Knowing no action is likely at the Federal level until the day Addison Mitchell McConnell changes his middle name to Delano, at least 11 U.S. cities have stepped up and launched efforts on their own to pay slavery reparations. Asheville is one of those cities.
Now, while I support the concept, I have no idea what a fair and reasonable reparations plan would look like, or whether such a thing is even possible. In money terms, my guess is that the debt owed to the descendants of slaves would be 20 to 25% of 200-years-worth of the economic output of the former slave-holding states as well as any state which had Jim Crow laws. This is too much math for me to tackle — others who have done the math have suggested sums as large as $20 trillion. For reference, the current total U.S. annual personal income is about $21 trillion.
Any Federal reparations plan that would ever see the light of day in this environment will be more a political statement than a fulfillment of economic justice. That is why what is happening (to various extents) in those 11 cities is important, and why I am highlighting the recent action by the Asheville Police to partner with the Lights On! program.
Lights On! encourages police to give drivers with burned-out lights a repair voucher instead of a ticket. Drivers have two weeks to get their lights fixed at a participating shop. The cost of the program is covered by donations to the MicroGrants organization.
Others who have launched this program include the police departments of Evansville, WY, Chatham County, GA, Suffolk County, NY, Chattanooga, TN, the University of Maryland, and over 100 agencies in the Minnesota area, where MicroGrants was founded.
The Lights On! website points out that “a broken taillight or turn signal can … spark a downward economic spiral that for some yields multiple tickets, confrontations with law enforcement, and even vehicle impoundment. The Lights On! program has the potential to disrupt the downward spiral and build goodwill between police departments and the communities they serve.” This is an ingenious way to reduce the combat mentality of the police (with its often fatal consequences) and is a wonderful example of badly-needed social reparations.
My concern is that, at this writing, only one Asheville repair shop is participating in the program. (Thank you to the owners, who don’t even live in Asheville.) Hopefully more will sign on as the program gets going here.