolution is trying to do is saying we have to address what’s happening in Shelby County in a different way,’ said Bibbs, according to the Commercial Appeal.
The commissioners who opposed the measure cited budget constraints, legal concerns, and fears that it would prove divisive in the community.
‘I just don’t think this is the best way to move the community forward in a unified manner, and that is my reasoning, as well as the financial piece,’ said Commissioner Brandon Morrison, who voted ‘no’.
Before calling the vote, Commission Chair Mickell Lowrey addressed his collegues, saying: ‘Commissioners, it’s ok to disagree. We all represent different communities, and we’re supposed to disagree, our constituents don’t all have the same issues or concerns.’
‘Our diversity makes us better, so I appreciate all the comments, and respect all of them,’ he added.
The population of Shelby County is about 52% black, 41% white, 6% Hispanic and 2% Asian, according to county government data.
This year, the county budget projected total functional expenditures of about $1.5 billion, with 29% devoted to education and 25% devoted to criminal justice.
The Shelby County reparations study, which is just the latest of similar pushes in many US cities and states, follows the police killing of Tyre Nichols , a black man, in Memphis
Memphis is seen in a file photo. The commissioners who opposed the measure cited budget constraints, legal concerns, and fears that it would prove divisive in the community
The resolution on the reparations study that passed on Wednesday orders the feasibility study to examine five areas: access to affordable housing and homeownership, affordable healthcare, systemic disenfranchisement in the criminal justice system, career opportunities, and financial literacy and generational wealth.
The resolution uses the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America’s definition of ‘reparations.’
That group defines it as ‘a process of repairing, healing, and restoring a people injured because of their group identity and in violation of their fundamental human rights by governments, corporations, institutions and families.’
Shelby County is just the latest jurisdiction to consider reparations for slavery, a topic that has proved divisive in many places.
Cities including Boston, Massachusetts, St Paul, Minnesota, and St Louis, Missouri, as well as the California cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles, have set up task forces and panels to hatch their own reparations plans.
Much of the focus is on California, where a state-wide task force has until July 1 to issue a final report of its recommendations for how it can atone for and address its legacy of discriminatory policies against black people.
All panels face the same conundrum — how to fairly calculate the losses that black people have incurred over the centuries, and what might be required to prove eligibility for any payout.
San Francisco’s own city reparations panel has proposed a one-time lump sum payment of $5 million to each eligible black person, and debt forgiveness, to correct decades of ‘systematic oppression’ there.
Meanwhile, the Illinois city of Evanston has been helping residents who suffered from long-forgotten racist housing policies. Its grants have paid off a few mortgages, but also stoked divisions between winners and losers.