Yesterday Assemblywoman Nikki Lucas of Brooklyn’s 60th District voted yes on the first reparations-based bill to be passed by the New York State Assembly. The bill allows for the creation of the New York State Community Commission on Reparations Remedies to study the lingering, negative effects of slavery on descendants of those who were enslaved in America.
Assemblywoman Lucas made it clear on the Assembly floor that she is disappointed in the way the bill was written because it does not include the study of reparations based on lineage. Lucas made an impassioned speech during the session. However, after she pointed that fact out in her speech, Chairwoman Michaelle C. Solages said on record that the study will in fact include lineage-based reparations. A sentiment that Assemblywoman Lucas said Solages had not expressed until that moment.
If the study of lineage-based reparations were to be left out, then it would open the door to all people of African descent to participate in reparations, which would be too broad. The exclusion of lineage-based studies would allow for the continued suffrage of those whom reparations was meant to repair.
Assemblywoman Lucas used the example of someone like Elon Musk, who has African ancestry. Lucas stated she wants to make sure “the Elon Musk’s of the world don’t circumvent the system (for their own gain) as we have seen happen in other instances.” Without the inclusion of a lineage-based study people of all backgrounds will likely come to the forefront and claim some sort of connection to being of African descent.
Lucas’ point regarding others trying to circumvent the system for their own gains became a reality yesterday on the Assembly floor before the vote was tallied. Republican Assemblyman Ari Brown, who is of Jewish descent, stated that his “blue eyed” family members are of African descent on their mother’s side, and asked if they would be included in reparations. Republican Assemblyman Chang, who is of Chinese descent, stated that his ancestors were indentured servants and alluded to the fact that they should be included in reparations as well.
The statements by the two Republican Assembly members confirmed Lucas’ concern that others would try to circumvent the system for their own gain. It is well documented that when Black people fight for their specific rights other groups join in and reap the benefits, financial and otherwise. This is why the need for a study on lineage-based reparations is so important. Assemblywoman Lucas contends that this bill was written with flaws and opens the door to dilute the original intent of reparations.
The US Freedmen Project put out a statement that read in part, “the US Freedmen Project (USFP) is disappointed with the passage of bill A7961/SS163 because it does not specify the community of eligibility for reparations. As advocates for reparations for American Freedmen, Descendants of Persons Enslaved in US, the USFP believes that lineage-based reparations are the most appropriate and justifiable approach.”
They went on to state, “Assembly Member Nikki Lucas was absolutely correct when she spoke of the importance of including American Freedmen in the bill as the community of eligibility. Other lawmakers spoke about slavery and its vestiges but incorrectly tied it to all people of African Descendent. Thank you Assemblymember Nikki Lucas for your courage and boldness in “Getting Reparations Right for American Freedmen”.
Reparations is an opportunity for the United States to repair what they have done to families of those who were enslaved on American soil. Those atrocities are still being felt today with the injustices against African Americans on every level.
Lucas added, “My colleagues are already trying to circumvent the system, asking if their blue-eyed family members can participate in reparations.” She went on to say “I feel strongly about ensuring that those people who were actually enslaved in America were repaired. But I am happy that the sponsor of this bill has recognized today on record that lineage based has to be a focus of this particular study.”
Subscribe to East New York News for updates on housing, development, politics, dining, arts and more.