Senator Liz Miranda and Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley file reparations bill

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Senator Liz Miranda and Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley file reparations bill

To recognize the continued lack of reparations for Black Americans, Senator Liz Miranda and Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley filed (S.1053/H.3921), An Act establishing a commission to study reparations in Massachusetts and An Act to Cure Us of the Liabilities That Ultimately Restricted Equity.

This law would establish a commission responsible for researching and developing ideas to create lineage-based reparations programs in the state similar to the task force created by the state of California. The commission would also study the long-lasting impacts of slavery and the stains that systemic racism has left on the Commonwealth.

This historic bill comes as the Commonwealth gets ready to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday. On July 24, 2020, Juneteenth was signed into state law. One year later, it became federally recognized. Juneteenth commemorates the 19th day of June 1865 when the last slaves were freed in America. Since the holiday was established, people throughout the Commonwealth participate in festivals, flag raisings, museum exhibits, and parades.

The enslavement of Black Americans existed from until 1619-1865. It is impossible to put a number to the years of harm, suffering, and cruelty those who were enslaved endured. Even when slavery was officially abolished, the Jim Crow Era continued to bring suffering through the destruction of Black owned businesses, voter suppression efforts, and lynchings.

“Celebrating Juneteenth is not only about joy and fellowship, but also about recognizing the work that needs to be done to make the Commonwealth a more just place for all. This bill is an actionable step toward making reparations for Black Americans a reality not only in our state, but also to inspire our nation to do the same. It is not enough for us to just speak on these issues and acknowledge them, but we must also put these values into practice and support legislation that will make a real change,” said Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley (D-Mattapan). “I am grateful to be working on this bill with Senator Liz Miranda, Repair America Collective, and all partners who are willing to support a truth and reconciliation process for repairing harm. I am looking forward to seeing the progress Massachusetts will continue to make on this issue.”

“Juneteenth is about love, joy, celebration, telling historic truths and remembering, but it’s important to reflect on the progress we have made and the work that remains towards the struggle for liberation. It’s vital that we tell the truth about Boston’s role in the transatlantic slave trade and the impact that remains today from that legacy,” said Senator Liz Miranda (D-Roxbury). “We cannot rest until every person in our country is free from racist, violent policies and practices across our City, State, and Nation. As a state, we must continue to prioritize criminal justice reform, reparative justice, investing in our communities, ending the racial wealth gap and promoting equity and economic opportunity for all. I am proud to be in partnership with Rep. Fluker Oakley to center reparative justice.”

Throughout history, the US government has provided other groups with reparations. In 1988, an office was built to provide free restitution payments to those Japanese families interned in the United States during World War II. Although small individual payments, the government provided $1.3 billion to Native Americans tribes and organizations to compensate them for the land and personhood that was stolen. In Germany, reparations are still being paid to survivors of the Holocaust. Black Americans have never received reparations for the harms committed.

“We are very grateful for the robust and astute process of Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley and Senate sponsor Liz Miranda in filing these bills (S.1053/H.3921). With the median net worth of $8 for blacks and $247,500 for whites in the capital city of The Commonwealth, the time is now to move towards reckoning with the systems that have continued to contribute to causing this divide. We’d like to emphasize this is just the beginning, repair for Black Americans is long overdue,” said Repair America Collective spokesperson, Aziza Robinson-Goodnight. “Since the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, Massachusetts has claimed to be the enlightened moral center of the New World, and forming a Commission to study and develop proposals for lineage-based reparations programs is significant for Massachusetts. This is an historic step for us all and brings us closer towards holistic repair for racialized harm.”

This new legislation would ensure that Black Americans receive the reparations they are owed just like many other groups have received already. Juneteenth reminds us of the work that still needs to be done to ensure that Black Americans can thrive in this country. This bill can move the Commonwealth one step closer to achieving major progress and begin to right the wrongs of a racist past.

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