Fourth District Democratic Candidate Natalia Linos Explains Support For Reparations

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Support for reparations is a minority view in the country, but it’s something Natalia Linos views as morally righteous.

Linos, a Brookline resident and the executive director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard, is running in Massachusetts’s Fourth Congressional District and is one of eight Democrats vying to replace U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.

Emphasizing reparations sets her apart in the race. Linos “is a strong proponent for reparations as an economic tool to begin to correct the financial impact of systemic racial injustice in our country,” according to her campaign web site

However, Linos’s campaign web site does not mention a specific plan on how to provide reparations for black Americans, so a New Boston Post reporter asked her about the topic during one of her daily “Ask Me Anything” Zoom calls earlier this week.

“There are different proposals I’ve seen,” she said. “One is wealth transfers over a 30-year period. It won’t happen overnight. There’s also proposals for community-level support and investments in neighborhoods that have been underinvested in. I would probably think of a combination of those transfers and community-level work and investment into civil society.”

The left-leaning Roosevelt Institute has stated that reparations should be valued at around $10 trillion to $12 trillion, or about $250,000 for each black American. That’s similar to a figure on her campaign site that says black Bostonians have a median net worth of $8 while white Bostonians are worth on average $247,000, which was reported by The Boston Globe in December 2017, citing a 2015 study.

However, the Roosevelt Institute’s direct wealth transfer is on the high end of slavery reparation proposals. Marianne Williamson, who was a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, put forward a reparations plan that called for “economic and educational renewal” that she said would cost somewhere between $200 billion to $500 billion over 20 years, according to CNN. It did not provide direct cash payments to black Americans.

A June 2020 poll conducted by Reuters found that only about 20 percent of the country supports using “taxpayer money to pay damages to descendants of enslaved people in the United States.” About half of black respondents supported the idea compared to only about 10 percent of whites.

Even if there is opposition to it, Linos said she looks at the issue through a “moral lens” and sees it as an effective tool in eliminating racial disparities in America.

“I have looked at the data in terms of health outcomes for black Americans whether you look at infant mortality, maternal mortality, HIV, cancer, black Americans are dying at disproportionate rates and at younger ages,” Linos said during the Zoom session Monday, August 17. “That to me can’t be fixed with a Band-Aid. I support Medicare-for-All and think that access to health care is important, but I know as a social epidemiologist that it doesn’t change the conditions of our neighborhoods, the history of redlining, and how that has been overlaid with environmental injustices and where toxic waste sites and bus depots are.

“There’s deep inequities in our neighborhoods,” she added. “People talk about how your zip code determines your life expectancy more than anything else. And that is a fundamental issue, and it has historical roots.”

Linos said that it’s good that H.R.40 is in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill that would create a commission to study and develop reparation proposals. However, she said that she doesn’t think it’s moving quickly enough — and that reparations alone won’t solve the problem.

“Some people have said we need to have a truth and reconciliation committee, but we can’t do truth and reconciliation as if there’s no ongoing racism — because we need to make structural change,” she said. “It’s not about a crime that happened and we’ve come to terms with, we do need structural changes. In the umbrella of reparations, we can talk about access to education, employment, and equity in different fields. But I like the idea of pushing the Democratic Party forward on the issue of reparations.”