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New York Takes Historic Step towards Addressing Slavery’s Legacy

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Via Carl Heastie/Twitter)

New York State has taken a significant step towards acknowledging the lasting effects of slavery by creating a commission to study reparations. The commission will investigate the extent to which the federal and state governments supported the institution of slavery, as well as New York’s involvement in the transfer of enslaved Africans. Although New York abolished slavery in 1827, the state, particularly New York City, profited from the slave industry. This move is part of a broader effort across the United States to address the ongoing effects of slavery.

The commission’s report, due a year after its first meeting, could include recommendations for monetary compensation, but its findings would be non-binding. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie emphasized that it’s not just about writing checks, but about addressing the ongoing issues that affect black people and descendants of slaves in the state. Heastie’s words are a clear indication that the commission is not just looking to provide financial compensation, but also to acknowledge the centuries of systemic racism and discrimination that have been perpetuated against black people and other marginalized communities.

The United States has a long history of profiting from slavery, with New York being no exception. The state’s involvement in the slave industry has been well-documented, with many enslaved Africans being brought to the state through the port of New York City. The city’s economy was built on the backs of enslaved people, who were forced to work in various industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, and construction.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Via Carl Heastie/Twitter)

The commission’s findings could have far-reaching implications for the state and its people. If the report recommends monetary compensation, it could potentially lead to a significant payout to the descendants of slaves. However, the commission’s focus extends beyond financial compensation, to addressing the ongoing issues that affect black people and other marginalized communities.

The state’s move towards acknowledging the lasting effects of slavery is a significant step towards reconciliation and healing. It is an acknowledgment that the legacy of slavery continues to impact communities of color to this day and that the state has a responsibility to address this legacy. The commission’s report could be a powerful tool for the state to acknowledge its own role in perpetuating systemic racism and discrimination, and to work towards creating a more equitable and just society.

The movement towards acknowledging the legacy of slavery is not limited to New York state. California was the first state to form a reparations task force in 2020, estimating that the state is responsible for over $500 billion in damages due to decades of over-policing and discriminatory practices. The movement is gaining momentum, with other states and cities considering similar commissions and task forces. The movement towards acknowledging the legacy of slavery and working towards reparations is a critical step towards creating a more just and equitable society.

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