Legislature Prioritizes Economy Over Slavery Reparations (So Far)

June 18, 2020

By David Flemming

On June 11, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance held a webinar to discuss a bill “establish(ing) a task force to study and consider a State apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery. Vermont lawmakers remain SILENT on the matter, despite the national racial unrest.”

VRJA asked attendees of the webinar to read H.478, a bill aptly titled “an act relating to establishing a task force to study and consider a State apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery.” It has 6 sponsors:  Rep. Brian Cina (P-Burlington), Rep. Kevin Christie (D-Hartford), Rep. Selene Colburn (D-Burlington), Rep. Harold “Hal” Colston (D-Winooski), Rep. Mari Cordes (D/P-Lincoln), and Rep. Diana Gonzalez (P-Winooski).

H.478 would “recommend (four) appropriate remedies in consideration of the Task Force’s findings on the matters described in this section:”

1. “How the injuries resulting from matters described in this section can be reversed (?) and provide appropriate policies, programs, projects, and recommendations for the purpose of reversing the injuries”

2. “How, in consideration of the Task Force’s findings, any form of compensation to the descendants of enslaved Africans is calculated”

3. “What form of compensation should be awarded, through what instrumentalities, and who (indeed!) should be eligible for such compensation.”

4. “How, in consideration of the Task Force’s findings, any other forms of rehabilitation or restitution to African descendants is warranted and what the form and scope of those measures should take.”

The Task Force would consist of 11 members, 3 appointed by the Governor, 4 by the Senate Committee on Committees, and 4 by the Speaker of the House. “At minimum, 4 appointees shall represent major civil society and reparations organizations that have historically championed the cause of reparatory justice, including the NAACP, Justice For All, and Black Lives Matter.”

It’s no surprise that legislators have “remained silent” the bill, letting it languish in the Government Operations committee since February 27. After all, Governor Scott declared a state of emergency on March 13. Even before Covid-19 wrecked Vermont’s economy, the idea had questionable merit. Now that Black Lives Matter has become a lead headline, the bill is likely to receive renewed consideration.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Therese Messinger June 19, 2020 at 11:07 pm

Why? I notice there are no Republicans on the list. Good for them. What did the North have to do with slavery which happened 150 years ago? By the way, women were considered second class citizens. How about them?


David Flemming June 22, 2020 at 1:47 pm

When you try to create a calculus of reparations, it becomes clear you can only create a system that rewards politicians, justice becomes impossible if you try to keep track of all wrongs through human history.


Ted Robinson June 20, 2020 at 12:06 am

How about compensation from the descendants of slaves to the families of the Union Soldiers who died to obtain their freedom?
Besides the fact that I or any other VT resident has never participated in slave ownership, VT fought on the side to free the slaves.
And just where is VT planning on getting the coins to commit to such a preposterous idea?
People oi VT have you not had enough of the leftist/progressive garbage [I’m being polite here] coming out of Montpelier?


David Flemming June 22, 2020 at 2:05 pm

There are so many incidentals to history- $ from today cannot solve history’s ills. It doesn’t even work 100% of the time when one party injures another today.


Susan Crowley June 20, 2020 at 3:21 pm

This is unbelievable garbage!!!!!


Steve Hearne June 20, 2020 at 9:06 pm

I believe we need to make some gain in shoring up the state pension fund before even thinking about anything like this. No one alive today at least in Vermont has been a slave owner and I am not aware of anyone in Vermont today that has been a slave except maybe the taxpayers. There are many people here today that were not even in this country during the days of slavery. How are they responsible for any of this and also many blacks that have come here after the slavery days. How are they owed anything
but a fair shot at the American dream?


David Flemming June 22, 2020 at 1:45 pm

The state pension fund is in a bad way- taking care that of that would help all Vermonters. You bring up a lot of good questions.


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