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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: August 25, 2019 08:21 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb
To: All House members
Subject: Establishing a reparations plan to combat systemic racism impacting Pennsylvanians of African descent
Pennsylvania Constitution

§ 1. Inherent rights of mankind.

All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.

According to our own state constitution, it is clear that the constitutional rights of an entire people have been limited, if not wholly denied based on the policies and inaction of their own state government for centuries.

Reparations are one of a number of approaches to provide redress for our commonwealth’s complicity in institutional efforts to degrade the humanity and opportunity of Pennsylvanians of African descent.

The U.S. government has provided reparations to Americans before, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should follow suit and do so to address the generations of systemic racism bolstered by public policy and cultural practice statewide.

This bill will have four parts.

First, it will codify a formal apology from the Pennsylvania General Assembly for the complicity of Pennsylvania’s three branches of government in white supremacist efforts that influenced its treatment of people of African descent during and after slavery whose gradual abolition began in 1780.

Second, this legislation will create a commission to determine a methodology to quantify the financial impact of past and current laws, court decisions, government programs and practices that have so acutely disadvantaged African Americans.

Third, this plan will explicitly acknowledge that chronic poverty and other inequities are borne of racist public policy enacted into state and federal laws, formally dispelling mainstream narratives that such disparities are rooted in cultural deficiencies or the poor choices of individuals.

Fourth, there must be significant financial redress to African-American residents of Pennsylvania.

This plan would be an annual opt-in entitlement program for eligible participants. To be eligible to participate in this program, applicants will need to 1) be qualified residents of Pennsylvania, and 2) provide government documentation verifying their self-identification as Black/African American for a certain number of years. These and other factors will be evaluated by the afore-mentioned commission to determine eligibility for reparations.

Reparations payments will include tax and other benefits to both individuals and targeted geographic communities, but will not include cash disbursements to individuals.

The value of such non-cash benefits to individuals will be determined based on a number of factors including: 1) genealogical connection to a one or more ancestors enslaved in the U.S., 2) one or more ancestors enslaved in Pennsylvania, 3) one or more ancestors or guardians of verified African descent who resided in Pennsylvania during one or more historical eras to be delineated by the afore-mentioned commission.

This unique state-based reparations plan will be an innovative and comprehensive approach to complement formal truth and reconciliation efforts as have taken place elsewhere around the world for similar atrocities. It is state-based as was slavery itself.

Please join me in supporting this bold, novel initiative to embrace just reinvestment in and for our commonwealth.