Segregated Philly task force delves into reparations

A friend of mine, knowing how much I like to be helpful, asked me if I knew the PHL Reparations Task Force was looking for volunteers.

Illustration by the Economist

The what? It is a committee set up by City Council, saying  Task Force members “must have the capacity to provide pro bono professional expertise, be excellent coordinators, and work very well with others.” 

They also should have “experience in the sector of the position they are seeking to fill, and experience in activism, social justice, grassroots community organizing, or reparatory justice.”

My friend, let’s call him Larry, may have known that I have thought about reparations and have written about it a couple of times. Like here.  I am open to a discussion of reparations, so I went to the website to volunteer.

That’s where I found two other requirements — you must be a resident of Philadelphia — and you must be Black. It’s a segregated task force.

Well, I thought, so much for my white privilege. 😁

My thoughts got on a merry-go-round.

> How does this align with a city that has made a fetish of diversity, equity, and inclusion? 

> If the task force is funded by taxpayer money, that means Philadelphians are paying to support segregation.

> Is it even legal? Could a public school, for example, exclude students of a given race?

> Since the city makes accommodations for men who identify as women, can I join the task force if I identify as Black?

> It’s not the first time the city has played this game. When seeking a sculptor to execute a statue of Harriet Tubman last year, white artists were excluded, including the one whose inspiring version of Tubman ignited the desire for such a statue in the first place.

That was as striking an example of reverse racism as you could find, but no one sued, white people shrugged and went on with their lives.

From reading the website,, I learned the task force was not asking for people like me with expertise in communications. Or reporting.

It wanted eight coordinators:

# Economic justice

# Education

# Health and Wellness

# Atlantic World History

# Human Services and Community Resources

# Criminal and Legal Justice

# Law and Policy (International and Domestic)

# Urban Planning and Sustainable Development 


The website is brimming with information, tons of it.

Before I get to Philly, I offer the reparations “wants” of the San Francisco Advisory Committee that started at $5 million per Black person, and went up from there, to include an annual “salary” of $97,000 on top of the $5 million, plus free housing and free education. No, I am not making this up.

How can you take such people seriously?

The Philly task force starts with the predictable predicate of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, red-lining and the like.

The committee lists every conceivable piece of racial legislation from the past, but then tacks on questionable others, such as compulsory education, taxes, the war on poverty and the war on drugs. What might have been an elegant meal became a stew, with every leftover in the fridge tossed in.

The list of grievances is long and tortured, including:

> Pseudoscientific subordination to civility, humanity, and society

> Religious manipulation, spiritual duress, and iconoclasm

> Ravage adulterating and progeneritive bastardization

I know it sounds like a satire on an Advanced Placement sociology class at Princeton, but check the website for yourself. Are they sure they don’t want someone with communications skills?

> Racial antagonization and ethnic appropriation

> Asset annihilation and capital bankruptcy

> Ecological opiating and inebriation

> Accredited miseducation and authorized misinformation

> Overt vilification and unjust criminalization

> Corrupt policing and mass incarceration.

Wait! That last one might make sense. I’ll stop here.

The committee offers a long list of previous claims for reparations, almost all of which failed.

The committee named four that succeeded, but listed in a different section reparation payments made to Japanese Americans who were wrongly interned during World War II.

Reparations generally are paid to those who were actually harmed, not to their descendents.

The payments would come from (according to the website) “the churches, universities, units of government, families and family estates, and businesses who were enslavers, pillagers, ravagers, and thieves of land and property.”

Some cities and counties and universities — such as Georgetown and Princeton Theological Seminary — already have admitted benefiting from slavery and have made voluntary forms of restitution, not usually cash to individuals. The universities are offering free tuition to descendents of slaves. Seems fair. 

In my opinion, cash to individuals will never fly. I can’t imagine a policy that would have my minimum-wage daughter writing a reparations check to Oprah Winfrey. America will not tolerate payments from people who were not enslavers to people who were not enslaved.

The website devotes two pages to listing what forms reparations might take, following a page of determining who might be eligible. It is like wading through oatmeal.

The “wants,” frankly, are a poorly thought-out grab bag of Social Justice Warrior issues.

Under “sustainable development,” it lists

No poverty

Zero hunger

I’ll stop here. How is no poverty and hunger “sustainable development”?

Health & Well Being


Gender Equality

Clean Water and Sanitation.

Stop! What has this to do with amends for slavery?

Also on the list…

Life Below Water

Life on Land

What the hell are they talking about?

There are also headings for Social Determinants of Health, Community Development, Professional Developments & Accesses, and Personal Development.

