Resolution 2020-13 The Debt: The Case for Reparations

Multnomah Democrats pass resolution calling for reparations to American Descendants of Slaves

At the Central Committee Meeting on July 9, 2020, the Multnomah County Democrats passed this resolution.

Democratic Party of Multnomah County Central Committee

Resolution: 2020-13 The Debt: The Case for Reparations

WHEREAS the American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) community’s claim for restitution anchors on the U.S. government’s failure to deliver the promised 40-acre land grants to their newly emancipated ancestors in the aftermath of the civil war,

WHEREAS today’s ADOS-white wealth gap originated with that unfulfilled promise of 40 acres. If the land allocations had been made to the freedmen and freedwomen, and had that ownership been protected ADOS would be in a much better position materially today.

WHEREAS ADOS have borne and continue to bear the undue burden of the cumulative effects of slavery, the near-century-long epoch of legal segregation in America known as Jim Crow, as well as the ongoing atrocities associated with the period following the Civil Rights Act of 1964: mass incarceration; police executions of unarmed black people; sustained credit, housing, and employment discrimination; and the immense ADOS-white wealth disparity. All of these chapters in American history must be considered for redress within a program for reparations,

WHEREAS while the 40 million eligible recipients of ADOS reparations constitute about 13 percent of the American population, they possess less than 3 percent of the nation’s wealth. This translates into an average (or mean) differential, per household, of about $800,000 in net worth,

WHEREAS, eliminating the ADOS-white (pre-tax) wealth differential should be a core objective of the redress component of a plan for reparations. We estimate that this will require an allocation between 12 trillion in 2016 dollars to eligible Black Americans.

WHEREAS, A reparations program for ADOS is a matter of national responsibility insofar that the multigenerational plunder and oppression of ADOS were and are products of the legal and authority framework established by the federal government. The federal government further sanctioned racial atrocities by silence and inaction.

WHEREAS, Article 9- Historical and Ongoing Anti-Blackness in Oregon, plank 5 of the 2020 Democratic Party of Multnomah County Platform states, “we strongly support corrective and restorative justice for past racial harms inflicted by local, city, and state governments against ADOS in Oregon


SECTION 1 We urge Congress to establish a Congressional Commission on Slavery Reparations, which would be responsible for addressing the questions that must be considered so that restitution can be made.

SECTION 2 We support direct cash payments to victims equal in size rather than apportioned according to families’ or individuals’ “economic value.”

SECTION 3 We support the proposal in H.R.40 to develop a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations for ADOS. A body of commissioners appointed by congress must be established to provide congress with a detailed template for legislation that will activate a comprehensive plan for ADOS reparations. This will include specifying criteria for eligibility and specifying precisely how the amount and deployment of a reparations fund will raise ADOS net worth sufficiently to eliminate the (pre-tax) ADOS-white wealth gap within a specified amount of time. Commissioners shall not be paid, but they will be reimbursed for expenses associated with the fulfillment of their responsibilities.

SECTION 4 We support the development and application of a rigorous and accurate curriculum, fully integrated into public school instruction across at least three generations at all grade levels, telling the story of America’s racial history.

SECTION 5 We support the designation of a protected group status known as ADOS or American Descendants of Slavery, not to be mixed with a general Black designation.

SECTION 6 We strongly support providing potential claimants with free genealogical services to assist them in establishing that they are the descendant of an ancestor enslaved in the US, anti-fraud guidance, and access to free financial management instruction.

SECTION 7 Establishment of a monitoring system to ensure the wealth gap is closing.

Adopted on July 9, 2020

Submitted by Platform Resolution and Legislative Committee, Quinton Blanton, Anti Blackness Study Group

Send to Multnomah County Legislators



What is the purpose of a reparations program?

In the book From Here to Equality, Dr. Sandy Darity and A. Kirsten Mullen advance a general definition of reparations as a program of acknowledgement, redress, and closure.

