The latest webinar in NPQ’s Remaking the Economy series looks at the racial wealth gap, focusing on Black Americans. In 2017, a report titled The Road to Zero Wealth noted that at current trends, by mid-century the median wealth of a Black family in the US would fall below zero (i.e., more than half of all Black Americans would be in a net debtor position).

As the movement against anti-Black racism has gained support, so too has the movement for reparations. Reparations would provide formal acknowledgement of the tremendous costs, economic and otherwise, of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and other racist policies. But how would the mechanics of reparations work, and what does repair require?

Leading this discussion are our expert panelists:

  • William A. (“Sandy”) Darity and Kirsten Mullen are the husband-and-wife team that authored the award-winning book, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, published by University of North Carolina Press in 2020.
  • Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is Chief of Race, Wealth, and Community for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, an economic justice nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, DC and was a coauthor of the 2017 Road to Zero Wealth
  • Gary Cunninghamis CEO of Prosperity Now, a national nonprofit based in Washington, DC, whose focus is on building a fair and just economy that is free from structural inequity and racism.

The moderator for this webinar is NPQ Economic Justice Program Director Steve Dubb. In this webinar, we begin with Sandy Darity and Kirsten Mullen outlining the case for reparations for Black Americans and highlighting key elements of their proposal. Dedrick Asante-Muhammad follows by emphasizing the nation’s and growing racial wealth gap. Gary Cunningham lifts up the importance of creating an economic system that fosters Black business ownership. From there, the panelists address a broad range of questions, including but not limited to those listed below:

  • What have we learned from past reparation efforts, such as German restitution for Holocaust survivors or US restitution to Japanese Americans forcibly held in concentration camps during World War II?
  • What does justice require? What would a comprehensive plan for reparations look like? How would reparations payments occur?
  • Do state and local efforts at reparations boost the movement for national reparations or detract from it?
  • How can the issue of reparations be framed strategically to build broad support? Do actions by the administration of Joe Biden that address racial equity provide an opening for these efforts?
  • What can be done in local communities to advance the movement for reparations?
  • Are current congressional approaches to reparations, such as US House Resolution 40, adequate? If not, what needs to be advanced in their place?
  • What role can nonprofits and philanthropy play in supporting policy and conversation around reparations and closing the racial wealth gap?

Resources

Scottie Andrew, “Reparations for slavery could have reduced Covid-19 transmission and deaths in the US, Harvard study says,” CNN, February 16, 2021.

Asset Building Policy Network, The Racial Wealth Gap, Washington, DC: Prosperity Now, September 2019.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, “The simplest way to close the racial wealth gap? Direct cash payments,” Guardian, July 12, 2020.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins, “Why 21st-Century America needs to enact slavery reparations,” South Florida Sun Sentinel, July 8, 2019.

Chuck Collins, Darrick Hamilton, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, and Josh Hoxie, Ten Solutions to Bridge the Racial Wealth Divide, Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies, April 2019.

Gary Cunningham, “Strengthening Our Identity: Rethinking the Path to Black Liberation,” NPQ, January 21, 2021.

William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, “The Flaws in the Reparations Bill,” Boston Globe, December 3, 2020

William A. Darity, Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, “Coronavirus Is Making the Case for Black Reparations Clearer Than Ever,” Newsweek, May 5, 2020.

William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, “A Program of Black Reparations,” NPQ, June 29, 2020.

William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2020.

Spectra Myers, Cat Goughnour, Ivan Avila, and Hiba Haroon, Addressing Debt in Black Communities, Washington, D