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Reparations economics 101

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What’s most potentially transformative about Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s proposed bill H.R. 40 to establish a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans is the no-holds-barred inquiry it promises.

While the corporate news media zeros in on the clickbate of who might get paid what — and the red-meat racial antagonism it is already engendering — the real power in this essential exercise is the long-overdue accounting.

The bill empowers the Commission “to request the attendance for testimony of such witnesses and the production of such books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers and documents that the Commission considers appropriate” and permits the panel to turn to the “appropriate U.S. District Court to require, by subpoena” compliance with its requests.

Such a comprehensive examination would help bring alive the lost narratives of misery and oppression that mark not just the crime against humanity of slavery itself, but also its enduring manifestations. To this very day, the disparate application of the law that has over one million African-Americans behind bars and the use of foreclosure by banks like Wells Fargo in communities of color are all economic links to that chain that starts with slavery.

There’s no doubt about the liberating power that can be unleashed by this kind of introspection if it is followed by resolve to take action. Consider the recent vote by the students of Georgetown University to impose a $27.20 fee increase on themselves to compensate the........

© Salon