Unlike San Francisco, which had price tags, mostly insane, Philadelphia is offering a mish-mash of words and phrases that hardly have meaning.

Reasonable people can agree Black people were held down in America, during slavery and after.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Slavery by Another Name” reports that debt slavery actually continued into the 1940s. Jim Crow, segregation, and redlining continued even longer.

Even today, some vestigial ashes of bigotry remain in America, and there is an undeniable gap between the wealth (and health) of white people and Black people.

How do we close the gap?

The most direct way is to hand out large sums of money to African-Americans.

That’s what San Francisco recommended, and that’s when progressive Gov. Gavin Newsom put on his best shit-eating grin and let them know — no, that would not happen. It would bankrupt the state, he said, even as the chant arose, “Give us the money or you don’t get our vote.”

He may not get their vote, but they will not get $5 million.

So how do you close the gap?

1- Education

Generally speaking, the educated earn more than the uneducated.

Guaranteeing a free college education to every Black person would be a good start, and not impossibly expensive. 

But to succeed in college, students must first have a solid foundation in elementary and high school.

In Philadelphia, the public schools are 85% nonwhite, and they suck.

The schools need more and better teachers, aides, tutors, and innovative methods to inculcate a desire to learn. That is a tall order.

Students should also be taught financial literacy, which was one of the planks in Alan Domb’s platform when he ran for mayor. Kids have to understand money — how to accumulate it, how to borrow it, and lend it. 

2- Home ownership

The main financial asset for most American families is their home. That is the foundation of wealth, and it is transferable down the generations.

Low-income African-Americans can and should be given preferential treatment by banks and mortgage companies, to offset the discriminatory treatment they received in the past. Get them into houses.

3- Tax credit

Nationally, poor people don’t pay federal income tax now, but low-income Black people could be given a special tax credit in lieu of reparations, aside from child and earned-income credits.

This is different from a cash handout. It would be a small annual stipend, maybe $3,000, paid into a 401k-type account, untouchable, let’s say, for 10 years. Think of it as a forced savings account, and another way to build generational wealth.

So, three steps:

Get them into college

Get them into homes

Get them into capitalism.

To me, it seems modest, fair, and right.

28 thoughts on “Segregated Philly task force delves into reparations”

  1. Blacks have the same opportunities as everyone else in this country. There are plenty of examples of blacks who have worked hard and have been successful. They went to college and bought homes and lived the American dream. There has also been millions of immigrants who have done well who came here after the civil war. Nothing makes my stomach turn more than some black millionaire athletes or entertainers lying about how oppressed they were. Any privilege you get in this country is American privilege and has nothing to do with skin color. It is up to the individual to succeed and take advantage of everything this country has to offer.

    1. All of what you say is true, but it is ALSO true the typical African-American would be better off had their race not been handicapped for centuries. To deny that is to deny reality.

  2. I recommend that this committee consult well respected scholars who have studied this issue thoroughly such as Thomas Sowell, Jason Riley, Heather McDonald and Victor Davis Hansen to understand the differences between so long ago and the actual causes of cultural differences today.
    After consultation with these scholars to understand the issues, a vote to redirect their committee’s efforts toward productive and effective solutions, instead, would be beneficial for our city’s residents and for the nation, too.
    Thank you.

  3. Quote: “The Philly task force starts with the predictable predicate of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, red-lining and the like.”

    Perhaps the descendants of the nearly 400,000 Union Soldiers who gave their lives for freedom should be added to this list.

    1. A fair point. They died to end slavery. Alas, slavery did NOT end, and other forms of oppression arose — as you know.
      So “nothing” should be done to address that?

      1. I am not saying “nothing” should be done. I’m only curious about where the line will be drawn. I believe your reply to Larry Miller below is spot on. Particularly your observation in the last sentence.

  4. There’s no denying the injustices that happened to African Americans but it’s 2024 slavery and Jim Crow were years ago. The nation has bent over backwards to make things better. Affirmative action, quota systems, lowering of standards have all benefited blacks at the expense of others. Everyone is equal in this country. I’m sick of all the whining. If you want something get off your ass and earn it.

  5. Will Jews sue Egypt for reparations? Four hundred-plus years in slavery has to be worth a fortune.

    Reparations — the very idea — is ridiculous. Which means the idiot Left will be sure to pass a reparations bill.

    1. Let’s leave Egypt out of it and ponder that Germany paid reparations to Jews, and the U.S. paid reparations to Japanese internees. So it’s not breaking new ground.
      But, yes, those reparations were paid to victims, not descendants. Which is why my plan gives benefits rather than cash.

