Providence, RI

Providence, Rhode Island launches $10 Million reparations program to address its contentious past

Edy Zoo

PROVIDENCE, RI. - Providence is progressing in addressing economic disparity caused by slavery in the United States with a reparations program. The city allocated $10 million from re-appropriated federal COVID-19 response funds for the program, which was signed into law by former Mayor Jorge Elorza. However, the program has faced criticism for its perceived limited benefits for descendants of slaves, who are historically marginalized.

The federal guidelines for the program dictate that it must be "race-neutral," allowing white residents and non-descendants of slavery to apply and benefit if their income is below a certain threshold. Chair of Providence's reparations commission, Rodney Davis, reports that the city was forced to consider census tracts due to these guidelines, but those economically disadvantaged communities were still included.

Former Mayor Elorza explains that making the program "race-based" would have made the city vulnerable to lawsuits and kept government officials "locked in litigation for two or three years." Supporters have advocated for financial compensation for descendants of slaves for decades, with Rhode Island being a significant center of the slave trade in the colonial United States.

The Black population of Rhode Island still feels the effects of slavery, with white households earning 50-70% more than Black, Hispanic, and American Indian households, according to a report by the Rhode Island Foundation. In Providence, reparations are distributed through investments in small businesses and programs such as workforce training and financial literacy rather than direct payments to citizens. For example, the Rhode Island Black Business Association received $150,000 after applying for the program.

The debate on the most effective forms of reparations remains contentious. However, a Pew Research Center poll found that most of those supporting reparations believe financial assistance for education, businesses, and homes would be the most beneficial repayment.

However, not everyone agrees with Providence's approach. Activist and former Brown University student Justice Gaines feels the program falls short of proper reparations. In his view, reparations are about repairing the harm done to Black people in the country, and this policy merely uses COVID-19 funds to support a poverty reduction program.

In conclusion, Providence's reparations program has faced criticism for its perceived limited benefits to descendants of slaves and its "race-neutral" approach. Despite this, the program still represents progress in addressing the economic disparity caused by slavery in the United States.

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Edy Zoo is an author who writes about social subjects. He contributes to the ever-growing library of social critics. He approaches local social subjects and local news covering Auburn-Opelika and surrounding cities from an objective point of view. He also holds liberal views.

Auburn, AL

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