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Providence offers reparations to address racism. White people can apply.

The concept of racial equity causes a multitude of conversations but is often intentionally misconstrued to diminish the plight of communities that would benefit from it the most.

Mayor Jorge Elorza (D) of Providence, Rhode Island recently approved a $10 million budget for the Providence Municipal Reparations program. “The radical thing that we did was we put Black voices in the center of city policymaking,” Elorza said in an interview.

Although Elorza emphasizes how the program would help the city’s Black and Native American residents, there’s one significant caveat: It’s race-neutral.

Black and Native American Providence residents qualify automatically, but the city has also established separate income criteria that can include about half of its white population.

This has angered critics who say it is unclear how much of the money will flow to the Black residents, who make up 12 percent of the population, and who have actually been harmed by systemic racism.

“This is a short-term response to a 400-year problem because it makes people feel better,” said Justice Gaines, a local Black poet and community organizer. “My big fear is that there are now white people in our state who could say we already gave them reparations and nothing more needs to be done."

More than a dozen states, including New Jersey, New York, and Illinois are considering making reparations committees to address the effects of racist policies. California launched a reparations task force that is deciding how much the state would have to spend to close its racial wealth gap.

The idea of reparations for Black and Native Americans is to address and rectify the effects of systemic racism that has been made by white supremacy.

However, to include individuals who can receive reparations but not only have not been harmed by systemic racism but have historically benefited from it is reminiscent of the reparations given to white slaveowners after the abolition of slavery to recoup their "property losses" and to assuage their egos.

This calls into question the sincerity behind this reparations program, as it proves to be historically disingenuous.


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