      1. The point I was making with my comment on Egypt and its slavery of Jews was how far back does one go when deciding who gets reparations? Surprised you missed the point — or was it too oblique?

  6. The supreme.court ruled on college admissions set aside for minorities.. Are Asian Americans who were denied admission to universities entitled to reparations. One of the major causes of generational poverty is teenage pregnancy. Second is fatherless children abandoned to fend for themselves. Where is the group, board or committee or educational classes to prevent this behavior. Financial literacy class, improving public schools and personal responsibility will improve quality of life for today’s impoverished groups. Giving individuals money they have not earned impedes personal success and accomplishment. Reparations is a bad idea.

    1. 2 0f the 3 ideas I mentioned was not “giving money” to anyone, and the third was a tax credit to be forcibly invested in the stock market (which benefits all investors, if you think about it)

  7. When you nite education and Philadelphia’s failed system, you don’t mention schol.vouchers or charters. Throwing more money at the failed system won’t improve it. Also, the education prior needs to start in the home, and sadly, too many of these kids aren’t being raised in an environment that values education.

  8. Great piece. I think this whole Philadelphia Reparations Task Force is something unveiled by a couple of City Council members who really don’t do anything meaningful to be able to wave their hands and say to the Black community: “See, we’re trying to do something great for you.” Handing over free taxpayer money isn’t the way to improve things in the Black community though. My biggest problem (I’m African American by the way) with reparations is how can it be determined those African Americans who had a slave ancestor? Then there’s the fact that most Whites didn’t own slaves and what about those free Blacks who were slave owners? Let’s not leave out those Blacks who emigrated to America from the Caribbean – would they be entitled to some of that free money? No, reparations as it is generally perceived is a flawed concept.

    1. The task force would answer some of the questions you raised. The SF commission mandated to be eligible you had to have lived in SF for 15 years — an arbitrary number — and there was some language about lineage.
      In reality, I think the task force will come up with nothing more tangible than the NFL helmet slogans — “End Racism,” “Stop Hate,””Say Their Stories,” etc.

  9. Free education, make the schools the best, make the conditions, you must attend, complete the courses, not get a criminal record while doing so, and after. You can start a job with the city that starts with the pay as a person entering the work force. Fair? Seems fair to me , I did it. Only my education wasn’t free. Start from the begining like everybody else! This is not 1945,

  10. “….From reading the website,, I learned the task force was not asking for people like me with expertise in communications”

    I suggest that the committee needs someone with the qualities you possess, specifically:
    -clarity of thought and the ability to express
    -communications expertise
    -not an African American (a member of the “potential payers” group
    -an offspring of a class of immigrants who experienced discrimination, preferably who arrived in the US post Slavery.

    Suggest develop an online Petition that after a significant (?, equal to the quantity (is there any such proof) of those who suggest to form a Reparations Committee in Phila.).

    -the Petition nominates Stu B. as the person to be named to the committee.

    Submit the Petition to the entity that developed the Committee w copies to others of interest and influence.

    Many other questions.
    -who suggested this committee be formed?
    -who is deciding who is on the committee?
    -who is paying the expense of this committee ?
    -what is the intention of forming this committee?
    -who would committee findings be presented?
    -what powers would those to whom presented have?
    -our country is very polarized, would this further polarized?
    -should those who now contribute (willingly or are strong armed-sorry, let’s keep it real yo) to “causes” suspend contributing awaiting committee findings and results?
    -does the existence of such a committee advance the cause of those who might want to divide us for their political power grab?
    -what are the potential areas of impact? jobs, education, housing etc.
    -will taxpayers flee the entity that uses their tax dollars to pay reparations? Further diluting the tax base.

    1. I am contemplating a complaint to the City Commission on Human Relations, and possibly a law suit. First I must learn if public funds are being used. I asked the mayor’s office and am waiting for a reply.

  11. Stu, how is a tax credit based on race not as deplorable as college admissions (or hiring) based on race?
    I agree that there could and should have been more done to help the former slaves in the 19th century, but that shop has sailed.

    1. The ship has not sailed, being as more and more communities are talking about it.
      The credit I suggest is NOT “based on race.” Barack Obama would not be eligible because he has no connection to slavery. It would apply only to descendants. Your position is we should do nothing. I believe we should do something, but reasonable and helpful.

  12. What about American Indians (Native Americans)? They were killed, their land was stolen, their children were taken and put into ‘American’ schools, and many weren’t granted American citizenship until the mid 20th century.

Comments are closed.