NY Governor Signs Reparations Bill
New York State has taken a historic step towards addressing the lingering effects of slavery by establishing a commission to explore the best methods of providing reparations to descendants of slaves. Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill on Tuesday that will create a "community commission to study the history of slavery in New York state" and suggest remedies to its negative impacts on Black communities.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Hochul highlighted the importance of acknowledging and addressing the state's history of slavery. "Here in New York, there was a slave market where people bought and sold other human beings with callous disregard," she said. "Our state still remained a dominant player in the illegal slave trade, and our financial and business institutions prospered as a result."
The commission will be composed of nine individuals, with the governor, state assembly speaker, and the majority leader of the New York Senate each selecting three members. Its task will be to examine the impact of slavery on Black people throughout New York state history and produce recommendations for reparations.
Hochul also addressed the controversy surrounding the term "reparations," acknowledging that it may evoke conflicting reactions. "I know the word brings up a lot of conflicting ideas for people," she said. "But we cannot ignore the fact that even as immigrants and their descendants arrived in the U.S. after the end of slavery, they still bear responsibility for addressing its impact on Black communities."
The governor stressed the importance of solidarity and collective responsibility in addressing the legacies of slavery. "We have to ask, do those of us whose family came here to pursue a dream not have a role to play in ending a nightmare? Yes, yes we do," she said.
Hochul's decision to sign the bill was met with appreciation from Rev. Al Sharpton, who spoke at the ceremony. "I met with her last Thursday on several issues that we're dealing with nationally, and she told me she had decided to sign this bill and she said that it's going to be unpopular to some, but I'm going to do what's right," he said.
Despite warnings from political allies, Hochul remained resolute in her decision to create the commission, emphasizing the need to address the disparities and injustices faced by Black communities. "The commission will shine a light on the history of slavery in New York, and offer suggestions for reparations to begin to undo its harmful effects," she said.
The commission is expected to deliver its initial report approximately one year after its creation. This is a significant step towards acknowledging and addressing the legacy of slavery in New York state, and it is hoped that the recommendations put forth by the commission will bring about meaningful and long-overdue change.