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Reparations Are a Financial Quandary. For Democrats, They’re a Political One, Too.

“I think once we get mainstream America to say — whether they say grudgingly, belatedly or whatever — ‘Yes, we owe,’ then you can have a better discussion about how we pay,” Mr. Sharpton said. “I don’t think we’ve successfully had mainstream America have to come to the question, ‘Do we owe?’

Critics of reparations argue that America has already compensated for historical injustice by passing landmark civil rights and voting rights laws in the 1960s and establishing a social safety net, including welfare programs and affirmative action in college admissions and employment, to lift people out of poverty. . They say it is morally wrong to force Americans whose ancestors had no role in slavery or Jim Crow to atone for their past, and have raised the possibility of legal challenges. This spring, the Supreme Court is expected to ban college admissions based on race.

The legal argument of conservative critics of reparations is that state payments based on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. In California, the task force ruled that eligibility should be tied not only to race, but also to direct lineage, finding that any descendant of enslaved African Americans or “a free black person who lived in the United States before the end of the 19th century” should receive reparations. . Some legal experts say that using direct lineage has a better chance of withstanding a court challenge.

Sen. Tim Scott, who is the lone black Republican in the Senate and announced his bid for the presidency on Monday, rejected the idea of ​​reparations and framed the message in previously GOP nominating states that America is a post-racial society.

“I am living proof that America is a land of opportunity, not a land of oppression,” Mr. Scott said as he announced his campaign in his hometown of North Charleston, SC

The California reparations task force’s proposals will go to lawmakers in Sacramento, where they face high political and economic hurdles to becoming law, even in the Democratic-dominated state. For one thing, the state — whose tax structure leaves it open to wide swings in revenue from year to year — faces a projected budget deficit of more than $31 billion. Hearings on the proposed legislation will not be held until next year.

Although the task force weighed different methods for distributing reparations, such as tuition fees or housing grants, it settled on direct payments to offset economic inequality. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the typical black family in America is worth $23,000, compared to $184,000 for white families.

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