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State House legislation would create reparations fund for Black Michigan residents

By: - March 8, 2022 10:20 am

Steve Neavling photo

Democratic state lawmakers are calling on the Legislature to approve a reparations fund for Black Michigan residents.

The Racial Equity and Reparations Fund Act in the state House would provide $1.5 billion in federal money for grants, loans, investments, and other assistance for businesses and economic developments that “promote the African-American community” in Michigan.

A variety of state departments and agencies would be responsible for dolling out the funds, which would come from 13% in surcharges levied under the Michigan Strategic Fund Act and other sources.

On Saturday, state Reps. Cynthia Johnson and Shri Thanedar, both Democrats from Detroit, spoke in favor of the legislation at the Second Baptist Church on Monroe Street in Detroit.

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“We, as legislators, we see monies that are going places that will never reach the people and we say nothing,” Johnson said, according to the Detroit News. “That’s unconscionable.”

Johnson said the money would not come from taxpayers.

“We’re not asking for monies to go into anybody’s individual hands,” she said. “We’re not even asking the taxpayers to pay this. This bill would require any business, like General Motors, Ford Motor Company, any of the other businesses that come to the state of Michigan and ask for money. Those businesses would be required to pay a surcharge up front.”

Whether Democrats can get support for the bill in the GOP-controlled House remains to be seen.

Thanedar, who is running for the open 13th Congressional District seat in the August primary, said the time has come for Michigan to acknowledge the impact of institutional racism.

“Reparations are about making up for the generational wealth that was stolen from the Black community,” Thanedar said. “They’re about making up for depriving people of home ownership and community investment specifically on the basis of their skin color.”

“More than anything,” Thanedar added, “they’re about providing equal opportunity. The reparations fund will allow Black Michiganders to invest in homes, stock, retirement savings and more to help build generational wealth. It will also help build a safety net to protect families from economic recession that always disproportionately impacts communities of color. These bills will not solve everything, but they are an important piece of the puzzle.”

On the city level, Detroit launched a task force that is responsible for making recommendations for reparations for Detroiters. Detroit voters approved the creation of a reparations commission in November.

This story first ran in the Detroit Metro Times. Subscribe to their newsletters, and follow them on Google News, Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit.

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Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist with the Detroit Metro Times. He operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker, Neavling was a five-year veteran of the Detroit Free Press, covering Detroit’s city hall.