It has been widely reported that William Darity, one of the nation’s leading scholars on reparations, thinks that Black American descendants of slaves should be compensated for centuries of unpaid labor that made America a superpower.
Less known, however, is that Darity, an economist, and director of Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center for Equity, is not a fan of House Bill 40—decades-old, proposed legislation that calls on Congress to form a commission to study and develop a reparations plan.
Darity, an acclaimed scholar and co-author of From Here To Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, reached out to the INDY following the publication of a story last week that announced a research team Darity is leading received a major grant to study the feasibility of reparations.
In the story, when Darity referred to a “reparations bill,” the INDY mistakenly referenced HB 40. Darity pulled the publication’s coat about the error.
“When I referred to the “bill” for reparations I meant literally the amount, not HR 40 which I think is a badly written piece of legislation,” Darity wrote in an email to the INDY. “I don’t view HR 40 as a route to reparations.”
Darity spelled out his concerns with HB 40 in early summer in the story, Benign Neglect, Reparations, and Juneteenth published online by Actify Press.
In the story, Darity points to “structural” and “substantive” issues with HB 40, which was first sponsored in 1989 by Representative John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan. Conyers introduced the bill at the beginning of each congressional session until he resigned in 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct. The banner was picked up by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat from Texas.
The bill has languished in Congress for decades. However, following the nation’s racial epiphany after the murder of George Floyd, the bill has gained greater support, perhaps most notably from several presidential candidates during the 2020 election cycle.
Part of Darity’s criticism of the bill is that the Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA) does not apply to HB 40. FACA outlines certain transparency and reporting guidelines for advisory groups, like the one HB 40 seeks to create.
Darity also disapproves of how much money each member of the proposed commission would make under the bill, ranging from $172,000 annually and up.
Darity said he’s long contended that “it is inappropriate for members of a Commission with this type of mission to receive pay.”
“They should receive compensation for their expenses, and there should be a paid professional staff to support their efforts—but the members of the Commission themselves should not receive salaries,” Darity stated in the story. “The presence of the paid professional staff should enable them to maintain their normal lines of employment and also serve.”
If a potential Commission member frowns upon not being well-paid, Darity, in so many words said well, that’s just too bad.
“We should not want members of this Commission who will not serve unless they receive significant pay,” Darity stated in the Actify Press story.
Darity also pointed to “substantive issues” with the bill, including the omission of directives for the commission.
Darity’s, From Here to Equality proposes payments of about $276,000 to each Black American whose descendants toiled in slavery’s forced labor camps.
Darity added that the bill also does not issue any directives to the proposed commission about specific proposals they might bring before Congress.
Darity noted that without specific proposals, the HB 40 Commission “could decide that a new, more comprehensive apology will suffice as reparations or a housing voucher plan … will suffice as reparations or college scholarships for black youth will suffice as reparations.”
Darity said an HB 40 commission should be directed, at minimum, to create proposals that will meet the following conditions that he shared with Actify Press:
—Eligible recipients must be black American descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.
—A reparations plan must eliminate the black-white wealth gap by raising black assets to a level sufficient to match the average level of wealth among whites.
—A reparations plan must disburse the funds intended to close the black-white wealth gap primarily as direct payments to eligible recipients.
—The federal government, as the culpable party, must be responsible for paying reparations. Darity estimates that it will take $11 trillion to close the racial wealth gap and make Black Americans whole.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.
Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.