NEW YORK — New York state said on Tuesday (Dec 19) that it would establish a commission to study reparations for slavery and victims of racism, following a similar undertaking in California, which pioneered the approach to such historical injustices in the United States.
Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation creating a “commission on reparations, remedies and acknowledges the fundamental injustice and inhumanity of slavery,” her office said in a statement.
“In New York, we like to think we’re on the right side of this. Slavery was a product of the South, the Confederacy,” said the governor of the fourth most populous US state.
The statement said that “prior to the American Revolution, there were more enslaved Africans in New York City than in any other city except Charleston, South Carolina.”
“The population of enslaved Africans accounted for 20 per cent of New York’s population, while 40 per cent of colonial New York households owned enslaved Africans,” it said.
Signing the law passed by the state Senate in June, Ms Hochul approved the creation of a commission of experts to “examine the legacy of slavery” and its ongoing impact on housing, education and incarceration, it added.
Although slavery was abolished in New York state in 1827, before US federal abolition in 1865, it “was an integral part of the development of the State of New York, and the consequences… can still be observed today.”
The commission is tasked with proposing “action to address these longstanding inequities” within one year.
Left-leaning California was the first US state to establish such a commission after the anti-racism movement sparked by the police killing of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
Their report, delivered last June, recommended that the state pay financial reparations to communities that had suffered discrimination.
Last March, the city of San Francisco in California was the center of a heated debate after the presentation to the city council of a plan of reparations to compensate for the legacy of systemic racism.
It proposed to allocate US$5 million (S$6.6 million) to each Black resident in the city.
Local conservative opposition figures labeled the plan “absurd” and fiscally unrealistic. AFP