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Lawmakers Look to Provide $1.5 Billion in Reparations for Michiganders

Photo credit: Candice Williams, The Detroit News

Michigan State Representatives Cynthia Johnson and Shri Thanedar held a press conference on March 5th calling for House bills 5672, 5673, 5674 to be passed. Though they don’t have a catchy nickname or any national buzz, these bills would provide something that African Americans across the country have needed since the Civil War, reparations.

If voted into law, they would provide $1.5 billion in aid for Black people in Michigan in the form of loans and grants for businesses and economic improvements in African American communities. This action takes place only a few months after Detroiters voted to create a reparations commission.

“Reparations are about making up for the generational wealth that was stolen from the Black community,” Rep. Thanedar stated during the press conference. “They’re about making up for depriving people of homeownership and community investment, specifically on the basis of their skin color. More than anything, they’re about providing equal opportunity. The reparations fund will allow Black Michiganders to invest in homes, stock, retirement savings, and more to help build generational wealth. It will also help build a safety net to protect families from economic recession that always disproportionately impacts communities of color.”

Usually, bills that pour government money into initiatives and programs for the needy result in higher tax rates for the common citizen. However, Michigan democrats are suggesting that corporations should foot the bill for the proposed reparations instead. By using taxes collected from large companies operating in the state via the Michigan Strategic Fund, lawmakers plan to spare the average Michigander from any extra expenses.

“We’re not even asking the taxpayers to pay this.” Rep. Johnson explained, “This bill would require any business, like General Motors, Ford Motor Company, any of the other businesses that come to the state of Michigan and ask for money. Those businesses would be required to pay a surcharge upfront.”

This push for reparations for descendants of slaves is the first of its kind in state history and could lead to similar bills being presented in other states. However, with Michigan’s House of Representatives being primarily Republican, it’s unlikely that the motions will be passed. Still, introducing such policies will help start a real conversation on what reparations for Black people may look like. And maybe in the near future, Black communities in America will receive the proper aid that we’ve been owed for centuries.

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