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Shelby County Commission approves $5 million to start reparations program in Memphis

Instead of reparation money paid directly to citizens, the County Commission will create programs designed to uplift the Black community in Memphis.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Commission approved $5 million to start a reparations program in Memphis and Shelby County Wednesday.

The money will go towards a study which would take a deeper look at specific disparities between Black and white people in Shelby County, and then provide funding into programs which would minimize those differences.

Certain areas which could be affected by the reparations study include wealth, healthcare and home ownership.

District 9 Commissioner Edmund Ford sponsored the bill, and said the money would either come from the Commission's General Fund, or federal COVID-19 relief money.

"The practices of our government are disenfranchising a certain subgroup of our population, which happens to be a majority here, and I just think that when you see phenomena like this that should not make sense that show a clear imbalance that we should do our due diligence to right those wrongs," District 10 Commissioner Britney Thornton said.

Some county commissioners sounded off against the bill, saying it goes against American values.

"Personally, I see this resolution as un-American in a lot of ways," District 4 Commissioner Brandon Morrison said. "I believe it would not help the Black people, but rather it would hurt them, that's the way I see it, and I think the money would be much better spent with workforce initiatives and finding ways to elevate, as we've been trying to do all along."

A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found the average Black American family had about $316,000 in accumulated wealth in 2022, while white Americans had four times that amount - at $1.3 million.

Commissioners supporting the reparation programs, aimed to repay Black Americans for the atrocities of American slavery, said they aren't designed for the county to hand out checks to people, but rather investing in Shelby County to help increase Black wealth. 


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