Bill to Ban Study of Slavery Reparations in Tennessee Faces Opposition

There is a measure in Tennessee that would ban research on reparations for slaves’ descendants. The state is divided on the measure and is scheduled for a House vote next Wednesday. A petition opposing the measure, started by Abyssinian Baptist Church’s senior pastor, Reverend Earle Fisher, has received more than 500 signatures in two days. According to Fisher, the decision to scrap any further research on reparations is driven more by ideology and political influence than by a need to save money. Shelby County Republican and bill sponsor State Senator Brent Taylor thinks the federal government should handle reparations since no state government can handle a problem of this magnitude.

Problems arose because Amendment No. 1 was introduced to the measure and approved by the Senate a year ago. It claims to amend the law so that no county, city, or metropolitan government may use its budget to pay for reparations research or payments. According to Fisher, the investigation of reparations is one good use of a state budget excess.

The Tennessee county commissioners who oversaw the creation of Memphis last year decided to investigate the possibility of reparations for slaves’ descendants by launching a feasibility study. A $5 million feasibility study to “establish, develop, and implement reparations” was authorized by the motion that the Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted on. Because of budgetary worries about the $5 million allotment, all eight Black commission members voted to support the bill, while all five white members either voted against it or did not vote.

Affordable housing and homeownership, healthcare, professional opportunities, financial literacy, and generational wealth were the five areas that the state was required to evaluate in the enacted resolution on the reparations study. But the reparations movement seems to have stalled a little this year. Some had said that the American people’s intense hostility to reparations had caused them to dwindle from its 2020 peak when support was high during demonstrations for the police shooting of George Floyd.