Democratic Candidate for Governor of Massachusetts Interested In Reparations

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Should the Commonwealth of Massachusetts offer its black residents reparations for slavery?

The concept interests Democratic candidate for governor Ben Downing.

Downing, a former state senator from Pittsfield and current East Boston resident, leaves open the possibility of reparations to black Americans for slavery in his platform for governor.

The platform doesn’t have a specific dollar amount, nor a plan of who would pay for it and how much people would get. However, Downing wants to explore the matter further.

“Push for a commission to study reparations for the harm done by racist policies in Massachusetts, using federal HR 40 as a model,” Downing’s platform says. “This is not a topic on which I have all of the answers, and I am eager to work with advocates, communities, and colleagues on it. The harms of systemic racism in Massachusetts demand concrete material restitution, and I am committed to pursuing it wherever possible.”

H.R.40, which Downing mentions, is a federal proposal. It’s known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. It would establish a commission to look at the merits of reparations for black Americans for slavery in the United States of America, a practice that ended in 1865. It has 195 co-sponsors, including all nine U.S. House members from Massachusetts. (All co-sponsors are Democrats.)

While the Commonwealth doesn’t cut checks to black residents simply for being the descendants of slaves, there is one Massachusetts community that plans to offer a form of reparations:  Amherst, a town of about 39,000 in western Massachusetts that is home to the University of Massachusetts’s flagship campus and Amherst College. On June 21, the town council in Amherst voted to establish a “Reparations Stabilization Fund.”

Amherst officials haven’t announced the town’s plan yet, but they may use Evanston, Illinois’s system as a model, as NewBostonPost previously reported. There, each qualifying household is eligible to receive $25,000 for home repairs, down payments on property, and interest or late fees on property in the city.

Most Americans oppose reparations. An April 2021 poll conducted by UMass Amherst found that 62 percent of Americans opposed the federal government making cash payments to the descendants of slaves; only 38 percent supported the measure.

A spokesman for the Downing campaign could not be reached for comment over the weekend or on Monday this week.


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