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Boston Reparations Task Force Receives Council Support

The City Council has unanimously approved the task force, which would research the history and the effects of slavery in Boston and then assess and advise the city on next steps. The mayor must sign off for it to become law.

The City Council meeting at City Hall on June 8, 2022, in Boston.
The City Council meeting at City Hall on June 8, 2022, in Boston.
(Nancy Lane/Boston Herald/TNS)
(TNS) — The Boston City Council unanimously approved a task force that would spend the next two years exploring reparations for Black people.

The council did so with an uncharacteristic lack of conflict, as no one really spoke against what’s a high-profile and societally controversial matter and councilors didn’t take even veiled shots at each other.

This task force, if signed into law by the mayor, will create a five-person body to first research history of the effects of American slavery and then other more recent discriminatory policies like “redlining” of access to cash in Boston, then to assess what the city’s done since to address those before coming up with yet-to-be-determined next steps.

“The objective of this task force is to both analyze and measure the severity of that harm, and then to analyze and measure what the severity of the cure to that harm should be,” City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, the government operations chair, said.

City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, one of the sponsors, focused on how she believes there should be monetary reparations, particularly from the wealthy hospitals and colleges in the area.

Of a previous resolution apologizing for the city’s role in the slave trade, “As profound as it is, it doesn’t cost anyone a penny … it doesn’t put food on anyone’s table or pay a month’s rent.”

City Councilor Julia Mejia, another sponsor, said this is a chance for Boston to “recognize not just the harm, but the opportunity that we have to heal.”

City Councilor Frank Baker, the only person to say anything vaguely critical of the matter, said, “1783, the state of Massachusetts made slavery illegal. The city of Boston was not incorporated until 1822. And the 1790 census had no slaves living in Massachusetts.

But he added that he was voting in favor, as, “If it provides healing for communities then that’s what I’m about.”

Reparations has been talked about in some corners for decades, and multiple councilors shouted out former state Sen. Bill Owens, who pushed for it a generation ago.

Recently, as racial issues have come to the forefront over the past few years, some particularly lefty cities and even a state, California, have taken similar approaches. That Golden State task force is due to come back with recommendations by July 1.

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