Is it illegal to allocate funds specifically to ADOS?

No. There’s no intrinsic illegality to group specific or race specific policies. Japanese American reparations, for example, were group specific.

How will we be able to tell who is eligible for reparations vs. who is not?

Two criterion can be advanced for eligibility. First, an individual must establish that they have at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the US. Second, an individual must demonstrate that they have self-identified as Black, Negro, or African American on an official document-perhaps making the self-report of their race on the US Census—for at least 12 years before the enactment of programs tied to the funds. This criteria was created by Duke University economist William “Sandy” Darity.

Why is the ADOS distinction necessary?

ADOS is a necessary distinction because if reparations do in fact gain traction nationally, people who are opposed to reparations could make the argument that Black immigration to the U.S. has increased significantly since the 1980’s, they were never enslaved in the U.S. so why should they be paid reparations? From a legal standpoint, a reparations claim against the federal government must be specific and requires inclusion and exclusion.

How will the effectiveness of a reparations program be measured?

According to Dr. Darity, the goal of a reparations program for ADOS should be to close the racial wealth gap in its entirety. Therefore, it is essential that the mean gap be erased, rather than setting a far less ambitious goal such as closing the ADOS-white median differential. Establishing a monitoring system to evaluate whether the ADOS-white wealth gap disparity is closing will be desirable.

How to calculate the cost of reparations?

There are a variety of strategies for calculating the size of social debt that is owed. Professor Thomas Craemer has calculated the cost of reparations through a stolen labor framework. In today’s dollars, he arrives at an estimate of $14 trillion for the cost of American slavery to the enslaved. The central argument of Dr. Darity and A. Kirsten Mullen, which I tend to agree with is that the elimination of the ADOS-white wealth gap should provide the foundation for the magnitude of the debt owed.

Where will the money for reparations come from

As journalist Matthew Yglesias has proposed, Congress could direct the Federal Reserve to fund ADOS reparations either in part or in total. Given the overnight transfer of 45 to 1 to $1.5 trillion without any difficulty—and this funding mechanism would not have to affect tax rates for any American. Moreover, the Federal Reserve is a public bank charged with conducting a public responsibility.

Why should I have to pay reparations? My ancestors didn’t own any slaves.

The culpable party is the U.S. government. Often, the federal government further sanctioned racial atrocities by silence and inaction. ADOS reparations are not a matter of personal or individual institutional guilt; ADOS reparations are a matter of national responsibility. Furthermore, The poverty created by slavery and Jim Crow are still in the system, just like the wealth created by slavery and Jim Crow are still in the system.

White ethnics such as the Irish and Italians came here and were discriminated against by the U.S. government, yet they still rose in spite of their handicaps why didn’t ADOS do the same?

It is important to note that in some respects, the Irish were treated worse than Blacks for the most part when they first arrived in the U.S. However, they were eventually absorbed into whiteness due to their willingness to inflict violence against ADOS and by expressing anti-ADOS sentiments. The Democratic Party and early labor unions also eased the assimilation of the Irish into whiteness. Whitness is a social construct that is dynamic. It expands and changes based on its need. I suggest everyone read Noel Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White.

White people have never received “handouts” from the government, why should Black people get governmental “handouts”?

Framing reparations as a handout or a one time check rather than a debt is a conservative, right wing talking point that is untrue. A program of reparations is much more than a check. It must include multi-pronged policies and laws, protections, therapy, and training to fill the void of knowledge gaps. Also, white America has in fact recieved numerous handouts from the federal government including 160-acre land grants through the Homstead Act, access to New Deal and Fair Deal programs, the G.I. bill and much more. While white America received these handouts ADOS were denied access to them and were never given their 40-acres, which is partly why the ADOS-white wealth disparity is so vast, entrenched, and unshakeable. The wealth ADOS managed to accumulate in the nineteenth and twentitieth centuries was far too often plundered via white mob violence, lynching, redlining, and credit discrimination.


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